When I first saw the posters for first-time director (and co-writer) Fred Andrews’ Creature at the theater a couple months back, I was psyched. I’d never heard of this Bubble Factory outfit releasing the film (and truth be told still don’t know anything about them), but here was something I’d been waiting to see for a long time — a good, old-fashioned monster movie! A guy in a rubber suit! An obviously low budget! Set in the Louisiana bayou! And hey — is that Sid Haig? It sure as shit is (and truth be told the fact that his was the only name on the cast list I recognized apart from second-tier TV actor Mehcad Brooks was another plus in my book)!
Questions that still don’t have answers began to swim through my mind. How on earth was a flick like this getting a major roll-out? Who was putting all the marketing muscle behind this thing? And how would it be received by audiences?
Well, we know the answer to that last one by now, at least. Creature opened on something like 1,500 screens nationally, took in an underwhelming (to put it mildly) $300, 000, and was gone the very next week. It’s hard for a flick with a budget of $3 million to lose money, but it looks like Creature is gonna do just that, even if it does gangbusters business on DVD (which it won’t).
And what was the reason for the giant collective shrug given this film by the American public at large? Well, for once the masses got it right — this thing just plain sucks.
Oh, it starts out promisingly enough — an innocent, unsuspecting girl strips naked in the swamp and is immediately eaten by a hungry gator.
But from that point on, things goes downhill pretty quickly. The initial set-up of unsuspecting city slickers heading out into swamp country and being lured into a trap by unscrupulous locals out to prey on their naivete is standard, if always satisfying, stuff. And yeah, it’s great to see the whole idea of a rubber-suited monster making a comeback. Big props to Andrews and company for all that.
Unfortunately, that’s as much praise as I can summon up for this decidedly third-rate effort. Creature slogs along at an almost leisurely pace from that point forward, the promised horrors are never really delivered upon, and intriguing set-up involving Haig (who’s criminally underutilized here) and his inbred clan quickly gets sidetracked into some nonsensical backwoods-monster-worshiping-cult thing for no discernible reason, the titular creature itself is given way too little screen time, the effects work is substandard even for what you might expect, there’s little to no actual blood-n’-guts, and Andrews can’t even manage to properly film a standard slo-mo shot (although that doesn’t keep him from trying again and again).
In short, Creature commits the unforgivable sin of being both poorly executed and hopelessly dull, and while we’re generous souls here at TFG and are more than willing to overlook either one or the other, when both are working together in concert it just makes for a lousy time at the movies.
I had a lot of questions going into Creature, but I had even more coming out, chief among them how and why this thing got itself a major release while other, far more worthy, independent horror films go straight to video. Not only is this far from the best that indie horror has to offer, it’s not even the best bayou-based indie horror to come out recently (Adam Green’s Hatchet films, anyone)? Why are dozens, if not hundreds, or better flicks earmarked exclusively for the home video market from the outset while this thing opens on as many screens as the latest Brad Pitt flick? In short, I’d love to know who Fred Andrews’ daddy is and what kind of connections he has.
It was my vain hope that Creature might breathe some new life into the whole old-school monster movie thing, but by bombing so spectacularly (and frankly predictably — any veteran box office observer could probably see this coming from a mile away) all it managed to do was probably kill any chance for more worthy independent horror features to find major theatrical play for the next decade or so, if not longer.
On some level, I’m sure Andrews and company had their hearts in the right places, but the road to box office irrelevance for an entire genre is, apparently, paved with good intentions. Sigh — so much for that monster-movie comeback idea.