Thursday, December 28, 2023

Creature (USA, 1985)


(Spoilers.) Not to be mistaken with 2004's Creature, also known as Alien Lockdown and Predatorman, this Creature is from the fabulous '80s, as is more than obvious by the fabulously horrible '80s hair worn by some of the babes; oddly enough, the men, above all manly TV actor Stan Ivar* as the heroic Captain Mike Davison and Robert Jaffe as Jon Fennel,* sport haircuts that look even more retro, say, late '70s. 

* Stan Ivar really hasn't done diddly-squat that interests us, but Robert Jaffe is of a different cut. Of his few acting credits, you find small parts in Fuzz (1972 / trailer, see: Uschi, Part VI) and the unloved Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972 / trailer), but what make him interesting to a wasted life is his writing and production credits. He worked on the screenplay to the contentious Demon Seed (1977 / trailer), the forgotten trash horror Scarab (1980 / trailer), the equally forgotten original film version of Nightflyers (1987 / trailer), which was revamped in 2018 as a series (trailer) on Netfux, and — the film for which he has our appreciation — he helped script and produce that fun and eminently watchable slab of comedic horror, Motel Hell (1980). 
Trailer to
Creature could easily be mistaken as a Roger Corman production, but it isn't: it is, by all accounts, an independent production brought to reality above all by the gumption and drive of the film's writer and director William Malone, who at the time had an unabating desire to become a director. And that he did become: Creature, which was preceded by the much lower budgeted Scared to Death (1980 / trailer), has led to a career as a director on TV horror genre series as well as a steady stream of feature-film horrors, namely the critically maligned but financially successful House on Haunted Hill remake (1999 / trailer), the unpopular Fear dot Com (2002 / trailer), and the virtually unknown Parasomnia (2008 / trailer). Whatever his next project might be, it has been a long time in waiting.
"We found... a child's butterfly collection... but some of these butterflies... were not too friendly...
Hans Rudy Hofner (Klaus Kinski)
A.k.a. as The Titan Find, the original version of Creature seems to be in the public domain, and it is the PD version that we saw, pan and scanned but apparently uncut from the original release, packaged as it was on a double feature DVD with the mega-flop Slipstream (1989). In 2013, William Malone re-released the film, on DVD, under its original title, the less grindhouse-appropriate The Titan Find, in a widescreen version featuring his original and longer director's cut. While, had we had the choice, we would have preferred watching that version, as widescreen is always great and uncut grindhouse generally means more blood and breasts, we must say that the version of Creature we saw, rated PG-13, had a pleasant amount of both B&B and wasn't all that bad. The Titan Find, in any event, is now also available in novelized form, written by Christian Francis, a man whose specialty is novelizations of horror films.
Creature is hardly a bastion of originality and creativity, but as a science fiction body counter it manages to combine its purloined and/or genre-generic aspects and stock characters into a relatively unoriginal but thoroughly amusing space horror. There are dry spots and an occasional snort-inducing event, but the movie does keep one entertained until the end. It opens with two space-suited men (John Stinson [of The Hand (1981 / trailer)] & Jim McKeny [of Alice (2022 / trailer)] and The Gravedancers [2006]), geologists for the American multinational NTI, finding some ancient eggs on the largest moon of Saturn, Titan. The discovery goes wrong, as one can imagine, but the real story starts some two months later, after the surviving astronaut, looking burnt and dead, crashes their spaceship into Concorde, a space station orbiting Earth's moon. NTI promptly sends a new ship to Titan, the Shenandoah, captained by Mike Davison but run by the NTI representative David Perkins (Lyman Ward*). Its crew includes the only other man, Jon Fennel, three girlies with brains — final girl Beth Sladen (Wendy Schaal of Munchies [1987 / trailer]), sexy Dr. Wendy H. Oliver (Annette McCarthy [12 Apr 1958 – 6 Jan 2023]), and obvious fodder Susan Delambre (Marie Laurin), who later supplies the movie's naked-breast quotient — and Melanie Bryce (Diane Salinger of Batman Returns [1992 / trailer], Rest Stop [2006 / trailer] and Rest Stop: Don't Look Back [2008 / trailer] and more), a security officer who looks like she stepped straight out of a John Willie (i.e., John Alexander Scott Coutts [9 Dec 1902 – 5 Aug 1962]) comic or Eugene Bilbrew (29 Jun 1923 – May 1974) paperback cover, from her wonderfully over-the-top hairstyle to her black frilly panties we see in the scene where Dr Hans Rudy Hofner (Klaus Kinski**) "introduces" himself. 
