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Dustin Putman

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Creature  (2011)
1 Stars
Directed by Fred Andrews.
Cast: Mehcad Brooks, Serinda Swan, Dillon Casey, Lauren Schneider, Aaron Hill, Amanda Fuller, Sig Haig, Wayne Pére, David Jensen, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Daniel Bernhardt.
2011 – 92 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for bloody violence and grisly images, sexual content and nudity, language and brief drug use).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, August 29, 2011.
A group of unsuspecting travelers in the Louisiana bayou run afoul of a murderous, deformed half-man/half-beast in "Creature," a low-budget slasher flick that favors good, old-fashioned practical effects and make-up over lazy, predictable CGI. If this sounds a lot like 2007's "Hatchet," that's because it is. Hopes for matching the same level of gruesome, grisly, delirious fun as that Adam Green cult classic, however, go disappointingly unmet. Fred Andrews, a production designer making his writing-directing debut alongside co-writer Tracy Morse, gives it a nice try, but his aspirations are done in by an annoyingly convoluted script and an obvious dearth of resources. With no cash or behind-the-scenes talent to deliver the money shots expected of this kind of violent, B-grade body-count pic—and no understanding of how to build tension and scares along the way—the film unravels quickly before wearing out its welcome.

An SUV stocked with nubile, New Orleans-bound college kids—excitable driver Oscar (Dillon Casey) and his goading sister Karen (Lauren Schneider), siblings Emily (Serinda Swan) and Randy (Aaron Hill), and their respective significant others Niles (Mehcad Brooks) and Beth (Amanda Fuller)—takes a detour in the swampy community of Fort Collins. It is here that they hope to track down the legendary "House That Grimley Built," said to be where the mythical human/crocodile psychopath Lockjaw resides. Once they find it, they naturally decide to set up camp for the night. With the inbred townspeople preparing for a sacrifice, the creature comes out of hiding to stalk those unfortunates trespassing on his property. By the next morning's light, there will be few survivors.

If "Creature" had remained barebones, to-the-point horror fare where characters are killed one by one in gory fashion by a seemingly unstoppable maniac, at least its simplicity would have avoided some of the narrative trouble director Fred Andrews gets himself into here. By trying to do more than this, the weaknesses in his writing and editing get the best of him. For a while, Andrews knows all too well how to satiate expectations—at least when it comes to the classic slasher set-up and bountiful amounts of gratuitous nudity on hand. Around the time incest enters the equation, followed by an unforeseen plot curve that sets things on a different path, the film self-destructs. Character motives make little to no sense from this point forward, subplots are randomly brought up and then either forgotten about or left undeveloped, and the climax—for reasons unknown and frustrating—chops off the payoff to the protag-against-villain showdown. If that weren't enough, the film consistently cuts away from death scenes, usually only showing the aftermath; the strength of the creature noticeably alternates depending on what suits the plot; people pop up and disappear without warning or logic; and at least a few of the nonsensical victims are backwoods yokels on the creature's side, prompting one to wonder why he targets them and has chosen this very night to do so.

"Creature" ultimately becomes too much and too little at the same time. The acting is serviceable for the genre and budget, and the cinematography by Christopher Faloona is professional enough. It was also a welcome change to position the sole black character, Nigel (Mehcad Brooks), as the hero of the piece. Compared to the dimwits surrounding him, he's a freaking rocket scientist. As for the rest of the film, let's just say it's a shame to have to come down on it so hard. As a silly throwback to '80s hack-'n'-slash cinema, the villain isn't the least bit threatening, atmosphere and mood are virtually nonexistent, characters are generally unpleasant, violence is forgettable, and momentum lags more than raises. Not even Sid Haig, doing his best impression of his Captain Spaulding character from 2003's "House of 1000 Corpses" minus the clown face, can save it. Just as "Creature" should be getting to the down-and-dirty business at hand, it keeps heading off on unnecessary, incomprehensible tangents. Director Fred Andrews finally misses much of the point of his feature's very existence, but at least its failure isn't for a lack of honest trying.
© 2011 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman