Thursday, 27 November 2008

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #8- "CREATURE." (MONSTER FLICK DOUBLE BILL PT. 2)


NAME: CREATURE

RATED: 15

RELEASED: 2004


WRITTEN BY: ADRIENNE STOUT-COPPOLA & CHRISTOPHER COPOLLA


DIRECTED BY: CHRISTOPHER COPOLLA


STARRING: ANDRE WARE, STEVE "CHICKENBONE" HEDDEN, FRANK GORSHIN, ANDRE MARCUS

GENRE: CREATURE FEATURE


BOUGHT FROM: A RECORD FAIR


PRICE: £1.00


Before I get onto this movie and it's director (and believe me, I
have alot to say about both...), I'd like to spend a bit of time talking about the company that distributed both this movie and "Crocodile," Boulevard Entertainment. They are, to my mind, the most lazy, slap-dash, bare-bones distribution company I have come across in all my 26 years. When I say "bare-bones," I don't mean the DVDs themselves have no extras, even though they don't. I don't expect them to, so to complain about that would be churlish. No, I say it to mean the amount of effort they put into the whole package, from the disc itself right down to the front and back covers of their DVDs.

At this point, I'm going to use photographs to make my point. I don't like using too many pictures in these things because I don't want it to look like I'm slacking off on the writing and using them to bulk up the posts, but I really do need visual aids to get what I'm saying across properly.

First of all, let's examine the actual discs themselves, as in the labelling of them. Unless it's quite clever, you never really notice the amount of effort that goes into them. They're just there so you know what disc you're putting in your player. But in this case you definitely do notice them, for the wrong reasons. For comparison's sake, here's a picture of the "Going Overboard," disc, a film that I bought for 50p, remember...... it's alright. It's nothing special, and when I hold it up to the light I think it may actually be see-through... I've never seen a label so thin on a disc you could see light through it before... wow... um, anyway, but it does the job, It's fairly colourful, it's got the logo for the movie on it, everything you'd expect.

Now here's a picture of the "Creature," disc, which cost me one
pound...... black text on a white background. That's it. That's your lot. The disc for "Crocodile," was like this too, and I've seen one other disc put out by this company, and that was exactly the same as well, so this wasn't a one off, this is the amount of effort they apparently put into labelling all their movies. All they do each time is change the name that's going on there. Even the BBFC rating is in black & white! When I label up my discs, like when I make a mix CD or something, I put more effort into it than these guys do, just by virtue of the fact that I'll sometimes use a red pen.

Then there's the back and front covers of the boxes themselves. I sometimes find that reviewing the packaging the movies can be as much fun as reviewing the movies themselves, and this was no excepting. For a start, here's the covers of both "Creature," and "Crocodile" laid side-by-side...
... "Being John Malkovich" levels of originality there, I'm sure you'll agree. Compound that with the fact that both these movies were distributed by the same company and apparently released a year apart, and I'm almost lost for words. It may not even really be a year either, for all I know "Crocodile," came out December 2006 and "Creature," was released January 2007.

Then, finally, the back of the "Creature," box provides plenty worth talking about, specifically the credits at the bottom. For a start, there are two credited writers, but they don't share a credit like I had them do up top- instead, Adrienne Stout-Copolla gets a "Screenplay by..." one, and Christopher Copolla get a "Written by..." one. Could someone please explain to me what the difference is between these two? How has he written this movie if he's not contributed to the screenplay? Did he just come up with the idea? Isn't that usually noted with a "Story by..." credit? Did they not know what that was?

Then there's the cast credits. I was making note of who's in this in order to fill out the "STARRING," section up-top, And I couldn't help noticing how many names there were, it was as if they had just put everybody who's in this on there. Then I got to a credit that simply read, "Leon." Leon? Just one name? What did they do, stunt-cast some obscure eighties pop star? Confused, I did what I've done many times before and surely will do many times in the future, which is turn to IMDb to ease my troubled mind. I typed "Creature, into it's search bar, and after I discovered doing that was as useful as typing "and," into Google, I instead searched for the the director and found what I was looking for, discovering two things- 1) This movie was originally entitled, "The Creature of the Sunny Side Up Trailer Park," a title so amazing that whoever suggested it be shortened to the generic "Creature," should be eaten alive by ferrets, and 2) the "Leon," in question wasn't an actor, but the name of the character played by Fort Atkinson, whose name comes just defore Leon's. It turned out that half the names I had made note of were, infact, fictional. I realised what had happened. They'd put the actors names down, then the characters they were playing next to them, but made no effort to differentiate the credits from one another. No quotation makrs, by "as.." between the two names, nothing. And nobody had picked up on this. Nobody.

