Creature features have made a comeback recently, with The Shallows, The Meg, and 47 Meters Down all making a splash at the box during the last few summers. And, a sequel to the latter, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, directed by the returning Johannes Roberts, set to arrive in theaters August 16th, featuring a new group of divers venturing into a shark-filled underwater cave.
..Okay, so shark movies have made a comeback recently, but that could all change with the release of the Sam Raimi-produced Crawl. Directed by Alexandre Aja (who previously helmed Piranha 3D in 2010), it follows a young woman (Kaya Scodelario) trapped in a flooding house during a hurricane with her injured father (Barry Pepper) and a group of hungry alligators. Can anyone say double feature?
With the exception of the ultimate creature feature Jaws, which has received enough licensed merchandise over the years to fill its own article (or three), many of these ferocious flicks only receive official merch in the form of promotional products sent to entertainment critics and video retailers. To celebrate the releases of Crawl and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, we have gathered up some of the most monstrous merchandise that the studios have released into the wild over the years!
ALLIGATOR IN THE SEWER… AND YOUR HOME!
Out of the many Jaws knockoffs that were released in the late 70s and early 80s, Alligator, directed by Lewis Teague (Cujo), has enjoyed an especially healthy cult following in the years since its’ release. Inspired by (false) urban legends of alligators in the New York sewers, it features a giant – and very hungry – alligator lurking under the streets of Chicago, once a little girl’s pet that was flushed down the toilet by her father many years ago. By the time police officer David Madison (Robert Forster) and reptile expert/the gator’s original owner Marisa Kendall (Robin Riker) figure out why sewer workers have been disappearing, the affectionately-named Ramone has literally broken out of its underground lair and is rampaging through the city.
The plot is essentially another variation on Jaws, but strong performances and impressive practical effects help Alligator stand out from the crowd. And while Jaws was restrained enough on the gore to get a PG rating, Alligator is an R-rated gorefest, featuring an attack on an entire wedding party and even a preteen boy who jumps into his dark backyard pool at a deadly wrong time.
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Nevertheless, the fright flick inspired a kids’ game that was sold in toy stores as a tie-in to the movie. Simply called the “Alligator Game,” it consists of a plastic alligator with a mechanical jaw, a spinner, and a variety of small plastic objects, including oil barrels and television sets. To play, spin the spinner, and you will be instructed to either insert/remove an object into/from the alligator’s mouth without triggering the mechanism that snaps its jaws shut. Fun for the whole family! Manufactured and sold by Ideal, the game packaging does not make any direct references to being based on the film, but does use the same logo font and artwork as the film’s poster.
GRIZZLY COMES OUT OF HIBERNATION
Grizzly roared into theaters in 1976, just one year after Jaws, and was almost instantly written off as an inferior ripoff. You know the plot well: a hungry grizzly bear is on the loose in a national park, and everyone from campers to park rangers are on the dinner menu. Despite poor reviews, it was a box office success and would pave the way for even more animal-on-the-loose movies in the following years.
Like Alligator, the bear B-movie actually did inspire some official merchandise that was available in stores for the general public to buy. Imperial Toy Company was hired to produce a licensed toy, so they took their existing polar bear mold, colored it brown, and the official Grizzly figure was born! The tag features the movie’s logo, although the same brown bear was sold without the movie tag as well. Movie-tagged grizzly bears are extremely rare, and their existence was actually doubted by some until a set resurfaced on the Mego Museum forum in 2014.
In addition to the figure, Grizzly received an official novelization written by Will Collins. It is long out-of-print, but can occasionally be found on eBay or Amazon for fairly low prices.
ANACONDA SLITHERS INTO YOUR COLLECTION
In 1997, fans of giant man-eating creatures were treated to Anaconda, directed by Luis Llosa and featuring a star-studded cast including Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, and Owen Wilson as documentary filmmakers on the Amazon River who encounter a snake hunter (played by a deliciously evil Jon Voight), as well as the very snake he is hunting. Needless to say, it doesn’t end well for many on this voyage.
To promote the movie’s theatrical release, Columbia Pictures had these T-shirts made that are tightly wrapped and tied into the shape of a snake! This particular item is part of my personal collection and I’d prefer to keep it in snake-form, and I have not been able to find any pictures of the design online, so, unfortunately, I’m unable to show what the shirt actually looks like! Nevertheless, this is one of the coolest promotional items I own and if anyone has one and has uncoiled it to see the design, let us know!
ROGER CORMAN CREATURE COLLECTIBLES
Legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman is known for his low budget cult films, and in 2004 he released his newest creation: DinoCroc! When a dinosaur specimen is found and combined with the DNA of a modern-day crocodile, all hell breaks loose. The creature breaks out of the lab it was created in and goes on a rampage through the nearby town, in true creature feature fashion. Directed by Eric O’Neill, DinoCroc received a very limited theatrical release before premiering on the Syfy Channel in April of 2004.
Despite a relatively low-key release (it would be almost a full decade before Sharknado made cheesy Syfy creature features a cultural phenomenon), DinoCroc received an official novelization written by Thompson O’Rourke, based on the screenplay by Frances Doel, Dan Acre, and John Huckert. In addition, a DinoCroc-shaped stress ball was released, bearing the movie’s title on its torso. Either of these would make a fun addition to any horror or sci-fi collection!
Six years after DinoCroc in 2010, Corman produced another hybrid monster movie: Sharktopus. Still three years before that fateful and fishy twister, Sharktopus was enough of a success to spawn two sequels of its own: the ever-inventive Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf. To promote the premiere of the first movie on the Syfy Channel, these plush versions of the titular creature himself were sent to journalists. While many plush versions of Sharktopus can now be found online, this remains the only official version released.
Do you have any man-eating animals or creatures in your own horror collection? If you do, let us know on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and keep an eye out if you head into (or even near) the water this summer. With the alligators from Crawl and the sharks from 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, it will be a long time before it’s safe to go back in the water again!