* Lyman Ward made his walk-on and walk-off feature-film debut in the Pam Grier classic Coffy (1973) and has been in many "bad" film in parts of varying importance, including The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980 / trailer, see: Dick Miller Part V), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) Sleepwalkers (1992), Mikey (1992 / trailer), and more, more, more
** Other films featuring the one and only child-molesting Klaus Kinski (18 Oct 1926 – 23 Nov 1991) that have been reviewed at a wasted life include: The Avenger (1960), The Devil's Daffodil (1961), Dead Eyes of London (1961), The Inn on the River (1962), The Indian Scarf (1963), The Black Abbot (1963), The Great Silence (1968), Black Killer (1971) and...
Creature mines Alien (1979 / trailer) and pays direct homage to the original Thing from Another World (1951 / trailer) to throw together a serviceable body counter in science-fiction clothing. The body count by the end is a lowly six, providing one counts the first two astronauts and ignores all the seen and unseen bodies of the crew of the German spaceship whence Dr. Hofner comes and the narrative ultimately resolves itself. A key aspect of the film is that the creature does more than simply decapitate or eat the humans: occasionally it implants a parasite in the dead body, creating a kind of zombie that does its bidding and shares all knowledge, thus it grows more intelligent as the movie progresses. (The parasites and their link to their master is reminiscent of other, better films like the classic pro-drug meta movie The Faculty [1998 / trailer] and James Gunn's hilarious Slither [2006 / trailer]; one might also think of Cronenberg's Shivers [1975 / trailer], but those parasites, while similar, don't share a mental link.) The order in which the various characters go is relatively easy to figure out, but the movie nevertheless manages to mine some tension from the expectation.
"I saw a movie once, where a group of people were trapped in an ice station by a carrot from another planet..."
Beth Sladen (Wendy Schaal)
The characterizations of the diverse figures of Creature are sketchy or rote at best, but some manage to inhabit their parts better than others. As already mentioned, the pert-breasted Susan Delambre supplies the requisite blood-smeared nude scenes (as well as the most atrocious example of '80s hair styling), but she is more than wooden until she dies and is parasitically revived — her nudity and frown do wonders for the impression she subsequently makes. It is, however, her smitten deep-space penis Jon Fennel (Robert Jaffe) that the alien uses to its best advantage by turning him into a regular Benedict Arnold. Dr. Wendy is basically there to die, while final girl Beth, despite all her braininess and perseverance, screams a lot by contemporary standards and stands firmly at the tail end of that genre trope, the pretty girl that has to be saved — again and again and again. 
As Dr. Hofner, Klaus Kinski is surprisingly restrained but nevertheless typically goofy, but his presence is relatively short and he appears to have been played by a stand-in once he gets a parasite in his brain. (He could well have been played by anyone, but, hey! Kinski is a name.) Diane Salinger's Security Officer Bryce is actually the most interesting character of the movie, but though she is a key figure in the movie's resolution, she is under-utilized in the overall events of the narrative. It is arguably that as the NTI representative David Perkins, Lyman Ward has the meatiest part of Creature: a company asshole at the start of the movie and responsible for a terrible decision that basically puts the whole crew in its deadly situation, he grows into a manly, self-sacrificing man who puts his 100% into working with manly Captain Davison to kill the monster and get off the planet.
As mentioned earlier, Creature is not the most original movies, but the narrative is not too porous and once the team finally gets to Titan, relatively suspenseful. And for being a low budget, independently financed film, it looks pretty good: the interiors of the ship never scream "No Money!" and the exteriors on Titan are perfectly serviceable. The start of the movie is a bit low on gore — the exploding head within a space helmet is not really worth writing home about — but there are some good old-fashioned practical effects towards the end. It might not truly meet one's expectations for '80s cheese and trashy films in regard to how the blood and sleaze is dolloped, but fans of the grindhouse genre(s) will probably find Creature more than a passable way to spend an evening. Here at a wasted life, we give Creature two thumbs up.

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