"Boulevard Entertainment: We truely don't give a shit."


There's also another complaint I have about the cast listing, but that one makes more sense to mention within the context of the actual review. So I suppose I should talk about the director and the film now, shouldn't I? Seems like the thing to do.

I'm sure by now you've noticed that last name, and yes, Christopher Copolla is from that family, specifically nephew of Francis Ford, cousin of Sophia, and perhaps most fantastically of all, Nicolas Cage's older brother. As well as directing movies with titles like "Dracula's Widow," and "G-Men from Hell," he's also a writer, producer, actor (and oh, the movies he's been in...), and has appeared as himself in television shows such as "They Live by Night: The Twisted Road," and "Acts of Violence: Dealing with the Devil." In all pictures I've seen of him he looks like he'd be at home in some dive bar downing shots of the house whiskey before tearing off
on his Harley, with his shaved head, bandana and leather waistcoat. I bet he livens up family gatherings.

When he movie begins, it's instantly obvious we're going to get a very different film from "Crocodile." There's no happy-go-lucky music for a start. Infact to begin with, there's no music at all, as our perspective is from the back of a mail truck as the Postman rides around. The Postman, a short, weaselish-looking named Chuck. Whilst doing his rounds, he finds a bunch of letters in one of the post boxes with a note attached to them from a woman named
Charlotte, asking him to send them urgently, because she's running out of time and he owes her. So already we know that this isn't going to be the light-hearted romp that the last film was, this one seems to want to take itself a little more seriously. Not to seriously obvisously, because it's still about a monster, but it wants to set a more foreboding tone. And that's okay, I can deal with that. Just as long as it doesn't get too cheesy and introduce a cult of people with robes and hoods carry torches, it'll be...

... oh, there they come. And here also comes the dark, ominous stock music that soundtracks every scene of hooded figures doing mysterious things, such as seemingly escavating a temple and cutting themselves, tossing bodies into holes, things involving fire, everything they're doing here. This scene also serves as the credit sequence, and I was trying to pay more attention to that's going on with the montage, but every now and again one would catch my eye, such as Christopher getting a "Story by..." credit, which proves to me that whoever was in charge of typing up the credits for the box didn't know what that was, and then this...


ALSO STARRING
LYNDA CARTER


... WAT? No. No way. It couldn't be that Lynda Carter. I mean, what kind of a DVD distribution company would have fucking Wonder Woman, a genre Goddess, appear in a movie that only genre geeks would give a damn about, and not make a big deal about her on the box? Even if she's not in the movie that long, She'd easily be the biggest star in this thing. Nobody could be that...

...

... oh dear Lord. THEY HAVE WONDER WOMAN IN THIS MOVIE AND THEY NEVER THOUGHT TO MENTION OF IT! I swear to Christ this company must hate money and the prospect of making any. Okay, mentioning her isn't going to turn it into a blockbuster, but she has fans, very rabid fans, all over the world, and maybe seeing her name on the box would have inspired a few more people to buy this thing. I've had a few people try to tell me that she wasn't mentioned because maybe they were trying to keep it a surprise for when she appears
, to which I say simply, no. For one thing, surprise cameos only really work if you've got a movie people want to see regardless. If you're movie's gone straight to video as this one has, then alot of people aren't going to want to see it, so your job is to make them want to see, by mentioning everything and anything that would do that. And also, HOW IS IT A SURPRISE IF SHE'S MENTIONED IN THE FUCKING CREDITS!?

