Before I get into today's movie - (which is an Alien knock off from 1985 called Creature) - I want to talk briefly about two of my friends.
Let's start with my friend Nick. Now, Nick and I are very similar in many ways, but there are some important differences. For example, we both really love music and spend a lot of time listening to it and thinking about it and searching for interesting new artists to obsess over, but... He's a singles guy and I'm an albums guy. He's always hunting for the perfect track, and while I can appreciate a perfect pop song, I tend to be looking for something bigger than a three minute jam - I really want to have a longer, more in depth, more complete work that I can get lost in.
Then there's my friend Ricky. Now, Ricky and I are very different in many ways, but there are some important ways in which we are similar. For example, we both love movies, and more specifically, we love the sort of cheesy action movies that are always being played on a loop on basic cable. (IE: we are both intimately familiar with the Jean Claude Van Damme filmography.)
Now, those movies generally have massive flaws - they tend to have flat characters and incoherent scripts and their plots are often built upon flimsy conceits - but they inevitably contain a few great moments. There's always some good ass-whuppings, some solid one-liners, and (hopefully) some jaw dropping set pieces. When we watched those movies together we would sit through the dumb exposition scenes to get to the punchy-kicky parts, and then when we got to the violence we cheered like the blood-thirsty bozos that we were.
I bring both of them up because I want to make a point: normally when I watch a movie I try to consider the whole product: its acting, its writing, its directing, its context - and if I write about a movie I try to discuss about the whole pig from snout to tail.
But I'm not going to do that today, because Creature is a terrible movie. It was incomprehensible and poorly shot and the DVD I got from Netflix was so cut-rate that it promised subtitles and then didn't deliver them.
But I nevertheless enjoyed the hell out of Creature, because last night when I was watching it I let the Ricky-adjacent side of me take over. I kicked the snooty "I consider the whole discography when contemplating an artist" side of my personality to the curb and gave the keys to the "I will forgive anything as long as I get to see a head get exploded" part of my personality.
Because yeah, technically Creature is a terrible movie... But let me tell you, brah: Creature is also a movie with some amaaaazin shit in it.
In fact, Creature telegraphs that it is going to be amazing in the very first scene of the movie, where two astronauts are exploring an alien spaceship. The first astronaut sees a long coffin-shaped tube lying on the ground and decides he wants to take a photo of it... But he needs an object in the frame to provide a sense of scale. So he tells astronaut number two (aka Howard) to sit on it.
And Howard - who is obviously a giant moron - immediately sits on the giant alien coffin they just discovered in a random "abandoned" alien ship.
And of course Howard is immediately eaten by the fanged beast that was sleeping in the coffin.
(By the way, those were Astronaut #1's exact words: "Sit on it." That's why I wanted the subtitles: I wanted a screen capture of the fatal last words "Howard, just sit on it.")
Now this scene is amazing in many ways. For one, it is obviously very funny. My man H-dog basically died because his numbskull buddy has the shutterbug skills of a midwestern Dad on a family vacation to the Grand Canyon. Can you imagine spending years training your mind and body for the chance to be selected as an astronaut, and then finally getting accepted by NASA, and then undergoing months and months of military grade training before you actually go to space, and then spending months and months hurtling through space, and finally you get to see a sight that no man has ever seen before - an undisturbed alien craft in its natural habitat - and then ten minutes later you die in an Instagram accident?
The other reason why that scene is amazing is because "Howard" is a perfect name for a guy who would die that way. It's the perfect name for an extremely dopey / disposable sonufabitch, because not only is it generic and bland but it makes me think of the "Bummer of a Birthmark, Hal" Far side Cartoon.
(By the way: Howard was the only character that I remember having a name and he didn't make it to minute five of this almost 90 minute movie. It is possible that the other characters did, in fact, have names but if so they were not as good as "Howard".)
Oh, shit - I just realized that I'm still on the first five minutes of this thing. I'd better hurry this up.
