Creature (1985)





This is one of the many (many) rip-offs of 1979's Alien, probably one of the most copied films ever made. Coming out in 1985, Creature enjoyed a limited theatrical release before fading into bottom shelf rental store obscurity. It's no better or worse than any of the other half-million Alien rip-offs, but it does have a few good moments worth remembering (mostly involving boobs).

On to the show...

It's the future, ok? We open on Saturn's moon Titan, where two explorers from the NTI Corporation discover an alien archaeology site. The two guys, for being on a deep-space expedition, are total snotlicking dumbasses, like Kentucky rednecks in space, and they crack open a tube containing some nasty, alien monster. There follows munching.


Don't touch it!

Cut now to the spacestation Concorde, high in Lunar orbit (oh, that model is so stolen from some other movie, no way Creature had any sort of budget for original modelwork). Approaching fast at "1,000 kps" on a collision course is the lost NTI team's ship (see above). There's a collision and a big explosion, but the spacestation isn't destroyed (though it sure looks like it was). The thing here, though it's not explained well, is that the last survivor escaped Titan in the ship, but died on the trip home and his ship was on auto-pilot and crashed into the station. Dig?


Concorde


The crash creates a penis-shaped explosion, which is really nice.

NTI funds the spaceship Shenandoah to go mark and claim the Titan site (in this universe, corporations rule all). The ship is a kit-bash, but may also be a stolen prop, maybe from Space: 1999. The team is an oddly-matched band of scruffy-haired roustabouts in baggy pants and dirty overalls. Alien and Star Wars made it fashionable to have "normal" looking teams, like regular tramp steamer crews, unlike Star Trek, where all starship crews are clean-cut, smartly-dressed Academy graduates who enjoy fencing and flutes. There's three sets of two, plus an extra person, for a total of seven people on the Shenandoah. The first set is two NTI corporate representatives, Perkins and Bryce. Perkins is nominally in command and Bryce is the "security officer", she may also be a transvestite body-builder in a wig but that's not a reason to question her abilities. Perkins looks like Simon Cowell.


Perkins (L) and Bryce (R).

The second set is the ship's Captain and Beth, who is maybe the navigator or something. From the first meet-cute scene with them together, you can already predict that they will survive to the closing credits.


Beth (L) and the Captain (R).

The third set is John and Susan, John being the engineer, I think, and Susan seemingly having no role in the crew except to be the ship's mattress. Apparently, this company only hires young attractive people to staff its ships, kind of like Starbucks.


Susan (L) and John (R).

And then there's also a ship's Doctor, though she's the most expendable member of the crew due to her crippling addiction to styling gel and eyeliner. And, yes, she looks like Beverly Crusher.


The Doctor.

On the journey to Titan, which takes three months, we get a few personal moments to let us connect with the crew. Beth reads romance novels and plays chess with the Captain, and Susan and John have a steamy boink by an observation window (I could swear this same window room was used a few years later on the Enterprise in an episode or two of The Next Generation, but I'm not sure). We don't see the other three, but we can assume that Perkins is writing scathing memos, the Doctor is doing yoga with Councilor Troi on the holodeck, and Bryce is crushing beer cans with her forehead.


Nice view.

So they land on Titan, in a scene that stretches on about five minutes too long. It's crystal clear that they stole numerous sound effects from different movies, including the distinctive "TIE fighter flying by" sound from Star Wars, here used as the sound of the Shenandoah landing. Disaster happens when the ship lands harder than expected and is badly damaged, they're not leaving Titan in this ship.


Not the best blue-screening here, but that stuff costs real money.


Note the full coffee cup right next to the computer workstation
on a shaky spaceship.

Ah, but it turns out that there's another ship already on Titan. A rival corporation headed by the West Germans (yes, they say "West", no one had any idea what would happen in '89) has rushed a ship here ahead of the NTI team to claim the alien archaeological site. It's parked in a crater very close by, though they can't contact them due to local "ion storms". In the typical Hollywood "corporations are bad" style, we learn that both teams are after the alien site so they can exploit it and make a fortune.


This entire movie is full of these crappy 1980s computer graphics.