It's worth mentioning that on the wall of this temple or cave or whatever it is these people are working on, there are drawings, one of presents two figures who look exactly like the guys who eventually recieve the letters; Donnie (Andre Ware) and Doug ("Chickenbone," which is a great nickname). One's black, the other's white, but other than that they could be brother, both being huge men with beards and bald heads. A little bit like Christopher Copolla himself actually, thinking about it.

Andre we meet in his place of work, a bookshop-cum-coffee shop that he appears to own. There are black power posters on the walls, and the movie tries to get across that he, at best, has a dislike of white people, and at worst is out-and-out racist. The only problem is it tries to do that by having him scream at a white guy dressed up like a Rasta who orders his coffee with a Jamaican accent. Fair game. Doug meanwhile is seen mooching around his apartment with his two stoner buddies, who find both a cat licking a bird's head and a man saying the word, "penis," to be hilarious, like any good stoner should. Both the letters say the same thing, that they were left a patch of land by their dead mother, The Sunny Side Up Trailer Park (seriously, who gave the call to change this movie's name? Unforgivable), and that they're to travel to California and claim it. I guess that would make them brothers, and... oh God, I bet Doug's racist too, and they hate each other on sight, and over the course of the movie they learn the error of their ways and learn to accept each other as people and family. Oh please no. Yeah, it's a good lesson to put out there, but I don't want social commentary during my monster movies. I just want to see people get eaten.

Doug reaches the town first after Donnie's car break's down, and after a very strange conversation with the city clerk over a game of miniature golf, is told to drive up to the trailer park so they can have a sit-down talk later. There's something strange about the clerk and his friends, as were not-so-subtly alerted to when he starts rubbing a tattoo on his arm. So, cult member then? Gooooooood. This is compounded by the fact that the first person Doug sees when he reaches the park, upn being asked who's in charge, pretty much tells
Doug he'd be better off getting the hell out of there. Something's going on here, and I'm willing to bet some kind of creature's involved.

And oh look, there's Lynda Carter! She plays Lynette, a character who's, as she describes herself, "the epitome of trailer trash." Her job in this film is mostly to distract both Donnie and Doug so that the people of the trailer park can do such things as steal their wallets, which later end up being ritualistically sacrificed by fire for... no reason I can think of. It's not the biggest role in the world, but she has fun with it, seemingly enjoying being the
vixen at a time in her life when the chances to play those sort of roles should have well and truely gone away. And it's definitely big enough for her to be mentioned on the bloody box.

Oh, and by the way, she'd be, what, well into her fifties when she filmed this? I still would.

Donnie has pretty much the same conversation with the clerk when his car is finally fixed with the help of a police officer, who then escorts him to where he needs to go. Donnie's reluctant to accept his help, and I don't really know if that's because he just doesn't want the help of a white guy, or if he just senses something's not right about the guy. I mean, he's very nice. Obviously a cult
member, but nice all the same. Both he and Doug have a meeting with the park's interim owner, Burdus (Frank Gorshin) a blind guy who both looks and sounds a bit like Mickie from the "Rocky," movies would if he'd had a stroke. They're told that the land was left to both of them, and that their mother's wish was for it to be turned int a nature preserve. We're told this a few times actually, enough to make me think it might be important to the plot, or at the very least that we'd see some kind of pay-off with regards to it. We don't.

Donnie and Doug then start fighting over who owns the and and how they can both share the same mother, and as I predicted, Doug is indeed a racist man. However, and this does bare mentioning, the movie very cautious with this fact, to the point that you could almost call it cowardly. Over the course of this ninty-minute plus film, Doug drops exactly one N-Bomb, and I'm amazed they had the guts to do that. It's like they're trying to say, "Yeah, he's a
racist, but he's not that bad, he doesn't use that word that much." Bullshit. Don't insult my intelligence, and also don't go with something if you're not willing to fully commit to it. If you're going to have one of your main characters be a racist, have him be a racist.

