Last Friday, a movie was released to over 1500 theaters in the United States. There was no real marketing campaign, aside from a few ads placed in the wee hours on the SyFy Channel. There was no all-consuming star. There was no massive budget. Unsurprisingly, the movie, Creature, had one of the weakest debuts of all time, to the tune of $327,000 (or $217 per screen). That’s the second-worst per theater average of all time, second to only the movie Proud Americans, which I have never heard of.
Given this knowledge, I had to go see it.
A group of friends are traveling through the bayou country on their way to Louisiana, following the advice of their driver Oscar (Dillon Casey) and his sister Karen (Lauren Schneider). Along for the ride are a pair of military veterans, Niles (Mehcad Brooks) and Randy (Aaron Hill), and their respective girlfriends, Emily (Serinda Swan) and Beth (Amanda Fuller).
Along the way through a decayed town, they stop at the convenience store of Chopper (Sid Haig) to get beer and learn about the lesson of Grimley, an inbred swamp dweller whose journey into insanity mutated him into a half-man, half-alligator creature known as Lockjaw.
When Randy has the bright idea to go see Lockjaw’s shack in the swamps, the others come along for the ride. Little do they realize that the legends are true. Oops, looks like we’ve got spam in a cabin.
Creature is an updated, sleazier version of a 1950s monster movie crossed with a 70’s hixsploitation movie. It has all the elements you’re looking for in a B-movie, and this is the B-est of the B. There’s nudity, weirdness, blood (though not too much blood), women in peril, some comedy, and most importantly, a great rubber suit monster.
I love a good rubber suit monster, and Lockjaw is pretty awesome looking. More importantly, they avoid shooting him in direct light, thereby making him look as good as possible. Given his color and texture, he’s great at blending into the swamps and then popping out of nowhere to rip into a torso, then disappearing again.
As for the acting, there’s not a lot bad to say. Most of it is independent movie-level stuff, but Sid Haig is always great in everything he does. As the villainous Chopper, he recycles most of his Captain Spaulding character from The Devil’s Rejects, but he dials it down a bit to make the character seem a little more normal. He’s usually fun; this is no different.
Of the non-Haig actors, Mehcad Brooks is pretty good as Niles, and I really enjoyed the performance of Lauren Schneider as Karen, simply because the actress has the most amusing role and embraces it wholeheartedly.
The director of the film, Fred M. Andrews, has never helmed a movie previously. However, he has been a set designer on CSI Miami and Without A Trace, so he does a good job of getting the movie to look well. He also incorporates some fun, old-timey use of stock footage into his movie, specifically stock footage of alligators swimming through swamps and whatnot.
It’s a neat callback, of a sort, to an older way of making films. He also makes good use of location. While you could have shot Creature using B-roll from Shark Night 3D, that’s not a knock on Creature or Andrews, who works with what he has to make up for what he lacks. It’s quick, dirty, and very entertaining.
The script, from Andrews and Tracy Morse, makes up for the budget issues by being quick without overreaching. There are no long, dramatic monologues, just quick, relatively witty exchanges. It doesn’t try to trick the viewer, but it does provide a few fun twists and turns along the way. Sid Haig gets to chew the scenery in his debut, and there are no ultra-annoying characters to detract from the enjoyment of the film. The plot gets out of the way of the story, and that’s refreshing.
Is Creature going to win any awards? No. Is Creature way better than Bucky Larson, last weekend’s other major box office flop in the US? You bet. By any metric, Creature is a better horror film than Bucky Larson is a comedy. Creature might be a better comedy than Bucky Larson, too.
That said, it’s also more likely to be an acquired taste than most movies. If you long for the days of cheap-o double features, late-night TV, and the bottom shelf of the video store, then Creature might be just the thing you’re looking for. When you’re living in the postmodern world, somehow the old fashioned and quaint feels fresh and new. Thanks, nostalgia!