Ok, so then we cut to a bunch of yadda yadda stuff about outer space, where (apparently) the US is waging a trade war against East Germany. (Again: this movie was made in 1985.) Those scenes sucked, but they did feature a whole bunch of what the B-Movie Bingo fellas call "futuristic movie computers" (ie, 80's computers that flash colored lights and beep for no goddamn reason) so that was cool.
Oh, and we also meet a woman who was probably cast because she looks vaguely Sigourney Weaver-ish - at first glance I was like "oh, if Sigourney had a baby with a marionette, that's who you'd get." - but then I got a better look at her and realized: oh, she's really just a Joan Crawford clone. I don't bring any of this up to be snide about a woman's appearance - I bring it up to make a thematic point: namely that Creature is undeniably an Alien knock off, but it's such a bad knock off that it ends up having its own weird charm. Casting a Sigourney doppleganger in your Alien rip off = bad; casting a Sigourney doppleganger that actually looks more like a different actress = surprisingly great.
Then some more stuff happened but I kind of don't remember what. I think it might have involved some alien brain leeches, and I think a blonde lady died? Maybe from the brain leaches? But then she came back from the dead and showed her boobs! Ten points for Gryffindor! Err, b-movie-indor!
(Look: I know objectification isn't good and women aren't meat and shouldn't be ogled. But you gotta admit that you've always wanted to see an astronaut with a functioning brain in a full space suit and a lady with extraterrestrial-caused-cerebral-trauma in her birthday suit get it on in a dank plaster cave on one of Jupiter's moons.)
And just because I really want to belabor the point that this is a very 1985 movie I'm going to point out that this sex-murdering space vixen supposedly traveled halfway across our solar system while using enough hair spray to give a big-lunged sasquatch a coughing fit. Check out this batch of classic Reagan era helmet hair:
Now, some part of me wants to run down all of the rest of the good parts of Creature, but the smart part of me knows that I should probably start wrapping it up. That's the problem with movies that are just a bunch of fun moments: it is hard to talk about them in an intelligent way; you generally default to rambling about this one part where Howard died like a dumbass and this other part where a naked lady humped a scared space-traveler in a poorly lit cave and this other part where a dude's head totally exploded...
(Guys: this is totally the sort of movie where a guys head explodes.)
And I don't want to be that self-indulgent babble-y sort of fellow, so I'm not going to get into all my favorite bad line readings, or the inexplicable fact that Klaus Kinski is in this movie for about three scenes, etc. No, I'm just going to start wrapping this up by driving home this one super-important point: Creature really, really, really wants to be Alien...
But it is very, very bad at being Alien:
Again: I'm down with that level of blatant rip-off-itude. I would have been down with the creature regardless of what it looked like, but the fact that it had the long curved head of a xenomorph and the bony fingers of a xenomorph and the drooly mouth of a xenomorph and the neck of some sort of space brontosaurus... Well, that just tickled me pink.
Now, I'd like to think that as I've gotten older my taste has gotten deeper and more refined. I try to balance my media diet out with foreign films and documentaries and I try to watch as many serious dramas as I do blatant pieces of crap. Overall, I *really* am the sort of guy who wants to luxuriate in a work of art that is firing on all levels and not waste his time on a derivative piece of trash.
But also I am the sort of fellow who might protesteth too much because let's face it: on some level I am still that id-driven teenager who was always rooting for JVCD to spin kick some terrorists right in their terrorizing faces.
So look: Creature is not a great movie. Hell, stretches of it are barely watchable. But if you cut out the boring bits (or at least talk over them) then what you are left with is a bunch of solid-ass scenes of monsters threatening to chew on Joan Crawford clones...
And you know what? Ain't nothing wrong with that. An LP that mixes hot singles with filler tracks might not be a great album - but who cares as long as those hot songs are truly hot? Sometimes all you need is one great pop song, or one good scene of a head exploding (whatever the case might be.)
(Did you seriously think I was going to finish this without posting gratuitous screen grabs of the head exploding scene? Hah! As if!
At first it was like:
And then it was like:
BOOM! HOW YOU LIKE THEM APPLES, GUY WHO USED TO HAVE A SKULL?)