We're then introduced to Jackson (Andre Marcus), a pudgy little kid who speaks in a strange, riddle-like manner whose eyes have a habit of rolling into the back of his head from time to time. So he'll be the monster then? In any case, until that's revealed, he befriends both Donnie
and Doug, who both proceed to teach him some of worst life lessons I have ever heard. When it becomes apparent to Donnie that Jackson has no friends, he offers him this advice: "Real friends, they're overrated. They're hard to come by anyway. You've got to learn to rely on yourself. That's what being a man is all about. You learn how to look after number one and you don't take shi... no stuff from anyone." And when Doug sees scratches on Jackson's body ad suspects his grandfather is abusing him, he has these tender, heartfelt words words ready: "Somebody hits you, hit 'em back twice, somebody calls you no good, you spit in their face and you hit 'em twice." Lovely. And I kept waiting for the moment when either or both of these guys later spoke to Jackson again and told him they were wrong, but nope, it would seem that the movie really does believe what it's preaching to it's audience in those case. Fascinating.

Donnie decides soon after meeting Doug that it isn't worth the hassle staying in the park and tries to leave, only to find his car won't start again, none of the phones work and the only man who can fix it for him has gone to Vegas for three days. It would seem the the people of the park are trying to keep both him and his brother their, which confused me. If their mother brought them here to stop whatever's going on, as Jackson also keeps hinting at, and the residents, who we've already established/guessed are all in on it, would like to see it continue for whatever reason, wouldn't they want to
see the back of one or both of them? So what good does keeping them around do them? What's going on? And then Donnie, whilst visiting his mother's place in order to use what is seemingly the only phone that works, starts randomly bleeding from the nose and ears. The sudden violent nosebleed has really become a horror movie cliche, hasn't it? Once he's done washing away the blood in the sink, he looks in the mirror to check himself, and sees that his eyes are glowing red and his face is partially obscured by what appears to be a mask. This is one of the few uses of CGI in the entire movie, and after seeing it, all I can say is good. Donnie then inspects a mask on the wall of the bathroom, which of course would have you think that masks, and maybe even that mask in particular, will play into the plot.

It doesn't.

Why does this movie keep making a big deal about things that mean jack shit in the grand scheme of things? I'll tell you now, that CGI effect amounts to nothing too, other than to say, "Freaky stuff is happening here!" I could have worked that out on my own, thanks.


Lynette and Doug then go to watch a drive-in movie together. I find it strange that, when she invites him, alrady in her car presumably heading to her destinatin, it's at best mid-afternoon, and by the time they get there it seems to be the dead of night. How long did they drive for? In any event, I'll accept a loss of time worthy of an alien induction, because in this section of the movie we finally get to see the monster, when it attacks the projectionist, who's planning to get away rom the park and whatever's going on there with her boyfriend. The best thing about
it is it's a guy in a suit every time we see it, which is totally in keeping with the spirit of these movies. It looks kind of cool too, like if The Creature From The Black Lagoon had mated with a chicken and then their offspring had been painted red. The best thing, though, is the way it kills people- it opens it's massive beak and CLAMPS DOWN ON THEIR FUCKING HEADS! At first I thought it just crushed them like it seemed to do with the woman here (And I'm not kidding, there is so much fake blood in this scene that at one point it's running down her face like a waterfall) But later it attacks another woman trying to leave (which seems to be all it does), and it actually rips her head clean off. Both of these death scenes are cool, and really makes me wish we saw more of this thing, which is another complaint- in "Crocodile" you got loads of Crocodile, yet a movie called "Creature" is, well, seriously lacking creature.

Oh, and this thing has a name, but I'm not going to mention it until I get to the point that it's spoken in the movie, because it's hilarious.

Doug begins to suspect something's wrong when he's buying Lynette a box of popcorn and sees a river or blood flowing off the ceiling and down the walls of the snack shop. He runs back outside to get his date, only to find she's gone, along with
everybody else in the drive-in, as well as seemingly everybody else in the whole park. So after this distressing occurance, the first thing he does is... go into a trailer and take a piss? Okay. When you gotta go you gotta go, I guess. He's then rudely interrupted during this very human moment by the projectionist's boyfriend, who was sent back to their house, despite her knowing how dangerous it would be, to get her cat (sounds like something my Mum would do). He too would appear to have been set upon, but still has his head, so at least he got lucky there. Or at least he did, until the creature comes back and finishes the job. After that, Doug finally has the sense to want to get out of dodge, tries to start his truck, only to find it won't start. I like how it's almost a running joke that things just stop working the second either of the two main characters touch them. Desperate for help, he bangs on the door of his mothers house, not knowing that's what it is, and is shocked to see Donnie open the door, at which point he decides, hey, I don't really need help. So, he's such a racist that he'd rather be ripped to shreads by a monster than accept help from a black man, but he'll still barely use the N-Word? He then tries his truck one more time before just going to sleep. This thing is clearly a threat to be taken seriously.