They need to get on their spacesuits and go over there and ask for help if they want to have any chance of getting off this rock. Perkins voices some objections about dealing with the competition, though his arguments seem pretty pointless due to the dire straits they are in. As with all these sorts of movies, there are problems with the chain of command aboard the Shenandoah, though this one is resolved much faster than usual as Perkins realizes that he's in over his head and lets the Captain take over from here on out. I guess it wouldn't be drama if everyone agreed.


Members Only jacket...of the future!

They suit up and go over to the German ship, which is never named, so I'm just going to call it the Bismarck. The surface of Titan is oddly rocky and looks like a foggy version of what we saw in Alien, though with much more fake smoke and eerie bluish backlighting. The EVA spacesuits are of excellent quality, far more than you'd expect from a cheapass production like this, and after a few minutes of googling I discovered that they are borrowed props from Kubrick's 2001. Like so many movie spacesuits, they are internally lit for no other reason than so we can see their faces when they talk (go ahead, try and see well in the dark with a bright light shining up in your eyes).


The suits.

The German ship seems abandoned, the door is open and no one comes out to say hello, so they just wander in. There are signs of a struggle with blood and wreckage everywhere. In another amusing intellectual property rights violation, the sound of the internal doors opening is the same as a Star Wars Imperial blaster firing. Susan, being the inquisitive sort, finds two dead bodies and freaks out. Does any of this remind you of Godzilla 1984?


Maybe you should send in a dog first.

The "creature" now emerges! Though it's only seen in shadows, we can tell it has chomping teeth and it means to do them bodily harm. They run for it, Bryce providing covering fire with her laser gun (of course, the creature is not affected by lasers, even though it should be). A security door closes too fast, trapping Susan on the other side with the creature (why do perfectly good doors only seem to malfunction when someone absolutely needs one to work?). Susan is killed in a spray of blood and dragged off by the creature. John, realizing he's zillions of miles from Earth and just lost his ready access to booty, freaks out and Bryce has to tranquilize him down.


Susan dies hard.


Who knew that the best place to inject a tranquilizer
was directly beneath the eye socket?

Hauling a distraught John along with them, they leave the Bismarck and head back towards the Shenandoah. On the way there they find the alien archaeology site that they came here looking for in the first place. As they wander around the site, which is in a cave of sorts, it becomes clear that it's some sort of alien laboratory, with a wide variety of different extraterrestrial species in specimen containers. As established before, all this is at least 200,000 years old, but it's no surprise that when one of them starts touching buttons (WHY!?!) some of the equipment comes to life (nice to see alien cultures use tacky neon tubes). They also find some (recently) dead guys scattered around, wearing German spacesuits (some of the missing crewmen of the Bismarck). [Editor Pam: Forget the specimens, investigate the technology that can still supply power after 200,000 years. And it's amazing that nobody in this kind of movie ever gets hurt by fooling around with a technology he knows nothing about. How come nobody ever does the equivalent of sticking his finger in a light socket?]


Seriously, stop touching shit!


See, I told you not to touch that.
Criminey, you're worse than my five-year old.

After running like little girls back to their ship, there's a lot of tension and everyone wants to get the hell out of there (apparently carnivorous alien monsters are still kinda unique in the future). Beth breaks down and cries a lot, she and the Captain are close and he comforts her (massively inappropriate physical contact between supervisor and employee!). And she has reason to be upset. Forget the creature, their air supply is low, the power cells dying, and their ship is incapable of flight. You'd think that by this time scientists of the future could figure out a way to make oxygen from some source material, but then we wouldn't have all this nail-biting drama. BTW, is no one back on Earth worried about them being overdue? Don't they have protocols for missing ships or ships that have stopped transmitting? What about the Germans, aren't they worried about their own missing ship? Is a rescue mission on the way and we just don't know it?


"AT&T customer service, this is Beth, how can I help you?"

