September 09, 2011

Creature

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



Creature

HORROR:

United States, 2011

U.S. Release Date:

2011-09-09

Running Length:

1:33

MPAA Classification:

R (Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Profanity, Drugs)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

1.85:1

Cast:

Mehcad Brooks, Dillon Casey, Aaron Hill, Serinda Swan, Lauren Schneider, Amanda Fuller, Sid Haig

Director:

Fred Andrews

Screenplay:

Tracy Morse, Fred Andrews

Cinematography:

Christopher Faloona

Music:

Kevin Haskins

U.S. Distributor:

The Bubble Factory

Subtitles:

none


Terror Has Teeth!

As taglines go, that pretty much tells you what to expect. Creature, a no-budget horror movie whose financial limitations are repeatedly on display, tries to get by with an oversaturation of gore and camp. Lovers of cheap, grade-z exploitation films will find a lot to smile at here. We're on the fringes of "so bad it's good" territory, where a certain class of viewer will mumble about "guilty pleasures." Perhaps the biggest mystery of all is not how production designer-turned-director Fred Andrews was able to uncover the minimal amount of money necessary to make Creature but how it was able to secure even a limited theatrical distribution for this straight-to-DVD effort. He must have pictures. Damaging pictures.

There is a perverse enjoyment to be had from something this cheesy, although not enough of one that I can recommend sitting through it. Still, as bad as Creature is, it can be fun, although the level of enjoyment is probably in direct proportion to the viewer's level of intoxication. Andrews knows exploitation movies and has crafted Creature as an homage to the best/worst of them, even going so far as to recruit Sig Haig for a supporting role. You want blood? It's here, spraying left and right. You want boobs? They're here, too. You want dismemberment? It's here. You want a lesbian clinch? It's here. You want jell-o wrestling? Sorry - that's one thing Andrews couldn't figure out how to work into the movie, although you can bet he tried.

Creature opens with infinite promise as actress Jennifer Lynn Warren (whose filmography lists previous roles as "Vampire Hunter", "Tekken Citizen", "Bar Patron", and "Student") disrobes and goes for a swim in a lake. Two things are immediately apparent from this first scene: Andrews is not beyond getting a little artsy (the scene is heavily color desturated, almost to the point where it's in black-and-white) and Ms. Warren trims down below but does not shave. She's not the only one the director gets naked. All three of his female leads have topless scenes, although Serinda Swan's is sadly PG-13 in terms of what she shows.

Creature's opening skinny-dipper emerges from the water legless, courtesy of an attack by either a bayou alligator or the dreaded Lockjaw- a half man/half reptile who looks like the unholy offspring of a Teenage Mutant Turtle and Bowser (from the Mario video games). Although Lockjaw is Creature's title entity, we never get a really good look at him, thereby keeping audience laughter during his appearances to reasonable levels. As movie monsters go, he's less interesting than the Creature from the Black Lagoon but about as bloodthirsty as Audrey II, although he lacks Levi Stubbs' pipes. Still, the sight of Lockjaw dancing around while singing, "Feed Me!" would have improved the film's overall entertainment value.

Our six generic, horny twentysomethings enter the film fairly early, allowing us to place bets on the order in which they will provide Lockjaw with meals. They are: sarcastic, wisecracking Oscar (Dillon Casey) and his hot "sister", Karen (Lauren Schenider); ex-Marine Randy (Aaron Hill) and his southern belle, bi-curious girlfriend, Beth (Amanda Fuller); and token black guy Niles (Mehcad Brooks) and his squeeze, Emily (Serinda Swan). On a road trip to New Orleans, they end up lost on back roads and meet individuals who should be carrying banjos. There are also snakes, spiders, and alligators. The spiders might be real. The snake is probably rubber. And the alligators are clips from a National Geographic special.

The plot becomes convoluted beyond all hope of unraveling once Sid Haig enters the picture. There are intimations of incest and bestiality, although narrative clarity is not one of Creature's primary goals. God's name is used in vain, although there probably should have been a "-zilla" appended. It all ends with a big mud fight that can only be considered anticlimactic. Seeing Serinda Swan spread-eagled then writhing around in brown muck doesn't make up for the overall lameness resulting from budget restrictions. Maybe this is where the jell-o should have come into play.

Creature has been made with a particular audience in mind: those who have been craving a mash-up of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Deliverance, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a monster straight out of '70s Doctor Who. The movie is little too straight to play out as a parody, but there are plenty of laughs, to be sure. The only question is how many of those laughs are intentional, intentionally unintentional, and unintentional. I won't claim to have liked Creature, but I didn't hate it, either. Those within the limited demographic will get a hoot out of what the film offers. Those not in that group will walk out and sneak into whatever is playing next door. For them, I have this to say: what did you expect from a movie that advertises itself with the line Terror Has Teeth!?

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