Creature (1985)

Creature DVD CoverIt’s been a while since I’ve been on any space missions and even longer since I did a hitch on one involving skulking around an ancient alien archeological site, busting open strange storage cases, putting the make on the ship’s sexy computer expert and arguing with the corporate douche aboard whose main mission seems to be to put everyone in as much danger as possible.

But even in my semi-retirement, I still know enough that after battling a space monster who ate almost everyone on your ship, you need to do more than poke him a couple of times after electrocuting his slimy butt before pronouncing him dead and leaving your old lady all by herself with it.

I mean, were you just going to fly home with that stinky thing decomposing in Engineering? At a bare minimum, you need to air lock that mother, preferably after you tied it up, dumped a grenade in its mouth, set it on fire and said something appropriately pithy for the occasion like “guess you didn’t have the Right Stuff, after all” as you eject him from the ship.

Creature is obviously one of those gory 1980s space horror flicks like Forbidden World, Galaxy of Terror, and Inseminoid inspired by Alien, Planet of the Vampires, and It! The Terror from Beyond Space. Yet despite it following the template of those films so slavishly you wondered if the film itself was being controlled and directed by one of the alien parasites that attached to various crew members’ heads during the ill-fated mission, the film did manage to surprise me.

I was in utter shock when the surly robotic-like amazon woman who was on the crew to provide security turned out not to be a robot at all! And she spent the most important part of the movie lost and not participating until she appeared to deus ex machina our hero, Captain Davison, out of certain death. (You might think when he went out the airlock without a suit on to fight the monster, that it was inevitable he suffered brain damage from oxygen deprivation, but as soon as he’s rescued and back on board the ship, he’s still trying to lay the computer expert! At least one of his brains wasn’t affected!)

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While the bulk of the film is comfortably predictable as far as these stalk and kill haunted house in space movies go, the prologue is executed so laughably, you can be forgiven for having to fight the urge to scuttle the whole mission before it even starts!

Watching two astronauts on Titan bicker about taking a picture and who is going to pose sitting on one of the life pods housing a monster certainly builds up a sense of dread in the audience, but for all the wrong reasons! Almost seemingly at random, it’s followed by the spaceship from that mission crashing into a space station. (Presumably it was piloted by a crew infected by the monsters, but what was the point of its suicide mission?)

We all know what these events mean: the company behind the first mission puts together a crew to go to Titan, beat a second German mission there (they already have a ship on Titan) and make lots of profit somehow! The expected clash between various crew members occurs until they are forced to work together once most of them are chewed up. Making matters even worse (for the viewer of course) is that none of the actors involved leave any impression better than “borderline competent” with several falling easily below that minimal threshold.

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In fact, it’s not until about 30 minutes in with the surprise appearance of real actor Klaus Kinski (The Great Silence) as the sole survivor of the German ship that anything goes on that commands your attention.

Kinski’s scenes where he’s explaining what’s happening (despite his explanations plainly being pulled out of the ass of the screenwriter, with no real way for Kinski’s character to know all this) show a guy who deserves far better than a glorified cameo in disposable trash like this. That he disappears for awhile and only reappears as a mindless monster while we’re stuck watching the same three bland morons only proves that either writer/director William Malone didn’t know what he was doing or didn’t have Kinski hired for anything beyond his brief appearance. (And I never understood why Kinski was still on the planet instead of taking off for Earth in his ship which is exactly what the others ended up doing later on.)

But while the cast is mostly made up of folks who feel like Roger Corman rejects, the movie’s real issue is that its story just isn’t that interesting.

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One of the reasons Alien is effective is that it was more than simply a monster running around a ship. The attention to detail at the beginning with the field of eggs, the dead ancient astronaut, and the beacon all tapped into a feeling of unease and worked in building up to several significant reveals (chest bursting, full grown alien, crew member with secret agenda). Unfortunately, Creature pretty much just dumps the monster on the ship and what background is mentioned is rushed, treated as an afterthought and has no impact on the remainder of the film. The monster could have been any old boogeyman or escaped zoo animal for all the context it was given.

Still, if you’re a fan of these types of movies where people run through the same corridors, talk about hatches, rig up death traps by hooking up a bunch of cables here and there, and find a time bomb just when it’s needed the most, you’ll get what you came for.

Also in its favor, since this is the pre-CGI 1980s, you get some old fashioned wet gore with nicely done scenes of faces getting ripped off, icky parasites, and an exploding head that’s just as pleasingly chunky as the one from Scanners. Really though, all watching Creature did for me was make me realize that it had been too long since I’d seen Alien.

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