Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'The Creeps' features classic horror monsters as you've never seen them

The Creeps (1997)
Starring: Rhonda Griffin, Bill Moynihan, Justin Laur, Kristen Norton, Phil Fondacaro, Jon Simanton, Joe Smith, Thomas Wellington and Andrea Squibbs
Director: Charles Band
Producers: Charles Band and Kirk Edward Hansen
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

A mad scientist (Moynihan) builds a machine that transports Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and Frankenstein's Monster from the books and movies they usually exist it, into the real world. But interference from a librarian (Griffin) and a wanna-be private detective (Laur) who were recovering an original hand-writen draft of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein novel that the scientist stole to use in his experiment, cause the process to go awry. The four monsters are brought to life as 3-foot-tall midget versions that are not quite as imposing as their fictional counterparts. Dracula (Fondacaro) doesn't appreciate his diminished height, and he sets about getting the scientist what he needs to redo the experiment, getting it right this time.

"The Creeps" is a fun film, with creative well-written dialogue and full of creative and crazy ideas that are well-implimented. As such, it ranks as one of my favorite Full Moon movies. However, there is an air of cheapness to this film, an air that will grow more pervasive in Band's films through the first half of the 2000s, only starting to dissipate with the release of "Doll Graveyard" and "Gingerdead Man 2".

That said, this is not a Band production where the cheapness hurts. Instead of puppets and special effects to bring to life Band's obsession with stories about tiny terrors, we're instead, surprisingly, treated to "little people" taking on the roles of Universal Pictures' Big Four Monsters--Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, and the Wolf Man.

The script is fun and fast-moving and the story is populated by quirky characters that may be little more than two-dimensional cartoons, but they are great fun and being portrayed by talented actors who seem to be having a load of fun.

In the entire movie, there's only one actor who plays his part straight and that is Phil Fondacaro as Dracula. In fact, Fondacaro plays a more convincing and creepy Dracula than many actors in serious horror movies, giving a performance that is comparable to the Draculas of Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and Jack Palance. It's a performance that shows that Fondacaro is a far more talented actor than he'll probably ever get a chance to fully show, because of his small stature. (I think he could be a great Hop-Frog, though, if that story is ever properly adapted to the screen.)

The only complaint I have about the film is that it's rather illiterate in its approach to classic horror. First off, as excellent as Fondacaro's Dracula performance is, the character design doesn't resemble Dracula as he has appeared in any movies nor as he is described in Bram Stoker's novel; the only Dracula design that springs to mind is the one that appeared in a small handful of comics from Marvel in the mid-1970s and late 1980s. The film also implies that the Frankenstein Monster that the mad scientists causes to manifest is somehow tied to Mary Shelley's novel. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Shelly's monster was intelligent and articulate while the monster here is a midget version of the Universal Studios Frankenstein Monster. (And Thomas Wellington does a great impersonation of the creature as it was played by Boris Karloff.)

"The Creeps" is Charles Band close to his craziest and it's a film that will be a perfect addition to any Bad Movie Night line-up (or to any movie night spotlighting weird comedies).

Watch the preview for "The Creeps",
courtesy of Full Moon Entertainment and YouTube...