Ok, let's grind it to a halt so we can have a pointless scene where Bryce (of all people) strips in front of a mirror (Weaver is calling her lawyers...). Thankfully for my emotional health, she stops at her lacy undergarments, because I don't need to see anymore than that if I ever want to enjoy a woman naked again. As she's undressing, some unknown blonde guy in an odd spacesuit sneaks up on her and gropes her boobs (so much for her cat-like "security expert" Spidey-senses). She likes violence and smacks the dude around a bit before holding him off with her gun. The guy says he walked right into their ship because the "rear of your spaceship is missing", which for some reason made me laugh.


You smell purdy.

His name is Hans and he's the sole survivor of the Bismarck's crew. Hans is (improbably) played by b-movie master Klaus Kinski, slumming through this godawful mess to make the last few payments on his Plymouth. Rather than being thankful to be rescued, Hans is an arrogant, sexist, pompous dick, and there's real discussion amongst the NTI team that they should just toss him out to save the oxygen (plus he eats half their sandwiches later, which is just rude). But Hans knows all about the creature, as he's seen it munch all his crewmates, and he's convinced that they have to kill it before it kills them all.


He's somehow managed to keep cleanly shaven throughout
his horrific ordeal hiding from the creature on the
surface of an alien world. Bully for him.

Hans has a great monologue here as he describes how they found the "butterfly collection" of the long-dead aliens and made the fatal mistake of bringing one of the broken canisters aboard. The creature inside wasn't dead and it eventually killed 21 of the 22 men aboard. The creature is using once-dead victims to kill each other, by putting "brainsuckers" on their head, turning them into mind-controlled slaves with a sort of a "collective intelligence" where the creature then knows anything that the zombie knows (or some such crap, they're not even trying to make sense here).


Hans tells his story.

Meanwhile, John still can't get over tragic loss of Susan (this is why you don't send lovers into space together, it's nothing but trouble). He's hanging out in that window bay, just moping and listening to emo music and writing livejournal poetry about how empty his life is now. He then sees Susan through the window, imploring him to come be with her! Oh, think twice, young man, surely you've read sci-fi novels before?


Oh, get over it, you'll find someone else, I promise.
Hey, the Doctor is kinda pretty, and she's lonely, give her a shot.

Without telling anyone, John puts on his spacesuit and goes out after her (ah, love, sweet love). Susan leads him out into the wasteland, and when she has him far away from the ship, she stops and strips down nude! She's buck naked under her suit but didn't everyone else wear their street clothes under theirs? Did she ditch those clothes and then put the suit back on for this scene? Wouldn't it chafe your sensitive lady-parts that way? While the almost-nude scene earlier with Bryce was totally uncalled for (and icky), this one with Susan is completely necessary (mostly because she's superfine hot). She starts pawing him all sexy-like and takes off his helmet in one quick move. John chokes to death on the toxic air and is dead within 15 seconds, and in a creepy-hot Goth moment, Susan keeps kissing him even after he's long dead. She then puts a brainsucker on him. So, the atmosphere of Titan is like California, then? It can choke you to death but it has zero effect on living tissue or your eyes, or anything? [Editor Pam: We see it in the movie, so it must be true.]


Hostile worlds should always be clothing-optional.

Back on the ship, they realize John is gone, though they mostly just stand around and cuss a lot about it. A more pressing concern is the dwindling air supply. The plan they come up with is to take a work sled out to the alien archeological site to get the air tanks from the dead Bismarck crewmen. Bryce is going, and Hans wants to go with her, because he's got a thing for Bryce and her Crying Game man-face. I've not seen a lot of Kinski before, but if all his acting performances are as hammy as this one, he's my new favorite actor of all time (sorry, Fred Williamson).


As with all spaceships, there's a lot of rhythmically blinking lights everywhere.

At the work site, Hans gets all emotional as he sees the bodies of his former friends, though he's still enough of a dog to grab Bryce's butt once. They also find Susan, back in her suit but with no helmet on. In the movie's only really scary scene, Susan comes back to life, gushes blood out her mouth, and attacks Hans and Bryce with a horrifying scream and digging nails. When a "horror" movie only has one, two-second, scary moment, you know you have a problem.


RRAAAHHH!!!

