Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… William Malone’s Creature.
Creature zeroes in on a team of space travelers following a distress call to one of Jupiter’s moons where (you guessed it), they find an alien creature loose on the the derelict ship. This movie is one of the most blatant Alien knockoffs I’ve seen. If it weren’t for some of the ideas ripped from The Thing that show up a bit later it’d almost be a shot for shot remake.
As far as Alien ripoffs go it does do a few things right. The look of the film is pretty good for the most part. It’s obviously much lower budget but the creative team works with what they have and a lot of the set and costume designs are well-done. Often I see these kinds of films with flat white walled hallways that look more like a hospital than a space ship, but they add a lot of details in the way of various pipes and panels of blinking lights. The ship they arrive on looks pristine, but never barren. The derelict ship looks pretty good as well, though I do have to question their inclusion of cobwebs. There’s also some pretty decent-looking model and miniatures used briefly that still look better than some of the lower quality CGI.
The cast does an alright job as well. The acting is pretty good and everyone is fairly likable save for a few dumb decisions the characters make. I could do without seeing anyone suggesting they split up or watching a character walking into a dark room calling out to her friend and claiming, “this isn’t funny!” Those moments aside I liked the characters. There’s a bit of an antagonistic relationship between the captain and commander that I’d have liked to have seen explored a bit more, but it serves for a few fun moments as it is.
The one way in which this film does differentiate itself from Alien is when it begins to rip story elements right out of The Thing (hell, at one point a character even makes a direct reference to The Thing From Another World when they’re spitballing ideas on how to kill the monster). You see, when the titular Creature starts picking crew members off it also starts taking them over. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t take any kind of advantage of this. Every time you see one of the people who has been “infected” by the creature you know immediately what they are. A lot of the time they even look almost zombie-like. This is a big missed opportunity to capitalize on the paranoia that this would cause, but instead it falls by the wayside.
Creature is almost a solid movie. The biggest issue isn’t even any of the things I’ve already mentioned. It’s just too damned slow. After the creature shows up and makes its’ first kill it comes to a screeching halt. They keep it cloaked in shadow for the majority of the runtime (which is good because it looks goofy when you finally do see it) and even the “infected” crew members don’t really do a whole lot. There are a few good moments in the latter half, even some great practical gore effects, but the film can’t completely recover from the slogging pace at the beginning.
Creature is essentially a jack of all trades. It does everything alright but nothing really stands out. If it’s going to be a serious slow burn horror movie it needs to not be a direct ripoff of a movie that does the same thing better. If it’s going to be a fun gory knockoff then it needs a much quicker pace. If it’s going to do the whole Thing thing then it needs to actually take advantage of it. If it’s going to be called Creature then the creature needs to DO something (and not look awful). Pass.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.