Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cult Movie Trash: CREATURE (2011)


Directed by Fred M. Andrews.  Written by Fred M. Andrews and Tracy Morse.  Cast: Mehcad Brooks, Serinda Swan, Dillon Casey, Lauren Schneider, Aaron Hill, Amanda Fuller, Sid Haig, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Daniel Bernhardt, Lance Nichols.  (R, 93 mins)

I saw a trailer for CREATURE late last summer before DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, and I wasn't alone in thinking "Uh...no way that's opening in theaters."  To everyone's surprise, it opened in early September as one of several new films hitting theaters nationwide on the same weekend.  Horror fans, having seen CREATURE on the cover of Fangoria as well as through numerous online ads, instantly gave it their blind seal of approval on internet discussion boards, declaring it the must-see movie of the weekend, essentially saying "Screw CONTAGION!  CREATURE looks like a real horror flick for the fans!"

CONTAGION opened in first place that weekend, and CREATURE opened...in 19th.  It pulled in $327,000 on 1507 screens, giving it the worst opening weekend of any film on more than 1500 screens.  Ever.  It averaged $220 per screen, giving it the second worst per screen average of any wide release.  Ever.

So what happened, fanboys?  I thought CREATURE was the movie to see.

Sid Haig in CREATURE.  Or any one of
the last 15 movies in which he's appeared.
How did a low-budget monster movie distributed by something called The Bubble Factory end up on 1500 screens nationwide?  Well, the Bubble Factory is a company owned by former Universal CEO Sid Sheinberg, largely credited with "discovering" Steven Spielberg.  It was Sheinberg who greenlit JAWS and was around a couple decades later for JURASSIC PARK.  It was also Sheinberg who infamously battled with Terry Gilliam over BRAZIL and it was Sheinberg who pieced together the butchered and ultimately unreleased "Love Conquers All" cut of the film against Gilliam's wishes.  Sheinberg left Universal at some point after the mid-1990s buyout by Seagrams and formed The Bubble Factory with his two sons.  Sheinberg and his family still undoubtedly have more money than they'll ever spend, which explains how CREATURE managed to get such a wide release, even though The Bubble Factory claimed it was "experimental marketing."  Yeah...experimental marketing made possible by access to ludicrous amounts of money.  You'd think someone of Sid Sheinberg's stature could find better projects to bankroll than a subpar SyFy-level movie with mostly unknown actors.  Aren't there more meaningful, ambitious projects for an old studio warhorse like Sheinberg to get behind?   And look, everybody loves the guy, but is it a good sign when Sid Haig is the biggest name in the cast?

The convoluted and rather perverse plot involves a group of obnoxious vacationers heading to New Orleans, driving through an off-the-map podunk town and finding their trip detoured by the backwoods legend of Lockjaw.  Lockjaw is a half-man/half-gator who was once inbred local Grimley Boutine (Daniel Bernhardt).  How he mutated into Lockjaw doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but does it need to?  The vacationing idiots want to check out Grimley's cabin, abandoned for 100 years, and after setting up camp, end up coming face-to-face with Grimley/Lockjaw, who pursues them through the surrounding bayou area. 

Mehcad Brooks vs. CREATURE

Equal parts THE DESCENT, THE WICKER MAN, and HEE HAW, CREATURE throws in some twists and has a weird incest theme throughout, so it gets points for earning its R rating with gusto, and in all fairness, it's hardly the worst thing that's ever played in theaters.  It only made headlines and gained its notoriety by bombing so spectacularly that it earned cult status as soon as the weekend grosses posted on Box Office Mojo by Sunday night of the opening weekend.  It's really nothing more than the kind of trashy, on-the-cheap, by-the-numbers splatter flick that gets dumped on DVD every week...just one with enough pull behind the scenes to somehow make it into theaters.

Amanda Fuller, presumably looking
for a way out of CREATURE
It's pretty disheartening to see the promising Amanda Fuller in this.  Her work in Simon Rumley's unbearably grim and profoundly depressing RED, WHITE & BLUE (2010) was a revelation.  But she's still young and establishing herself.  I'm not sure what Pruitt Taylor Vince is doing in this as Grover, the hapless village idiot.  An always-working, always-reliable character actor most recently seen as the doomed Otis on THE WALKING DEAD, Vince turned in an acclaimed performance in the 1995 indie HEAVY and has worked for the likes of Oliver Stone, Wim Wenders, and Giuseppe Tornatore, but here he is, stumbling and bumbling around and getting his face chewed off by a half-man/half-gator 25 minutes in.  I guess everybody's got bills to pay.  As expected, Sid Haig is cast radically against type as Sid Haig.

CREATURE's dismal box office performance set new standards for bombing in theaters.  But it's really just your ordinary bad DTV horror movie that accidentally made it to the big screen.  We're not talking about an MST3K-worthy yukfest here.  There's a nice shout-out to Jack Hill's SPIDER BABY (1968), which featured Haig.  But mostly, it's indifferently acted and slow moving and the best that can be said about the work of first-time director Fred M. Andrews is that he keeps the camera pointed in the right direction.

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