The next day Doug wakes up and, instead if continuing his attempt to get away, decides to not only stick around, but to continues his fight with Donnie over who actually owns the land. And these two, I want this on the record now, I was so sick of these two fighting by this point. I know I said I didn't want social commentary in these movies, and I don't, but I would actually perfer it over this. They're constantly bitching and throwing snide remarks at each other, and when they both have to walk to the city clerk's trailer, they even
refuse to walk on the same side of the road as each other like a couple of five-year olds. And this goes on for literally almost the entire movie. And why do either of them still want this place? It should be obvious to both of them at this point that something very wrong is going on here, and why would anyone want any part of that? Just let these people do what they want to do and wash your hands of it.

Following some more strange occurances, like Doug discovering that the reason his truck wouldn't start is because the engine had been filled with blood, the brothers finally have an actual, physical fist-fight inside their mother's house. It's pretty good ruck, lots
of stuff gets smashed, and also this has to be the moment they get all their hostility out and stop fighting, especially since the only reason they stop is because they're visited by the ghost of their mother, who tells them to do just that, and finally explains to them why she brought them together. She's awesome by the way, a cantankerous old broad with a detatchable head, made completely out of blue light like a dead Jedi.

"Your old dead Mama's askin' ya t'set aside ya hate, and work together for a greater power. The strongest in the universe."

The Force?

"Money!"

Oh.

It turns out she wants them to find some gold shell or something
that she found and had stolen from her. "HUMAN NATURE SUCKS!" she says. "IT FLAT OUT SUCKS! Only money can ease the pain." This movie has the most screwed-up world view of any film I've ever seen. According to it, people are better off alone leading selfish lives, turning the other cheek is for pansies, and the only thing that makes life better is money and material possessions. What a psychological case study Christopher Copolla must be.

The next day, Jackson invites both of them over to his Grandfather's trailer, in order to finally tell them what's going on, and also because it's his birthday. Here, we learn that when their mother found the shell, she awakened the creature, or opened a portal, or something. We even see a flashback scene of her digging up the shell, which features Charlotte dressed like she's in the sahara, a Native American gentleman and... is that a camel? It's here we finally discover te creature's name. "It's keeper... the bringer of dreams... the tester of faith... the spirit they call...

... Bloodhead."

Bloodhead. Yes, the bringer of dreams is called Bloodhead. And it gets better. If they return the shell from where it originally came from, Bloodhead will "turn dreams to life." and when Doug finally asks what I've been wondering for a while now, which is where's his Grandfather, Jackson points at his chest and says, "In here." Is this going to be another one of those movies where everything ends up being a dream? I don't think I could cope with that tonight.


Jackson finally says something that makes sense when he reveals that Burdus has the shell stashed away in his trailer. They break in and start turning the place upside-down, with Donnie eventually finding it. So, does he take it to the rest of the group and set the plan to end this madness in motion? Don't be silly, of course he doesn't. He puts it back where he found it so he can come back for it later and keep it for himself. So, even after their fight and a visit from their dead mother, both men are still trying to screw each other over. The joke is on them though, as when Donnie tries to take the shell later, he finds that it's already been taken. He presumes by Doug,
who proclaims his innocence, they start arguing again, and yep, another fist fight, which is again broken up by Mama's spirit, in a manner that implies she's as sick of this as I am now. They then see a car being driven away with Jackson in it yelling for help, so do they stop the fussin' and the feudin' that second to try and save him? Again, nope. They both get one more shot in each, Doug to Donnie's balls, before jumping on some very conveniently placed Quad Bikes (that actually work!), and give chase. And even during that, they ram into each other over and over again until they both explode, sadly not with them on them.

