Monday, October 13, 2014

Creature (2011)



Who's In It: Mehcad Brooks (True Blood), Serinda Swan (Aphrodite in Percy Jackson, Zatanna on Smallville), Dillon Casey (Nikita), Aaron Hill (Greek), Amanda Fuller (Grey's Anatomy), Pruitt Taylor Vince (True Blood, The Mentalist), Daniel Bernhardt (Parker), and Sid Haig (Spider Baby, Diamonds Are Forever, Jason of Star Command).

What It's About: A group of young people head out to the woods to... hey, wait! Where you going?! No, seriously. Just stick with me...

How It Is: My heart sank at the opening shot in Creature when I saw a truck full of three couples heading into the Louisiana bayou for a vacation. I barely made it through Shark Night; I didn't think I was ready for another just like it so soon. On the surface, the main characters in Creature look like all those other cabin-in-the-woods stereotypes. There's the obnoxious guy who's going to get everyone into trouble (Casey), there's the slutty girl (Fuller), the virginal girl (Lauren Schneider), the jock (Hill), the token black guy (Brooks), and the token black guy's super hot girlfriend (Swan). All that was missing was a nerdy stoner. But as the characters kept talking, I realized that something different was going on.

For one thing, Casey and Fuller play brother and sister and not an especially annoying couple as I first thought. It makes sense that they have similar personalities coming from the same family. And that both of them are single, because the only people who can sort of tolerate them are each other. But more importantly, Brooks and Hill are playing Marines and it doesn't take long to realize that they're smart, serious ones. Casey and Fuller are wild cards in the group, but it's quickly obvious that Creature isn't about a bunch of stupid kids getting into trouble. It's about a group of friends that actually feels like a real group of friends. I especially like Brooks and Swan who convinced me that they're a normal, healthy couple in love with each other. And the fact that a couple members of the group are highly trained in combat means that this isn't just going to be all screaming and running when the alligator-man shows up.

That's kind of how the whole movie goes. It starts with apparent stereotypes and then reveals them to be honest-for-real characters. There are scary rednecks in this movie (led by the awesome Sid Haig and including the always spooky Pruitt Taylor Vince), but they have genuine motivations and complicated feelings about what they're doing. Even the alligator-man (Bernhardt) has a touching - though sick and creepy - backstory that adds facets to him as a character.

I'm in danger of overselling it, so let me dial back a little. Creature is super cheesy in places. The rubber, alligator-man suit looks cool, but there's no getting around that it's a rubber suit. And director Fred Andrews loves a slow motion shot a lot more than I do. There's also some really disturbing stuff in the movie. It earns its R rating not just on what you see and hear, but on tone and theme, too. It's neither a completely serious horror film nor a fun homage to B-movies; it walks a thin line somewhere between those two. It does so well, but what it's going for is a specific enough thing that I suspect not everyone will dig it. For me though, I was pleasantly shocked by how much I enjoyed it.

Rating: Four out of five totally beautiful couples whom I actually hoped would live.



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