reature Unknown" is about a group of friends
who decide to get together in the woods on the 4th anniversary
of another friend's death. The reunion is being organized by Steve (Chris
Hoffman), whose twin brother West died on prom night. The friends have
split up since then, but Steve gets them together, including the girl he's
always loved Amanda (Maggie Grace), to pay a final tribute. Out in the
woods, which we're told repeated is "in the middle of nowhere",
something monstrous is waiting to snack on them.
As it turns out the "something" is a
lizard/human hybrid created by an experiment gone awry. Of course we don't
learn this until much later on, but since the movie is pretty much a waste
of time I thought I'd save you the trouble in case you were waiting with
bated breath for the how's and why's. And where there's an experiment gone
awry, there's a Mad Scientist trying to recapture or destroy it. In this
case it's Chase Masterson as Kat, although for a scientist Masterson
doesn't look very scientific-y. Wearing black leather and riding around on
a motorcycle (in the woods!), Kat, like her experiment gone awry, spends
most of the movie circling the grieving friends while trying way too hard
to look "bad ass".
Here's a thing about that cabin; you know, the one in
the "middle of nowhere" and the one that no one has been to
"in a year"? If it's so isolated and vacant, who took the time
to water those plants or clean the place? That cabin looks mighty livable
even though people keep talking about it as if it was some throwaway
shack. Of course that's one of the glaring problems with "Creature
Unknown" -- specifically, its locations don't jive with its dialogue.
How hard would it have been to alter the script a bit? All it would have
taken is excising a line of dialogue here or there. These guys didn't even
bother to match the realities of their location scouting to their script.
How lazy is that?
For genre fans that really hate it when their
low-budget teen horror films try to be "deep", here's a secret:
When you hear the sappy piano start up (and we all know what that
"sappy piano" sounds like, don't we?), take the opportunity to
tune onto ESPN to catch the latest scores. Be rest assured that you
haven't missed any of the action you came for, because that sappy piano
signals the start of yet another character moment. Apparently
having gotten it into their heads that genre fans clamor for this sort of
stuff, the writers have filled "Creature Unknown" with a ton of
faux emotional baggage. Don't you just hate it when your cheapie schlock
film ambushes you? I know I do.
I've said it once and I'll probably have to say it
another million times: Know Your Audience. No one who buys or rents
a movie about a killer human/lizard wants to see characters spend 70
minutes of a movie's 80 minutes engaging in "character moments".
And all of it accompanied by that blasted sappy piano music! And no,
throwing a bone to the audience with a throwaway off-screen killing in the
first few minutes does not make up for what amounts to an
Afterschool Special in the guise of a low-budget horror film.
The thing about "Creature Unknown" is that
I think it had potential to be okay. Oh sure, it's Grade-Z schlock, that
much is never in doubt. But there are some capable actors, in particular
Maggie Grace as our Fair Hair Lead, and Michael Burnett's direction is not
completely incompetent. But of course the script is simply unserviceable.
Sam Raimi's "Evil
Dead" (which "Creature" cribs liberally from) never
entertained ideas that it was anything other than a spam film. This freed
it up to be good; if only the makers of "Creature
Unknown" had done likewise.
There is something to be said about realizing the
limitations of your product. "Creature Unknown" thinks it's
starring Meryl Streep, when its biggest name is an actress who once
played a semi-supporting role on a now-cancelled "Star Trek" TV
series. Although the movie is barely 80 minutes, its seemingly endless
"piano music character moments" make it feel more like 4 hours.
And really, folks, no one needs a 4-hour low-budget B-movie about a killer
lizard. At least no one without an ax buried in his or her head.
Here's another thing: when there's more sappy piano
music in your horror movie than loud screeching "shock" sounds,
you know you're in trouble. Big, big trouble.