Somethng Rotten in the Swamp
After a promising opening scene showing an attractive young woman (Jennifer Lynn Warren) slowly disrobing and slipping into the murky backwaters of a Louisiana swamp before being stalked and dismembered by a rogue alligator, Creature quickly descends into its own brackish murk. Unlike this poor, unfortunate local who is put out of her suffering rather quickly at the beginning of the movie, director/co-writer Fred Andrews spends the remainder of the film’s 90 minutes trying to get out of his predicament with Creature.
Let’s not wonder why such a fair-haired maiden would even consider exposing her pale-white, fragile skin to such a hellish pit of lurking danger. That’s not for us to consider. In fact, let’s not worry about the hundreds of other ridiculous unanswered questions peppered throughout Creature either. Those aren’t the real reasons why Creature stinks so badly. There are plenty of other poor decisions to blame. Where to begin?
First, let’s get this out of the way. We love horror. Even campy horror. There’s nothing more fun than spending a couple of hours with a cheap, schlocky slasher flick or a rubber-suited creature feature where an Assistant Director forgot to completely zip up the monster’s suit. The Creature from the Black Lagoon is still considered one of the faves of all time. But while camp is camp, bad is just bad. And Creature – with its wooden acting, stilted dialogue, and a premise more flimsy than the hull of a hundred-year-old johnboat -- is just plain bad. Born from the pages of his graphic novel titled Blood Is Blood, Andrews takes his story way too seriously for it to play out as a parody. There’s not a single laugh to be had (even an unintentional one), and most disappointing of all, the creature (who resembles Donatello of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fame) never comes across as frightening.
On their way to New Orleans, an obnoxious group of 20-somethings (played by actors in their 30s) takes an ill-advised rest stop at a roadside convenience store owned by a local Cajun named Chopper (Sid Haig). While picking up beer and snack food, the kids learn of a creature the locals call Lockjaw, a half-man, half-alligator that stalks the woods looking for women to impregnate. Legend has it that a rare white alligator carried off his sister, who was pregnant with his child. You see, the family lineage was in danger of ending, so the remaining brother and sister got it on with hopes of carrying on the family bloodline. Yep, you read that correctly. But any potential squirm to be unearthed from a thread involving brother-sister incest never goes anywhere. A huge missed opportunity.
Andrews also misses getting the “backwoods yokels” part of the story right. A store full of dirty, toothless inbreds should provide a wealth of opportunity for creepy atmosphere and unsettling danger. Anyone remember the hillbillies from Deliverance? Instead we get Haig running around yelling at everybody, “It’s all a part of God’s will.” He’s so much better than this.
Andrews does deserve a bit of credit for knowing how to establish a shot and where to put the camera. He’s even able to inject the film with a somewhat unique sense of style. His visuals are sometimes quite effective. But the occasional slow-mo and de-saturated colors are too inconsistent and distracting to give the film a signature style. And Andrews manages to keep Lockjaw dark and distant, but it’s still not enough to mask the poor creature effects and the lack of anything for the monster to do. Lockjaw just slinks around in the woods, occasionally squatting while looking into the camera.
Yes, there’s something rotten in the swamp, but unfortunately it’s not Lockjaw. That earthy, acrid stench emanates from the pages of Andrews’s horrid script. We’d like to say Creature would be a good watch when it reaches the dollar bin at the local Wal-Mart next week, but even as a source of bloody-good exposition, the film falls short. Nearly every kill shot takes place off screen, including the climax that features the remaining characters (people we don’t even know, much less care about) sliding down into a pit of bubbling mud as they try to fight Lockjaw. Yes indeed, the film’s climactic fight scene takes place off screen. Phew! This thing really stinks.
(Released by The Bubble Factory and rated "R" by MPAA.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.