Back on the Shenandoah, Beth rigs up a "KFM hyperspace transmitter" out of baling wire and duct tape. It immediately picks up a message on a "European assigned phase", coming from the Bismarck. It's John! And he's ok after all, and he tells them that he's got the German ship up and running again and they should all come over so they can take off soon. They are rightfully suspicious, but they agree they need to check this out. After he hangs up, John turns and we see there's a brainsucker on the side of his head!


Happy people creep me out, too.

Hey, so what about these brainsuckers, anyway? Where do they come from? Are they somehow secreted by the creature, does it squirt them out of some orifice or something? Are they a separate species that has a symbiotic relationship with the bigger creature? I realize they are simple rip-offs of the Alien facehuggers, but those had a detailed and plausible reason for existing. The alien queen popped out the pods, the facehuggers came out of the pods, entered a host, and a new drone was born, circle of life. But in Creature, the brainsuckers just seem to exist as a cheap trick to give us all the willies.


Maybe they should be asking some more questions.

So three of them go over (the Captain, Perkins, and the Doctor), while Beth stays to wait for Bryce and Hans to return from their air bottle run (a throwaway line says their local communications are out so they have no contact with Bryce and Hans). I noticed in this scene that in the entire movie the background music is all wind and wood instruments, with none of that crappy electronica synth-rock shit that 1980s movie directors seemed to think made their sci-fi movies so spacey. I'm a firm believer that a soundtrack can make or break a movie, maybe more than any one other factor in the filmmaking process. Anyway, they reach the Bismarck and find John. John is all better, even chipper, though he has a suspicious bandage on his head (covering the brainsucker!). John lures the Doctor down into engineering, where the creature is lurking. On way down the Doctor admits she's not a real physician, but that's fine with John, he has a secret of his own...


Wendy and John.

Down in engineering, Wendy finds dead, half-eaten bodies hung up like a meat locker, food for the alien. John holds her up to the creature like a sacrifice, and we get a little better look at the beastie. The most noticeable features are the bright red internally-lit eyeballs and the laughably distended fangs. It also slobbers, like in Alien, though it's not acidic.


Woof, that's bad.

Meanwhile, the Captain and Perkins have gotten suspicious and go exploring. The Captain walks in on the creature biting the Doctor's head off (yeesh, nice prop, buy that at Wal-Mart?). For some reason the creature favors neck bites almost exclusively (perhaps it has been watching nature documentaries on cheetahs). So, it's eating people for food? Then what has it been eating for the last 200,000 years? Can it store up food like a camel, or maybe slow its metabolism down to the point where it can survive 200 centuries between meals? And how come all movie aliens have a taste for human flesh, anyway? When are we ever going to see an alien monster that's a vegetarian, that just wants a nice side salad and maybe some garlic bread.


The creature is about man-sized, by the way.

John now pops up again (I get so tired of these "jumping cat" scares, the cheapest way to get a yelp out of people). He now has superhuman strength and tosses the Captain around like a rag doll. I guess that's possible, the brainsucker controls John's adrenaline glands and who knows what sorts of ET-juices it's squirting into his system. Perkins breaks it up with a gunshot to John's face in the very best exploding head shot I've ever seen.


Oh, that's gold, baby!

Back on the Shenandoah, Beth is still alone and getting creeped out by all the inky darkness and the lighting flashes outside her windows. Then the power suspiciously goes out and we get the impression that "someone" is now inside the ship with her. Being the brave sort, Beth starts poking around the ship, investigating spooky noises and all that. I've tried all movie long to identify the sets they used for the spaceship interiors, but I can't figure it out. Maybe they are also from 2001, but they could also be redresses of a real oceangoing ship (with a little effort and some mood lighting, you can make almost any large oil tanker's interior look like a spaceship, cheap filmmakers have been doing it for years).


What, no emergency lights?

