CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
DVD Review: Embarrassingly Bad ‘Creature’ Fails to Terrify, Titillate
CHICAGO – After a particularly long work day, I often find it difficult to coax my mind to sleep. That’s when I turn to Video On Demand for some free and immediate assistance. Most moviegoers would probably search for a familiar comedy or predictable romance to help their eyelids grow heavy in the wee hours of the morning. Yet my insomnia-remedy of choice will always remain FEARnet.
Nothing says instant catatonic coma quite like bargain-basement horror dreck. Titles like “Pinocchio’s Revenge” and “Brotherhood of Blood” are more effective than any dosage of Ambien or Lunesta. That’s because the vast majority of FEARnet fodder has an identical opening. A car full of lusty young adults is careening with carefree abandon down the road when an unexpected obstacle forces them to bunk for a night at the worst possible pla—zzzzzzzzz…
DVD Rating: 1.0/5.0
In the words of Rick Perry, “Oops!” Where was I? Oh yes, I was beginning to warn you about Fred M. Andrews’s “Creature,” a film so bad that it nearly caused me to doze off during its obligatory early sequence where a photogenic victim is wiped out by an unseen threat. Naked breasts fill the screen as a nameless and apparently brainless woman strips down to perform the umpteenth imitation of Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” opener, albeit with brighter lighting. Why a woman would want to skinny dip in the alligator-infested waters of a Louisiana swamp is anyone’s guess. We’ve now arrived at the first example of this film’s embarrassing level of incompetence. When the creature leaps out of the water to attack the woman, the camera cuts to an incoherent close-up of splashing water and scaly skin. There’s no indication of where this splashing incident is taking place—it could be on the other side of the swamp for all we know. Of course, when the camera cuts back to a wider shot of the water, the woman is now missing. It’s as if Andrews merely inserted a random shot from a National Geographic series into a softcore porn special on HBO. It’s the worst editing I’ve seen since “Birdemic,” and yet, it’s also the least of this film’s problems.
Creature was released on DVD on March 20, 2012.
Photo credit: Arc Entertainment
In the next scene, our heroes are introduced, and wouldn’t you know it? They’re nothing more than a carload of lusty young adults careening with carefree abandon down the road. It’s not long before they make the exceedingly ill-advised decision to stop at a tourist trap run by horror icon Sid Haig, who speaks in warmly comforting tones obviously concealing malicious intent (at least his teeth have vastly improved since “The Devil’s Rejects”). The snottiest kid in the sextette of doomed drifters mocks the local legend of Lockjaw, a Bigfoot-like creature that embodies every Hollywood producer’s fear of inbred, cannibalistic, fanatically religious wingnuts from the deep-fried south. Sure enough, the kids decide to camp out at the former home of Lockjaw while indulging in a hedonistic night of lovemaking, which predictably serves as the overture to bloodletting.
Daniel Bernhardt is assigned the task of playing Lockjaw, and though he attempts to mimic sinister reptilian movements as he slinks through the swamp, there’s never a single moment where the audience is unaware that he’s just a guy in a rubber suit. Guys in rubber suits can be scary, as cinema history has proven throughout its many decades of memorable monsters, yet they all require the vision of a master filmmaker to propel them into the paranoid subconscious of a jittery moviegoer. Perhaps Bernhardt may have flourished under the direction of Wes Craven or John Carpenter, but Andrews can only manage to make him look and feel like just another guy in a suit, and if “Creature” proves anything at all, it’s that guys in suits are not inherently scary. At all.
I’ll admit that there are moments when this picture flirts with descending into cheerful self parody, but they are few and far between. Ever-reliable character actor Pruitt Taylor Vince briefly materializes as a guy named Grover who rants incoherently, stomps his feet and is promptly eaten. It’s not much of a performance, but at least it’s entertaining. There’s also an extended sex-before-slaughter sequence that involves boy-on-girl, girl-on-girl and brother-on-sister action. Out of all the young actors hung out to dry, I felt the worst for Amanda Fuller, who previously sported her formidable acting chops in “Red White & Blue,” a horror film that is to “Creature” what “The Day The Earth Stood Still” is to “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”
“Creature” is presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio and includes three brief featurettes where the cast and crew discuss the arduous task of shooting the film on location in Baton Rouge (I imagine that a “Hearts of Darkness”-style doc could’ve been made of their suffering). As in most featurettes, the actors manage to spin their experiences in a positive light while talking up their product. Actor Wayne Pére boasts, “There’s some incestuous stuff—which is freakin’ hot.” When incest emerges as your film’s primary attraction, it’s clear that you’ve reached a freakin’ low.