2 1/2 StarsAt first glance Creature seems like any other R-rated monster flick. The difference comes about 40 minutes in when the film begins to twist and change into a strange kick-butt take names later, extremely messed up sexual interplay and monster movie. Creature might be the year’s smartest horror film. Unfortunately there’s nothing scary about it, and the R-rating is more for sexuality than gore. With that in mind the movie strives for something different than your average horror film, a story. It’s easy to see why The Bubble Factory thought it had something here.
The beginning is a little confusing with the lack of dialogue and who was who’s sibling talk, but it’s all important in the end and had I known this wouldn’t be your average monster slasher movie I would have paid a little more attention. There’s even some stuff to look back on and realize what was going on after some reveals later in the movie. Ultimately Creature falls prey to the same problems that plagued The Green Lantern, long and soft setups with distant and weak payoffs. The film tries to trick the viewer into thinking they are seeing a standard college-age kids go off into the swamp camping and exploring only to meet their untimely deaths at the hands of some terrifying monster flick. This takes up about 40 minutes of the movie (with no deaths and no monster, most horror fans may get bored!) and by that time we are settled into this “fact”, but then the story begins to take a few turns. Being that the majority of the setups for these turns take place at the beginning of the film, the changes feel almost as if they come out of left field. Honestly Creature suffers from the exact opposite problems that 2006′s Hatchet had, it has too much story and not enough fun gore. Of course both come up empty in the suspense department (well except one moment in Creature thanks to Sid Haig’s performance). It’s almost as if you can’t believe the movie is taking a different road. I can’t go into any other details as it would ruin the twists, which would make any viewing of the film almost a complete waste.
The greatest thing about Creature is its outstanding cast. Mehcad Brooks (Desperate Housewives, True Blood, Necessary Roughness) is Niles, a reserved character that is happy just going along on this trip with his girlfriend Emily. That is of course until things get crazy and he steps up to protect his girl. Brooks plays the bad-ass monster-ass-kicker with just the right amount of intensity (but this is one of those left field things, also look for a scene where Brooks is shot in the leg and then miraculously heals in minutes). Emily is played by the lovely Serinda Swan (TRON: Legacy, Breakout Kings) who adds an anchor of level headedness through her realization of Emily to the female leads. Oscar and Karen, Dillon Casey and Lauren Schneider, are siblings that are spearheading the trip into the swamp. These two give some great performances, especially Lauren as the off kilter Karen. Amanda Fuller and Aaron Hill round out the rest of the campers as Beth and Randy, who happens to be Emily’s brother.
All those actors perform flawlessly, but it’s Sid Haig and Daniel Bernhardt that stand out. I have to admit I’m not the biggest Sid Haig fan. I think he’s been overcast in horror films, but his part in Creature is quite different. He delivers a real fleshed out 3d character here. I cannot divulge the Sid Haig scene mentioned above as it’s ripe with spoilers, but let’s just say that right before he chops off some feet he casts a few looks at the choppie with some real feeling in his eyes. The chopping happens off screen and he picks up a severed foot- that’s the goriest scene in the flick and there’s very little blood, but again the tradeoff here is there’s emotion and story.
Now let’s get to the monster. Creature‘s creature is a cross between an alligator and the Creature from the Black Lagoon with the Dark Knight Joker’s smile. Director Fred Andrews chooses shots wisely that sell it, but for being the title character it’s hardly in the movie. It’s nice to see an actor in a suit and not some CGI monster (even if the monster was done mo-cap style). The best thing about this is the man in the suit, Daniel Bernhardt. He truly disappears into the role of the monster. Bernhardt would hardly be anyone’s first choice to play this role. He’s best know for the Bloodsport sequels (yes, there were three of them) and a stint as Agent Johnson in The Matrix Reloaded. Of course we’re big fans of Daniel’s here at Movie Mavericks, check out our pre-Creature Daniel Bernhardt interview here. Turns out director Fred Andrews is also a fan, and cast Bernhardt in the role, one of the best decisions he made for the film. Even when playing the man before becoming a monster, Grimley, Bernhardt delivers. His roles in the film are completely physical with no dialogue, which serves someone of his action movie background. Rebekah Kennedy’s innocent look as Grimley’s bride to be Caroline fits perfectly with the fairy tale like telling of his descent into madness. The summation of the last few paragraphs, Creature is cast perfectly.
It’s telling of how good a writer Tracy Morse and Fred Andrews are as their script only has the necessary dialogue and forgoes the usual horrid fill-the-moment horror movie speak. The story does get a little convoluted by the end though and at times they may have bitten off more than they could chew. But Andrews is a strong director of actors, getting his cast to perform with looks, facial expressions and their eyes instead of spouting cheap and belittling lines.
In the end I gave Creature 2 1/2 out of 4 stars, but had this been a horror only review site I probably would have given it a 3 out of 4. Mainly because this genre is chock full of the same ‘ole, same ‘ole, and what Fred Andrews and crew set out to do with Creature is a noble cause and shows that horror can be interesting and not just some useless gore and torture porn. Stacked up in its genre it stands out, but disappears into the racks when surrounded by outside films. I recommend this to horror fans, it’s something new, but for others I’m not so sure. Remember that it is rated R, but more for the sexuality and sexual ideas than anything gory. If you decide to see this, see it with friends (and maybe a six pack or two), it’s almost as if the filmmakers new to leave plenty of space between dialogue for audience participation.
Director: Fred Andrews
Stars: Mehcad Brooks, Serinda Swan, Daniel Bernhardt, Sid Haig, Dillon Casey, Lauren Schneider, Rebekah Kennedy, Amanda Fuller, Aaron Hill