Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Creature (1985)

You can tell from the plot synopsis alone that this movie is an obvious and cheap knock-off of Alien - emphasis on cheap. But Alien is one of the seminal sci-fi/horror films of all time, and so any movie trying to recapture its brilliance (even via direct imitation, rather than creative influence) is going to attract my attention. The problem with Creature, then, is less that it is a shameless rip-off of a much better movie, but is simply the fact that it's not a much better movie itself. It feels quite like a TV movie, and the production values (especially when making comparisons to Ridley Scott's Alien, as the viewer is inevitably compelled to do) are conspicuously shoddy.

And then there are other problems, like the inane banter between the characters. There was a lot of idle dialogue in Alien, but it felt natural, and served compellingly to produce an atmosphere of realism, and help the audience to identify with the characters. In Creature, it's just dumb, and the poor attempts at humor serve only to undermine the film's atmosphere. And then, the astronauts' reaction to finding alien life - particularly alien life that is both vicious and apparently intelligent, given its use of technology - on Titan, Saturn's moon (so, not quite so far out there), is to be entirely underwhelmed, except by the possibility for fame and fortune.

It should go without saying that a monster movie like Creature hinges on the success or failure of it's movie monster. Even Alien wasn't immune to this (though even on that count, it succeeded in spades). Unlike most b movies, the monster in Creature is actually very creepy and compelling. It's like the Carnosaur version of H.R. Giger's sleek and sexy xenomorph, all teeth and glowing eyes and lumps of what-the-fuck-is-that?! It's unfortunate, therefore, that the creature is not featured nearly enough, using some cheap psychic tactic to make its human victims do most of its killing.

One must not oversell the creature in a movie like this, of course, but when you've got a creature as badass as this one is, the viewer is gonna want more glimpses of it throughout the picture. Alas, it is perhaps the movie's only redeeming feature, and saving it for the end means over an hour of story that struggles to keep my interest. Even the addition of actual nudity isn't enough to save it. It's telling that a review of Creature only serves to indicate the elements that made Alien such a great film, where it itself fails sorrowfully. It's too bad, especially in light of the great creature effects, because I would have liked to have seen an at least half-decent movie on the same theme.

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