Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spam in a Can

As low-budget Alien rip-offs go, Creature (1985, directed by William Malone) isn't bad, particularly given that at least one person in the movie has seen a few old sci fi movies and has learned a few things from them. Unfortunately, the guys at the beginning of the movie aren't that person, and, not having seen Alien, they unleash a 200,000 year old monster while they investigate a site on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. When the rescue team arrives, they find a German ship already on site and a sole survivor armed with a tale of a creature that turns humans into pawns through the use of insectile little parasites.

Okay, so this isn't particularly original.

Director William Malone even used some of the props from Forbidden Planet from his own collection. So, yeah, it's actually kind of an elaborate fan film. Nothing wrong with that, I guess. At least it name-checks its influences. "Homage" is French for "rip-off", after all.

The characters here aren't much, really, though at least a couple of actors are familiar enough from other movies. Lyman Ward, for instance seems to have played FBI agents and school principals without number, and Wendy Schaal has been a guest player on countless TV series. Schaal is the "Ripley" character, though she seems a bit waifish to fill the role. I'm guessing the filmmakers thought so too, since they leave the real heavy lifting at the end to the menfolk. In their defense, they've split the badass heroine role between Schaal and Diane Salinger's fetish attired security officer, but women don't fare well in this film. The psychic girl played by Marie Laurin gets the double indignity of being a Cassandra and having to parade around nekkid for no good reason once she's an alien zombie. It's disappointing, but, really, the characters here are all basically spam (one review calls them all "alien chum," a designation on which I cannot improve). The one exception to this is the ever twitchy Klaus Kinski as the sinister survivor, who is a special effect unto himself.

Like most Alien rip-offs, this is a slasher film in disguise. The science fictional element gives the various violent deaths on display here a larger "ick" factor, but the basic structure is the same. That the slasher is actually an alien monster kind acts as an explanation for the durability of our protagonist. Malone comes from a special effects background, so the gags are suitably gooey. The director has Schaal's character remembering the end of The Thing specifically so he can re-stage the climax of that film here (to no good effect, really, except to provide a false climax). The creature of the title is such an obvious man in a suit that it hearkens back to the balmier creations of the Japanese, but that's not an obvious flaw, really. I kind of smiled at it, actually. It's a good thing that I wasn't drinking anything when the head explosion occurred. Totally gratuitous, mind you, but aren't all cinematic head explosions gratuitous? This one is well-played, and makes up for the fact that you never get a really good look at the monster.

So, not very good, really, but more fun than it oughta be. I can forgive an awful lot in the name of fun.

Current Challenge tally:

Total Viewings: 14

First Time Viewings: 14

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