In Anticipation: Creature

Last Saturday, I went to a horror convention in NJ. I could write about what happened there all week and not get the entire experience across in an adequate way. Shorthand: the hotel was fighting the convention every step of the way and the convention didn't prepare well enough to let the visitors know what was actually happening. If you're going to have two screening/panel rooms, you better have a schedule for both. I missed out on being able to write about a slew of new indie films because you could only hear the schedule announced five minutes before a screening started in the vendor room. That's all I'm saying. I did, however, have the great fortune to find out about a new independent horror film opening nationwide on September 9 called Creature. Creature is a new take on the old Universal monster movie from writer/director Fred Andrews. He promises an intelligent film with blood and guts that actually provides character development, a unique mythology, and 100% practical effects. The film, about a group of young people vacationing in the remote swamps of Louisiana, introduces a seven foot tall creature with tremendous strength and an allegedly compelling back-story for a series of films.

Left to Right: writer/director Fred Andrews, Daniel Bernhardt (playing the creature, best known for playing Agent Johnson in The Matrix films), Amanda Fuller (star of indie thriller Red White & Blue), Dillon Casey (TV actor), Lauren Schneider (relative newcomer, featured in Red White & Blue)

There are quite a few things that make me excited about Creature. One, Fred Andrews took a long time to develop the story. His main background is as a visual effects make-up artist. He came up with the concept for the creature and began doing sculpts and castings. From there, he created a graphic novel telling the creature's story and the story of those who come in contact with him. Then he began working on the screenplay. The man knows every facet of every character and if you trust the actors at the panel (which, admittedly, isn't always the most accurate), he did a great job getting them prepared for the film. For example, when he was casting Daniel Bernhardt as the creature, he had him read John Gardner's novel Grendel to understand the perspective of Creature. Bernhardt took that direction and created a unique vocabulary and movement style to realize the creature as more than just a monster in the swamp.

Even more exciting is the promise of all practical effects. The cast and crew shot on location in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. More accurately, they shot on location 30 miles out from the actual town of Baton Rouge. They built everything on location, including a large cave system. They were so far out into the swamp that they had to be followed on every shooting day by state troopers ready to fire at any alligators that might attack the group. This did not prevent the invasion of bugs, snakes, and lizards that actually sent leading lady Serinda Swan to the hospital.

And for the "omg EXPLOITATION boycott!" types among us, the director swore up and down that his 6' tall feminist wife kept the entire project in check. These actors are playing actual characters, not just bodies, even if some of the ladies get naked during the running time. If it's justified by the character and no one was put in danger or an uncomfortable situation, it's not exploitation. I know that won't stop a certain group of people from claiming it in September. I just wanted to make the first strike against that line of thinking.

The current state of Creature is one that many independent films face. Fred Andrews was unwilling to talk in detail about his negotiations with the MPAA, but he did say that he has been going at it for weeks with the ratings board to preserve integral details of the film for the theatrical release. He also believes that Creature is being hit harder because it's an independent film. I can believe that. Shoot, from what he said at the panel, I would not be surprised if one of the big objections is that you can see the creature's penis. He promised an R release in theaters nationwide and I believe he will deliver it. He also said the DVD will feature the R release, an unrated cut, and a director's cut.

Here's the first trailer for Creature. I love the use of that Protestant hymn at the beginning. You don't see a lot, but you do get a feel for the tone of the film.