I need to apologize to everyone. Why? Because I did something this past weekend that I never do … I second guessed myself about a film. The film is of course the new release, CREATURE. I saw CREATURE last Friday, opening day, but I’m only now writing and posting the review. Why, you ask? Because my initial reaction was that I enjoyed this film. It’s not a genre-defining film by any means, but I found myself having fun with it nonetheless. When I started Tweeting about how much I enjoyed it, I started getting a lot of replies from other reviewers telling me “you’re crazy,” “you gotta be kidding,” and “are you serious?” So instead of writing and posting the review on Friday night after work, I waited. I waited because I wanted to see the film again and make sure I wasn’t losing my fucking mind. So last night (Sunday), after the kids went to sleep, I went to see CREATURE again (this time with a more skeptical eye). The verdict after watching it a second time? I still enjoyed myself.
As already mentioned, CREATURE isn’t going to re-define either creature flicks or the horror genre in general. It tells a very familiar story with very familiar characters in a very familiar setting. Six friends take to the road for a little vacation to the Louisiana Bayou. (Am I missing out on something here? Why do so many people make the Bayou their destination vacation place??). There’s brother and sister Oscar and Karen (Dillon Casey and Lauren Schneider) and two couples, Niles and Emily (Mehcad Brooks and Serinda Swan) and Randy and Beth (Aaron Hill and Amanda Fuller). In addition, Emily and Randy are also siblings, and we learn that Randy is a marine and Niles is, I believe, an ex-S.E.A.L (I could swear they mention this in passing very quickly near the beginning). Oscar and Karen grew up in the Bayou and thought it’d be a great idea to hang out in the swamp with the gators, bugs, and … something else.
Things immediately get weird when they stop to pee at a local gas station where three locals send out more “turn around and leave” vibes than a blaring car alarm. There’s Bud (Wayne Pére), Jimmy (David Jensen), and genre favorite Chopper (Sid Haig). They convince the gang to go check out a local landmark: The house where Grimley lived. Grimley (Daniel Bernhardt) is a local legend that covers all the basics; incest, a giant albino gator, and a man turning into a creature. The gang of twenty-something’s are excited and make a bee-line straight out to the seemingly abandoned shack.
Let me stress again that the set-up here is nothing you haven’t seen before. In fact, you probably saw the exact same set-up the last time you turned on the SyFy channel. The entire setting is very reminiscent of the HATCHET films and the six main players here are pretty much your cookie-cutter, stock characters. There’s the hero (Niles), the slutty girl (Karen), the innocent girl (Beth), etc … Each play their roles accordingly and you’ll be able to figure out the fate of each character within the first few minutes of the film. There’s a little twist that happens in the the third act, but besides that the film unravels in a pretty predictable manner.
Then there’s the titular creature. On the plus side the creature is a 100% practical effort. Unfortunately we never really get a solid look at it until the end. The design isn’t bad (think SWAMP THING meets gator-boy) but the back story is a little weak. We essentially get a man who is so torn up by grief and rage that he turns into the creature. Okay, whatever. But what’s odd is that the townies then worship/praise the creature as their god. This is never really explained and could’ve been a pretty interesting backstory.
I know the way I’m describing everything here makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy this one, but that’s not the case. I’m just trying to convey to you all that there’s nothing fresh or new in CREATURE. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time with it. Let’s face it, there hasn’t been anything new in the zombie genre since Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD back in 1978, but this doesn’t mean there haven’t been any kick-ass, fun zombie flicks since. CREATURE follows the ‘creature feature’ template to a “T”, but the cast and overall energy of the film makes it pretty fun. What also doesn’t hurt is that CREATURE takes on an R-rating and actually delivers some R-rated fun. Not even five minutes into the film we get full frontal nudity from the sexy Jennifer Lynn Warren, and then get lots of tittie shots peppered throughout the rest of the film from Lauren Schneider and Amanda Fuller, who also dabble in a little girl-girl fun. The gore isn’t off the charts, unfortunately, but there’s enough here that makes it all satisfying.
Two of the saving graces of the film are lead actor Mehcad Brooks and genre fav Sid Haig. Brooks, who played the recurring character Eggs from 2008-2009 on TRUE BLOOD, is an extremely likable, charismatic guy who carries the film nicely. He looks like he’s having a lot of fun in his role and never takes what he’s doing too seriously. He helps to set the tone here. And Sid Haig … well Haig is Haig!! How can you not love this guy? But seriously people, if you’re ever in the backwoods or the Bayou and Sid Haig hands you a hand-written map of a place you “really need to check out,” DON’T GO. For the love of all that’s good, just turn the other way and run like hell!!
I’m gonna say it again; CREATURE isn’t gonna change the way horror films are made. Yes, it’s derivative, but there’s also some fun to be had here. After a summer of tame PG-13 and tame R-rated films (I’m looking at you DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK), it’s nice to get an R-rated feature that delivers R-rated fun. It’s got the holy trinity here: Titties, gore, & girl-girl fun. Granted the gore could’ve been heavier, but there’s still enough to make everything fun.
Don’t listen to all the bashers out there trying to tell you that CREATURE is a piece of shit. It’s not. It’s fun, fast-paced, and although the final act suffers a little bit, it’s overall a satisfying film. Sure this is yet another film that doesn’t do much to help the image of Southerners (hey Hollywood, why don’t ya lay off Southerners for a while). This is also one you don’t need to see in the theaters, but definitely check it out when it hits DVD and MOD/VOD. I’m dying to hear what you think of it.
Director: Fred Andrews (& co-writer with Tracy Morse)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer