It’s pretty hard to make a Creature Feature movie nowadays — or at least, a good one. Mind you, most filmmakers don’t even bother with the “good one” part, as can be attested to by the swarm of cheaply made Creature Features that take up space at your local Blockbusters. Or just look at the daily dose of junk films by the Sci Fi Channel, who have practically cornered the market on schlock cinema. As well, the tropes of the Creature Feature genre are so strongly established that filmmakers don’t even bother to vary from the formula even just a little bit, which makes the whole situation even less palatable to fans of the genre. And yes, we are out there, otherwise the Sci Fi Channel would be out of business.
Although Steven Monroe’s “It Waits” falls into the Creature Feature genre, and indeed seems unconcern about treading the same familiar grounds as its umpteenth predecessors and would-be successors, it’s still surprisingly good. Of course this isn’t to say that the movie couldn’t have been better, because surely it could — by miles. For one, killing off Forest Ranger Justin (Dominic Zamprogna) halfway through the film was a terrible decision. Granted, the film’s central idea is that traumatized Forest Ranger Danny St. Claire (Cerina Vincent) has to come to grips with her haunted past and learn to survive once again. Even so, that Justin guy is just so darn affable…
“It Waits” stars Vincent as Danny, a Forest ranger who has sealed herself off from the world in a Ranger Tower deep in the forest after a deadly car accident claimed the life of her best friend two months earlier. Boyfriend Justin is concerned, and rightly so, as the first time we see Danny, she’s chugging cheap booze like she was a Russian miner on his lunch break. As the two lovers commiserate in an attempt to help Danny get rid of her guilt (a justifiable guilt, as it turns out), a dangerous creature, released from its slumber by some college students, is on the loose and currently going through a bad phase that involves gutting, decapitating, and mocking its victims with severed heads of loved ones. Now that’s just wrong.
Killing the creature is of course difficult, but luckily for Danny, she soon runs into an Old Man Who Knows Stuff, and if you’ve been watching enough horror movies (or read enough of my horror movie reviews), you know that the Old Man Who Knows Stuff — well, he’s the guy to go to when you need 10 pages of exposition delivered in 2 minutes of screentime. In this case, the Old Man Who Knows Stuff turns out to be a Native American Professor whose students were the ones to unleash the creature in the first place. The Professor has a pretty wild theory on what the creature is and what it wants, but really, does anyone care? The thing looks cool and it can pile up the bodycount pretty high, and that’s really all that matters to anyone who’ll take a shot with “It Waits”.
And make no mistake — while “It Waits” is not the most original horror film you’ll find, it is worth a shot, if for no other reason save its obvious quality in the face of such a deluge of mediocrity that currently exists within the genre. Director Steven Monroe (“House of 9″) has a firm grip on what his audience wants, and delivers more than enough to satisfy. The gore is most definitely graphic, including post-death mutilations of the corpses that are, quite frankly, pretty disgusting and kind of cool at the same time. As for the creature itself, it’s a combination of a stuntman in latex and brief CGI, usually whenever the creature is required to fly. Yes, it can fly. With wings and everything. Go figure.
If one were to give the writers full credit, you could say that making Native Americans the culprit that unleashed the creature is the writers’ way of winking at their audience, as it’s usually the Evil White Man (or the Evil White Corporate Man) who unleashes death upon the land. Also, genre tropes usually assign Native American characters halo duty, so it’s worth a chuckle or two when the White Man turns out not to be the harbinger of death as is usually the case, but instead it’s the Native Americans who, as it were, did it this time.
The script also stands out from the parade of bad Creature Features, most notably in its presentation of its two main characters. Although Vincent is a Forest Ranger, she’s no Ellen Ripley, which makes her character all the more believable when she’s battling the creature to the death. The Justin character is also very well fleshed out, helped by some good work from Dominic Zamprogna. In fact, the film’s first 30 minutes, which is mostly devoid of creature action, is by no means a lost cause, thanks to excellent work by Vincent and Zamprogna. I know, better than average acting in a Creature Feature film, right? What a novelty!
If movies about unstoppable creatures that kill people in a brutal fashion for some unfathomable reason beyond logic or, indeed, any point, are your cup of tea, then “It Waits” is an excellent offering. The film is relatively short but nicely paced, and if you can survive past the talky, character-driven first act (some of you Creature Feature vets may have trouble with this part), then the second and third act is all action. Want gore? There’s plenty of it here. Want T&A? Cerina Vincent has never been shy. Although it’s very much an overall good deal for fans, “It Waits” could have used a little tweaking in the script — such as not killing off Justin, but maybe that’s just me.
Steven R. Monroe (director) / Richard Christian Matheson, Thomas E. Szollosi, Stephen J. Cannell (screenplay)
CAST: Cerina Vincent …. Danny St. Claire
Dominic Zamprogna …. Justin Rawley
Greg Kean …. Rick Bailey
Eric Schweig …. Joseph Riverwind
Samaya Jardey …. Ozeta Riverwind
Miranda Frigon …. Julie Cassidy
Tinsel Korey …. Lark Rainwater
Fred Henderson …. Carl Nash