They get to the temple/pit thing that all the cult stuff has been happening around, where Jackson is standing in said pit screaming for help. To their credit, they actually pull themselves away from trying to kill each other long enough to try and save him, but end up being pushed into the pit themselves by the cult members, who turn out to be almost everyone in the park, as expected. The
cop even still has his hat and sunglasses on. They're told that this is their destiny, to "share the dream," "our salvation, your destruction." What are they talking about? What destiny? What are Doug and Donnie supposed to do? Jackson, care to shed any light on this?

"I can't hear my Grandpa, I dont know why..."

Who's your Grandfather? What are you talking about? Why were you so intent in getting Doug and Donnie to stop the creature when
they're apparently part of the cultist's prophecy? What...

"That's because he's not here, Jackson..."

SHUT UP, CULT MAN! I'M TRYING TO FIGURE THIS OUT! WHAT GOING ON?! SOMEONE SAY SOMETHING THAT WILL MAKE THIS MAKE SENSE!

"... When we share the the dream we take the place of your
Grandfather."

I was about to yell, "WHAT DAMN DREAM ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?" when Donnie's kind enough to do it for me.

"The dream of birth from a womb of death."


...

... Of fuck off. That's it, I've had enough. I'm not recapping anymore of this in any detail, because I've clearly put more effort into doing that than was put into coming up with it. Basically, as I suspected, Jackson's the monster, he fights Donnie and Doug, they win using their shirts (not making that up), get out of the pit,
fight Bloodhead some more, he dies, everyone in the cult dies, there's one more big explosion for shits and giggles, and our two heroes drive away, now completely fine with each other.

Be honest guys, you just wanted to make a film about a monster that bites people's heads off, didn't you? But you didn't want it to look like you just wanted to make a movie about a monster that bites people's head's off, you wanted it to look like you wanted to make a proper movie, so you came up with all this stuff about ghost mothers and dream bringers and boys that speak to dead people (wow
, I only just noticed that) and cults and multi-racial brothers and cursed artifacts. And then you couldn't put all those pieces together in a way that made sense, but you did it anyway.

When I started watching this, as I noted, I was worried this film would take itself too seriously and be a downer. Oh how I now wish that was they way they went. Instead, they made something that's almost impossible to follow, full of horrible characters nobody
could root for, featuring a monster I'll be amazed to find out was on-screen longer than ten minutes tops.

The lesson I took from watching "Crocodile," was that as long as you keep things simple, don't bite off more than you can chew (no pun intended), and don't lose sight of the fact that the audience should be having fun, then it's possible to make a riotous ride on any budget. "Creature," breaks every single one of those rules, and as such...

FINAL VERDICT

BINNED!

Also before anyone says anything, my bin has been emptied since I took this picture. It's just when I took it I'd barely left my bedroom in three days.

Before I go, an announcement. Starting next week is The Cheap-Arse Film Review's "Four Weeks of Christmas," which is what it sounds like, four holiday movies over four weeks, all bought within the budget I've set myself. There'll be festive fun, frolics, some alcohol, and possibly even a seasonal rejiggering of my ratings system. I'm quite looking forward to it until I actually think about some of the movies I'll be doing. Hopefully I'll see you there.

Until next week, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and don't be alarmed, ladies and gentlemen, those chains are made of chrome steel.

2 comments:

jeffrey said...

You need a bigger bin. LOL. I totally forgot that Nick Cage had an older brother and was part of the Coppola family... *shrugs*. I'll keep an eye out for this one so I can avoid it like the plague. I've seen some of the other stuff he's directed and been involved in... consistently horrible...

The Cheap-Arse Film Critic said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, first of all.

I think the fact that most people have forgotten or just outright idn't know that Nicolas Cage is a member of the Copolla family shows he's done a good job of seperating himself from them and making is own name, unlike his brother who seems intent on dragging the family name through the mud.

I actually have a film that Chris Cage has acted in ready to review after Christmas, but I'm not going to say what it is. It's a doozy though, I will say that.

And I've been thinking of investing in a new bin for a while now, too.