September 13, 2011

Movie Review: Creature (2011)

My interest in Creature actually began some months ago. A friend came to work and asked me if I had heard of Saturday Nightmares, I hadn't he then told me that we were going anyway. Saturday Nightmares is a horror convention held at the Sheraton near the Meadowlands in New Jersey. As I looked over the guests it said that there would be a sneak peak of Creature as well as many members of the cast appearing, including the legendary Sid Haig. So, off we went to meet celebrities, get autographs, and perhaps see what this Creature thing was all about.

We saw their stand, but there wasn't much going on at the time aside from a prodigious pile of mini-posters rolled with slap bracelets emblazoned with the movie name. Later that day we went to the preview, which did not go all that well, let's just say it was fraught with technical difficulties and one of the film's stars, Dillon Casey, was keeping the conversation going, thereby exposing some wholes in his horror knowledge. All in good fun. In any case, the movie looked low budget, but did look like it could be an intriguing monster mash. It was after this that we made our way to the Creature table one more time. Once there we were able to met director Fred Andrews, and stars Dillon Casey, Amanda Fuller, Lauren Schneider, and Daniel Bernhardt (who plays the creature). They were all very friendly and even gave us a poster with all of their autographs.

I will say that I would have seen the movie regardless, it did not matter that I met them. However, it was pretty cool to have met them and see how enthusiastic they were about the project and how proud they were to be getting such a large scale release what is a really low budget film. It was certainly infectious and it gave me some hope that this movie was going to be entertaining.

Now, the movie has arrived to less fanfare than I can recall from a movie hitting 1500 theaters. I have not seen a single commercial nor an official trailer in theaters Most I have seen are a few web banner ads and a pre-trailer clip in theaters. I am sure this did not help things, but it probably all comes back to the budget. There was likely no money for anything more than the grassroots campaign they had to get the word out. In any case, I was there and ready to give it a shot.

Creature opens strongly enough, the shot pans across the Louisiana swamps before revealing a young woman. She strips naked and gets in the water. After a few moments of bobbing around with ominous shots of a nearby alligator, something strikes from beneath! Screaming and struggling ensue before we get to the title card.

The timeline skips ahead an indeterminate amount of time and we pick things up with an SUV full of some really unlikable characters. I cannot say I hated them, but I would say I would not be friends with them. Anyway, they are heading to New Orleans for some fun. They stop at a small gas station and meet Chopper (Sid Haig) who spins a tale of Lockjaw, a local legend, sort of like Big Foot. Fortunately, one of our annoying leads knows even more of the story to fill us in as they head towards the legendary home, as directed by Chopper.

We learn of a man who was not above a little incest whose wife/sister was taken by an alligator, his resulting rage, and eventual transformation into the legendary creature of the swamps. This leads to some false scares, some deaths, and a sub plot involving Chopper and some redneck yokels who apparently worship the monster. There are also revelations about a couple of our annoying leads, and a whole lot of nonsense. Seriously, if you try and put together some of these story elements you will be left scratching your head and wondering where the rest of the puzzle pieces went. As it is, it is often like putting together said puzzle with a picture of what it is supposed to look like.

Let me stop here for a moment and say that I did like this movie. It is definitely only for those who enjoy low budget outings with rubber suits and mediocre acting. Still, there is a certain energy and a feeling that the team's heart was in the right place. I am sure there is a fuller version of this story that explains things a bit better. There has to be, without it there is no explanation for what the writer had in his head.

Creature does have some blood and violence, although a chunk is dealt with off camera, a healthy dose of horror movie nudity, and a level of bizarreness that will make you snicker, scratch your head, and continue watching incredulously. What was the connection between the monster and the yokels? It didn't seem to discriminate any. Why was the one girl tied up and foot cut off? What was the sacrifice for?

I have no idea and I actually wonder if it is better this way. I have to wonder if they did have a cohesive story if it would actually detract from the entertainment factor? Could the poorly fitting puzzle pieces have been done on purpose? Perhaps. It is an interesting theory.

The production is certainly low budget, but it does benefit from the presence of veterans Sid Haig who is simultaneously friendly and creepy, and Pruit Taylor Vince as one of the crazy yokels. On the other side of the coin, the performances of Amanda Fuller as Beth and Lauren Schneider as Karen that are definitely eye catching, besides a couple scenes in particular, their takes on the characters are actually interesting, more interesting than the guys anyway.

In the end, I think you know who you are if you interested in something like this. It certainly does not have a very broad appeal and in most circumstances it would never make it past the SyFy Channel. I am glad it made it to the big screen and I am glad I supported it. Without some support we will never get non-mainstream, low budgeted horror on the screen. Yes, I can think of more deserving horror that never got the chance, like Trick 'R Treat and Midnight Meat Train, but we have to at least try to support what we get in the hopes that we can get more of it.


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