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Creature (2011)

Arc Entertainment
DVD Released: 3/20/2012

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/21/2012

In my recent review for Camel Spiders, I wrote about how the overuse of CGI has ruined the giant monster movie. Look at the recently released prequel The Thing. I liked it for what it was, but the CG effects didn't compare to Rob Bottin's classic latex monsters. The same can be said for the classic "man in a rubber suit" monster movie. In movies like Alien or The Howling, we know that it's just a guy in a costume, but with the proper lighting and creative creature design, this can be quite effective. Sure, these movies can come across as cheesy, but when done right, they can be awesome. At least once a year, someone tries to keep the "man in a rubber suit" tradition alive, and this year's entry is a swamp-based chiller called Creature.

As Creature opens, we meet a group of friends who are on their way to New Orleans for Spring Break. Oscar (Dillon Casey) and his sister, Karen (Lauren Schneider) are in the front seats, Randy (Aaron Hill) and Beth (Amanda Fuller) are in the middle row, and Niles (Mechad Brooks) and Emily (Serinda Swan) are in the back. Claiming that he knows a shortcut, Oscar has taken the group off of the highway and they've seen nothing but swamp for miles. They stop at a dilapidated gas station where they meet Chopper (Sid Haig) and his weird brothers. Here, the young people learn the legend of Lockjaw, a monstrous creature which is said to roam the swamp. According to the legend, Lockjaw had once been human and Chopper claims that the kids can go see the house where he used to live. Oscar decides that this sounds like fun and convinces the others to go along with him. They travel through the bayou and find the cabin. They then decide to camp there for the night. Soon, they learn that Lockjaw is real.

Any movie is the sum of its parts, and the creature part of Creature isn't bad. Lockjaw is said to be part man and part alligator and the monster is a nice amalgam of the two, save for the fact that he doesn't have a long tail. Sporting scales, spikes on his back and a gaping maw of teeth, Lockjaw is a formidable baddie and one of the more interesting looking monsters that we've in quite some time. The sound effects which accompany Lockjaw are very good, most notably the low, alligator-like growl, and the way in which is he moves (sometimes on all fours) feels like how this animal would really move if it truly existed.

Therefore, it's unfortunate that the rest of the movie is just awful. Stop me if you've heard this one -- a group of kids who are on their way to Spring Break make a wrong turn on the backroads...oh wait, you have already heard this one. Yes, the main premise of Creature is something which we've seen literally hundreds of times and it does nothing new to spice things up. The characters are all stereotypes (the bad girl, the good girl, the upright ex-solider, etc.) and very little is done to add depth to anyone. The movie shows little in the way of logic and it's difficult to suspend disbelief when not only does Oscar convince everyone to track down a rural legend that no one's ever heard of, but they then camp out in the swamp instead of getting back in their cars and getting the hell out of there.

In the classic classroom scene in Scream 2, Sarah Michelle Gellar's character says, "Someone's get a hard-on for Cameron" after they profess their admiration for Terminator 2 and Aliens. While watching Creature, I thought to myself, "Someone's got a hard-on for Tobe Hooper." The movie plays like a combination of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hooper's follow-up to that classic, Eaten Alive. Chopper and his brothers are very, very reminiscent of the family from Texas Chainsaw (sans a Leatherface stand in), as they try to both intimidate and appease tourists, and the whole van full of kids looking for an old house is taken straight from that film. Eaten Alive concerns a swamp-based motel which is guarded by a voracious alligator, so those similarities speak for themselves. To be fair, Creature does try to stray from the norm by introducing some plot-twists halfway through the movie, but they are actually unnecessary. I hate to ask any horror film to not try and beef up its script, but the revelations concerning certain characters feels very forced and not organic. If Creature had remained a straight-ahead monster movie, it could have been dumb fun, but by attempting to add layers, the movie gets very muddled and the third act feels as if it can never decide which sub-plot is the most important.

I applaud Co-writer/Director Fred Andrews for attempting to make an old-fashioned monster movie, but he both over-extended on the plot twists, while under-achieving when it came to anything new in the genre. Lockjaw is a cool looking monster, but he's not given much to do and the finale fight is ludicrous. Also, there are two kill scenes in the first act where I honestly wasn't sure if Lockjaw was the culprit or an actual alligator, as both were shown. I can't help but feel that the makers of Creature hoped to spawn a franchise with Lockjaw, but something tells me we won't be hearing from him again.

Creature features more ill-defined couples than an episode of The Bachelor on DVD courtesy of Arc Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing some light grain and no obvious defects from the source material. The colors look pretty good, but the nighttime scenes are a little too dark. The image is a bit soft at times, but artificating is kept to a minimum. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which features clear dialogue and sound effects. The movie does a good job of capturing the sounds of the swamp through the stereo and surround channels. These effects are nicely detailed and often do a fine job of creating a sense that something is behind us. Lockjaw's growling creates nice bass effects.

The Creature DVD contains a few extras. "Making the Monster" (6 minutes) shows us the design work which went into the creation of the Lockjaw and profiles Daniel Bernhardt, the actor in the suit. "On the Bayou" (8 minutes) is a making of featurette where we learn that the original title of the film was "Blood is Blood". (A film which NFL coach John Fox would love.) This contains comments from the Writer/Director Fred Andrews and the cast, who talk about the story and the shooting conditions in Baton Rogue. "The Filmmakers" (8 minutes) profiles Andrews, as the cast talk about his work, and also focuses on actor Sid Haig as well.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long