And she's not alone. It's Hans! And his face is melting off! And he's holding a brainsucker! And he calls her "My precious"! Jesus! He chases her around a bit before she gets her spacesuit on and runs out the door. Outside, she runs around lost in the dark and Hans manages to sneak up on her for some more cheap sight-frights before she breaks away. Hey, if I may digress, before the creature knew what a spacesuit and a fusion reactor was, and it seems to know all about space travel and such (though surely that was just the collective intelligence of its prey). So why doesn't it consider not eating everyone, maybe using the human zombies to get the ship flying and go back to Earth and have billions of people to munch? In Alien that was their big fear, that the monster would end up loose on a populated planet. [Editor Pam: Going for instant gratification instead of considering the big picture, that's been the downfall of many an alien and is probably why the Earth hasn't been conquered from outer space.]


His face!

Back on the Bismarck, Perkins and Captain discover that the creature (or more likely John while under its control) took all the spare spacesuits and shredded them, effectively trapping them on the German ship (what about the ones they wore in?). From the bridge they see Beth stumbling towards them, with Hans right behind (they don't know he's a zombie). Perkins says lock the doors but the Captain says let them in. After all he's seen, what a stupid move by the Captain, driven by his boner more than his brain.


Talking it out.

Hans drags Beth inside when they open the airlock. She's ok, but Hans starts slugging and growling immediately. The Captain pulls the brainsucker off his head and stomps on it, which seems to kill Hans also. Wait, so how did Hans get a brainsucker on his head? Did he take Susan's? Did Susan have another one in her pocket? Did he go back to the German ship for some reason and the creature stuck one on him? And where did he get the one that he was waving at Beth back a minute ago? How come we never see any brainsuckers running around the ship? And wait, so we've established that in order for the creature to control a human host, it has to have a brainsucker attached, right? But what about Susan, she didn't have appear to a brainsucker on her head when she was all nekkid and stuff (I went back and watched that scene again several times in slo-mo, you know, for research...). So many questions.


When lasers and guns and toxic gas fail, a size-11
tennis shoe is the last line of defense against aliens.

They brainstorm about how to kill it and the conversation turns to an "old movie", The Thing, where stranded people kill a monster by electrocution. This is the only time I gave a thumbs-up all movie, finally some cultural references in a sci-fi flick! They come up with the plan to use the "fusion unit" and "hook up the fusion accelerators through the power grid" and "wire into the busses above and below corridor G". Awesome, you do that.


Making plans.

The problem is that in order to get to the fusion unit, they have to go down into engineering, the lair of the creature. The Captain and Beth will sneak down and rig it up while Perkins watches on the security cameras for the creature (though that's no help). Just as they get their electricity grid set up, the creature shows up for his big close-up. The creature, once a menacing, scary shadow-beast, is now just a sad little stuntman in a cheap rubber suit so stiff that he can barely do more than stand in one place and weakly flail his arms as off-screen key grips pour dry-ice fog around his feet. It would have been better to have left it in the shadows.


Arf.

You know, why are they so worried about this thing? So far we've seen that the creature is only dangerous when you let it get right up on you. It's too damn slow to catch you in a footrace, you could stop for a McMuffin and still keep ahead of it. It doesn't possess any ranged weapons, no spitting acid, no shooting poison spines, none of that. It's barely five feet tall and seems to be fairly light, certainly less than 300 pounds, so you might be able to take it in a fair fight. Its only real offensive capability comes from its ability to turn humans into zombie slaves, it's the humans that do all the heavy lifting of bringing in the victims and working the equipment and all that. And as of right now, it doesn't have any human zombies left on the payroll. We've seen zero indication that it can do anything on its own that's a game-changer, it can't pry open blast doors, it can't leap twenty feet in the air, it can't immobilize with a stun attack, it really can't do much of anything to you unless you let it get ahold of you. So, why don't they just lock the darn thing in some compartment and seal it in? Starve it out, so to speak. If you can trick it into some other compartment, you can even fix the engines and take off, bring the thing back to Earth and dissect it there. Just sayin', I think they're worried way too much about this beastie, it's really pretty weaksauce.


Perkins surfs around TV looking for a better movie than Creature.
In the end he just watches some Seinfeld reruns.

Anyway, the Captain has his pistol out and blazing, but bullets don't bother it so they run for the computer room to throw the switch. The creature pursues them slowly, showing us that it has your stereotypical "fuzzy, chromakeyed alien monster vision" (yawn). There's some forced drama as Beth can't find the right switch because "everything's in German", even though we've already seen in a half-dozen different shots that all the displays and keyboards are clearly labeled in English (of course, there was only one "spaceship" set and they used it for both American and German ships).


