APRIL 19, 2010
For the first time since January, I will be dubbing a movie “Crap”, which has to be a record “lapse” in between seeing such films. And Creature Of Darkness (formerly the even more generic Hunter’s Moon) is even worse than the last one (Trunk), because at least that movie didn’t have horrendous CGI throughout its entire 3rd act, and there were only two people to hate instead of the eight or nine we have here. Thus, this may very well be the worst movie I've seen this year so far (8 months to go, folks!).
I’m sure it’s not the first movie to have a more interesting backstory than anything on screen, but it has to be one of the best examples. Like that it was funded by a Powerball winner, or that it was directed by the guy who Devon Sawa was portraying in the movie Wild America, back when Sawa’s movies played in theaters (he also stars in this, though I suspect that director/writer/producer Mark Stouffer did not base the film on any personal experiences this time around). Or that it was shot in 2005, finished in 2008, and is just seeing release now. For five years, even Lionsgate wouldn’t pony up the dough for this movie? It must be good!
And the saddest thing is that it kind of had a decent idea at its core - essentially combining Predator with a “teens in the woods” slasher movie. Seems our alien wants to collect a specimen from each race, so our coincidentally multi-ethnic group of college kids (including one played by a 36 year old Siena Goines, but I’m not complaining as she’s the only one of the group that’s tolerable) makes the perfect target, despite their lack of Asians. But every single thing about it is botched.
For starters, either Mr. Stouffer has no idea how to shoot an action scene, or the Powerball jackpot must have been pretty shitty that week. Either way, I can barely even understand what was happening during many of the kill/chase scenes, because he never has any impact shots. We see an axe swing and then someone screams, and then Stouffer will cut to a shot of some trees or something. Or the alien will throw a lasso, and after he releases it, we cut to someone on the ground, with the thing neatly tied around their legs. So basically, everything seems like a particularly vicious TV edit of a Friday the 13th movie, which you know you’re not watching because the actors swear like sailors (and Goines disrobes). And it’s not just when the humans are being attacked - the heroes’ attacks on the alien (largely spear throws and at least one scene of it being run over) are left completely up to the viewer’s imagination as well. With something like this, cool kills are about the only reason to watch the goddamn thing, so that we are continually denied them over and over is just excruciating.
Not as excruciating as the characters though. Like I said, Goines is tolerable, but that’s probably just because I like the actress. She’s also paired off with the MOST annoying character, but she can’t stand him either, which helps make her more appealing. Everyone else spends the entire movie yelling at each other, causing fights, or sucking at fighting the monster. Even Sawa is annoying, because he starts the movie off as a crazed weirdo (sort of like how he is in Final Destination when they all get off the plane), and then in the next scene he’s fine. He’s also a moron - when the annoying guy causes one of their motorcycles to blow up, he rushes the guy with a frying pan in hand, but then drops it and opts for just pushing the guy. Knock that fucker out, Casper!
And the alien starts off as a practical effect, we see its head and one of its arms a lot. But it also has a long coat on (kind of like a Mimic monster) for the first 45 minutes or so, which keeps us from seeing its full body, so while it looks cool, the scenes are a bit awkward and very repetitive. Worse, once the coat is discarded, it becomes a completely CGI creation, albeit one without the slightest bit of high quality to it. It moves awkwardly, it doesn’t match its footage, and it seems the compositor actually went out of his way to make every shot look fake. And one of the alien’s powers is to create solid illusions over holes in the ground or walls that it makes, an effect that looks terrible the first time around, but Stouffer keeps using it over and over. In the three years in between shooting this thing and submitting it for copyright, they couldn’t get the effects to look right? The Asylum knocks out better shit than this over the course of two weeks!
The making of will have you believe you saw a different movie though. Stouffer is shown working with the actors and encouraging minor performance tweaks, the creature designer goes on and on about the various elements in his design, and an actor who has about 30 seconds of screen time (he’s the first to die) talks for a minute about his wild man character. A few of them also wax poetic on the nature of horror movies. I honestly think I would have hated the movie more if I watched this piece first, since they appear to be making a better film than I was even expecting (which wasn’t much), and thus I would have been even more disappointed. The awful trailer and a bio for Stouffer are also included, the latter of which is suspiciously sparse on titles - despite boasting 120 TV episodes, 18 features, and 18 network specials, not a single title is mentioned (except for this and some other movie he was working on at the time). Curious, I looked up his IMDb and discovered that these numbers seem to be fudged, as his director filmography (which includes all of the above types) only lists a total of 14 entries. Even if I include the films he just produced, the number is only around 20 since most of his producing credits are for films he directed himself. The bio (and IMDb) also claim 2 Emmy wins and another 9 nominations, but for what films or shows are nowhere to be found (one nomination - which was shared with three others - is all I could find). So I dunno what that’s about. Maybe he’s counting home movies and fantasies/dreams. Again, everything about this movie is more interesting than anything on screen (except for Goines’ shower scene, obviously).
One final note to people who worked on or are distributing the film - it’s a bit odd to see two people (with new accounts) positively reviewing the film after seeing it at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, nearly a year after said screening. If you’re going to write fake reviews, you gotta try to make them sound plausible. Wait until around the DVD release and say you got a screener from a friend, or something. Also, write up a few other reviews, good or bad, just so you look SLIGHTLY less fake. I swear, if the IMDb made you submit like 10 reviews before they actually started posting them, we’d be seeing a lot less bullshit on that site.
What say you?