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Movie Review: Creature

Horror romp gives Charlotte actress plenty of scream time
Creature
Genre: Horror
Running Time: 93 min
Release Date: 2011-09-09
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By "Lawrence Toppman"
The Charlotte Observer

There's a reason Roger Corman won an honorary Oscar two years ago. Corman, who's now 85 and has produced nearly 400 movies, represents the unkillable tradition of B-grade horror that reached its apex 30 years ago. His films provide a satisfyingly mindless jolt of over-the-top gore, cornball monsters, naked nubile women and goofy thrills of the type that may jolt but never disturb us.

Such cinematic cheese plates now get served on DVD; distributors no longer want to strike prints and pay marketing costs to send them to theaters. Yet lo and behold, "Creature" popped up on 1,500 screens across America last weekend.

It is indeed low and beholden to Corman, though he didn't produce it. (He's currently finishing "Piranhaconda.") It's also the first chance for most of America to see Charlotte's Lauren Schneider, a Myers Park High grad and former indie heroine who turns scream queen in her sixth feature.

"Creature" is refreshingly and intentionally silly, in an era when horror has devolved mostly into torture porn and high-tech, computer-generated assaults on our senses.

The monster here bears a slight resemblance to the aliens in Corman's "Humanoids of the Deep," and the last scene is definitely a nod to that film. He's the mutant descendant of a human being who turned into a gator 200 years ago after becoming a cannibal - writers Tracy Morse and Fred Andrews lamely explain this backstory - and residents in the Louisiana swamps now consider him some kind of god.

The movie has all the elements we expect from a creature feature: good-looking young people coupling in the woods, murky shots of the monster leading up to a big revelation, locals who are menacing or loony or missing digits from both hands and IQs.

Director Andrews out-Cormans his role model: All four women with significant screen time doff their clothes, there's a bit of lesbian naughtiness, the gore quotient has been upped a notch, and the good guys - all of whom are ripped - saw action overseas as Marines and know something about fighting. (Though not quite enough: One fails to use a shotgun close at hand to plug the monster.)

The writers supply one big plot twist I didn't see coming. Otherwise, the movie follows the same storytelling template Corman used, down to the false endings and the inevitable "Is it really dead?" finale.

Andrews hired a better cast than usual for such a movie. Mehcad Brooks has a strong presence as the most important potential victim, and Sid Haig exudes cheerful creepiness as a pockmarked Southern preacher named Chopper.

Schneider, her hair a wicked red and her slender frame enticing in shorts and boots, marries backwoods sensuality to a heavy drawl. I've seen her do more serious things in the Charlotte-based "Among Brothers" and "The Rest of Your Life," so I hope potential employers don't judge her only by this first wide release. She does scream vividly, though.

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9/15/2011 - The Charlotte Observer - Lawrence Toppman

A cannibalistic gator-man stalks a group of friends in a Louisiana swamp. Amusing.

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