When can we have an alien with 20/20 vision?


Hey, it's the enter key, it's in the same place no
matter what language you're using.

She finds it in the nick of time and the creature is fried by electricity (eek, scratches on the negative, how 1950s). They poke it a bit and announce that "It's dead!", but fail to remember that it lay in dormancy for 200,000 years, was impervious to lasers and bullets, could survive the poison gas of Titan's atmosphere, and eats raw human flesh without worry of salmonella, so maybe they should poke it again, eh? And, of course, it's not dead, and after it naps for a minute or two, it jumps up and chases Beth back into engineering.


Sizzle!

The creature catches Beth, knocks her out, and strings her upside down to save for a late-night snack. Why was she not killed like others, why keep her alive? And how can the beastie hang her/anyone upside down from the ceiling anyway? It's clearly got little, stubby T-Rex arms, and it's only five-feet tall to begin with, so how can it physically hang anyone up? I assume that it got a human zombie to hang up the other bodies, but here it's just it and Beth in there. Perkins and the Captain plan to sneak into engineering through a back way (they have to check the ship's blueprints, which I guess are in English) and save her, even though the whole thing looks like a trap to me (maybe the creature kept Beth alive as bait to get the guys to make a dumb move to rescue her?). Hey, someone smarter than me tell me if, when hanging upside down and unconscious, do your eyelids still stay shut. You'd think that your muscles would be relaxed to the point that gravity would pull them open.


Right?


See how thick that blast door is? Just lock the damn doors and
contain the thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, save the girl first, whatever.

In an amazing stroke of (plot) luck, Perkins finds a box labeled "explosives" (in English, mind you) and now has a time bomb. He sneaks through the back side of engineering, and there's some spookiness as the creature sneaks up behind Perkins, showing a surprisingly ability to tip-toe, as all movie monsters do. The Captain saves Beth and then finds the creature snacking on Perkins. Probably due to its small mouth, the beastie takes noticeably tiny bites (though maybe it's on a diet and is trying to take smaller bites and chew each bite 25 times before swallowing, tips it learned by watching The Biggest Loser).


That's a bomb?


The toothy thing to the right of Perkins is about to munch him.

With his last dying gasp, Perkins attaches the bomb to the creature and sets the 30-second timer. Say, did either of you think about exploding a bomb in the spaceship's oxygen-rich environment? What if it damages the ship so much that it can't fly? What if you blow a hole in the side and let in all that toxic gas (and let out all the oxygen)? For that matter, what's with all the gunfire inside the ship? Does "explosive hull decompression" mean anything to you?


Oh, I wish there were only 22 seconds left of this movie...

So the creature is now wandering around with a bomb attached to it, slowly (oh so slowly) chasing the Captain as the timer ticks down. He goes all Ripley on us and kicks it out the open airlock and then wrestles with it a bit outside the ship (I guess the toxic gas affects him less than it did John because after a minute breathing the stuff he's still alive). The bomb turns out to be a dud, and the Captain croaks, "It didn't go off!". But just then Bryce (!!!) shows up out of nowhere and growls, "Oh, yes it did!", and then shoots the bomb and ka-boom!


Is the methane-rich atmosphere of Titan flammable?

Bryce drags the Captain inside and all is good. I had totally forgotten about Bryce, I had just assumed that she got munched off-screen back thirty minutes ago when we last saw her. Her sudden appearance here in the last few minutes of the movie seems tacked-on, almost like they needed to get the actress in there somehow for the money shot. Maybe there was a contract dispute and she demanded the "hero moment" or she'd sue, maybe she was sleeping with the director. Or maybe it was really in the script that way, but it just really seems like it was added at the last minute. Oh well.


Hey, it's Queen Bansheera from Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue!


PS: I've heard that the ending to Creature is reminiscent of Jaws, but I'll be damned if I watch that. Sharks are evil.

The end.

Written in January 2010 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.



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