REMEDIAL SF 101: The Creeping Terror

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Greetings, fellow 'bots.  Republibot 4.0 here.  Since Republibot 3.0 needs to recharge his batteries, I've been activated to serve as your guest commentator.  I'll be bringing you my (mostly) conservative views on Life, the Universe, and Everything until R3 returns or R2 and R1 come after me with a tire iron.


Science fiction tries to be avant garde, thought provoking, and profound.  Usually it falls miserably short of this mark. Oh, there are some films that do succeed in being either beautiful to watch, or have compelling stories that stay with a viewer long after the popcorn is gone, but the vast, vast, vast majority of science fiction films are just dreadful mish-mashes of bad acting, bad effects, bad writing, and bad conception.  And these are what give the genre a bad name.


Some films come so close to being good that you weep for them--you think that if only the film had had a bigger budget, or a better editor, they might have been Great Films.  The film I'm reviewing today is not one of these.


In fact, there is not enough crack in the universe to make this film watchable to anyone who isn't a complete masochist with an article to turn in.


I've decided to start my reviews with a film deemed so bad that all other films look good by comparison, a film at the very nadir of science fiction--THE CREEPING TERROR.


I don't think it's fair to list who was responsible for this drekfest, but suffice it to say that the lead actor was also the director, producer, and editor.  The guy who wrote the alleged screenplay tried to get out of his involvement when it became clear that his family name was going to be negatively affected by the fact that the prodiractoritor didn't seem to realise that the film was supposed to be a comedy.


If any of you have seen this film, I am sorry.  You don't have to admit to it.  Just like if you and twenty of your friends decided to go to Dragon*Con dressed as The Creeping Terror, nobody would admit to recognizing the costume.


This film is totally devoid of redeeming features.  OK, so there's a cool sports car, but it's only on screen for 15 seconds.  The acting, such as it is, looks like they gave the roles to any guy off the street who would pony up a hundred bucks toward the effects budget...which turns out to be exactly what they did.  The space ship, which was an Atlas rocket launch run in reverse to simulate the "crash landing", is laid on its side behind some trees so that you won't see the canvas flapping in the breeze.  Space ship hulls don't usually flap in the breeze.  And since the ship lands on its side, the set builders don't have to muck about with a door--everybody enters the space ship by crawling under it.  Conveniently all the instrumentation inside is still right-side-up, though, and looking like they borrowed it from the AV department of a local college.


In fact the whole film has the look and feel of a college production.  From the badly framed shots to the horrendously ineffective overdubs, the movie appears to have been shot on a Super-8 camera.  The dialog reel got lost somewhere along the way--I'm guessing the writer stormed off with the script--so the movie has a narrator.  This makes it feel a little like a really bad Twilight Zone episode, only without Rod Serling, or anything even remotely Twilight Zone-ish.  It's more like a pathetic 1950's training film of the sort Rod Serling may have been parodying.  "Be careful, or this may happen to YOU!"


As if.


 The short summary is that a space ship crash-lands in the California scrub, releasing a monster that proceeds to devour every human it encounters in Chicken Heart fashion.  The monster looks like a cross between a termite and a sunflower, with a cluster of eye stalks reminiscent of the creature from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, only not nearly as realistic.  The director must have felt it wasn't scary enough so he had a Persian carpet with fringe thrown over five grad students, and this is why it's the Creeping Terror: the guys under the carpet have to scounch along behind the guy in the termite suit.


Which means that the hapless victims of the monster, who could have easily escaped if they'd only tried harder--or just tried at all--have to ignore its approach despite the fact it's making noises like an irritated sea lion with the croup, and then stand there screaming in horror as it shuffles up to them and stuffs them into its maw. There is even one moment when it looks like a guy actually pushes his date into the monster's mouth.


The monster starts off by eating a deputy and a forest ranger, then gulps down a housewife hanging laundry who doesn't see this slug the size of a Volkswagen approaching her until it consumes her.  Her baby crying in the house as she gets gobbled up is supposed to generate pathos, I guess.


The monster may be some kind of metaphor, because it cuts a swath through a number of courting couples, turning picnickers into a picnic and showing graphically why it's better to drive a hard top to Lover's Lane than a convertable.  Perhaps the greatest expense of the budget was the twenty bucks for the old jalopy the monster attacks before rolling it off a cliff and then sucking the unconscious occupants out like so much spaghetti.  I couldn't help but wonder whether Blondie had had this film in mind when they came up with "Rapture."


The worst sequence comes early on, when the monster comes upon a young couple in bathing suits making out in the woods.  While the guy gets up and runs away, the cad--a smart cad, but a cad just the same--the girl lies there shrieking in a continuous tape loop as the Creeping Terror ever so slowly gets her to obligingly climb into its mouth and shimmy down its apparently bottomless gullet.


Now, the only thing I can imagine, is that this monster had some sort of power to hypnotize its victims so they wouldn't walk away from it...nah, screw it, I can't defend this.


The alien eventually shows up at "the local dance hall" where a large group of young people, two old biddies, and a drunk, are enjoying the Twist in the middle of the afternoon.  In my opinion, the guy playing the drunk is the only one who could act in the whole film.  Anyway, the monster manages to enter the dance hall, creating a slow-motion panic as the patrons flee from it in a sedate and orderly fashion.  A fist fight for the door inexplicably breaks out, delaying the exit of the patrons long enough for the Terror to eat them.


The only thing that made sense about this flick was that the monster actually did get larger as it consumed people.  I would hate to see the pellet that thing discharged when it finished digesting them.


So while this critter is shuffling around the countryside scarfing down half the county, a scientist from the Jodrell Bank in England, intent on trying to communicate with the alien--which he's certain is very advanced--forbids the local police and the Army from harming it.   Incidentally, there's another one still trussed up in the space ship, which nobody seems too concerned about, in spite of how pissed off it seems to be.


When it becomes clear that people are disappearing due to the space alien, it is decided to cover things up in order to prevent a general panic.  No wonder people are so ready to believe in Roswell.


The main character--you know, the prodractoritor--is a newly-married police deputy who gets elevated to sheriff when the present officeholder gets eaten.  I kept expecting his wife to be eaten by the Terror--or at least menaced by it--but it seems that she exists solely to give the prodiractoritor someone to neck with in several completely irrelevant scenes.  Unlike most leading ladies in bad SF films, she doesn't even get to put a hand to her head and scream in horror.  There's an abortive sub-plot about how the cop's bachelor buddy is jealous of him, but although it wastes about seven minutes of screen time, it goes nowhere and is never mentioned again.  I guess when you're producer, director, lead actor, AND editor, you get to choose what stays in and what gets cut.


So anyway, the army decides to try to capture the thing alive by pumping it full of lead, but that only makes it mad, and it bowls six of the seven soldiers over like Keystone Cops.  Then the Colonel tells the scientist to go to hell and decides to use a grenade on the beast (apparently Angel County, California, can't afford nukes).  In what the actor must have thought was a determined John Wayne swagger, but which actually looks like he's favoring a hernia, he approaches the monster...then trips and drops the grenade.


Y'know, maybe this was a plug for Darwinism?  Maybe these people are just too stupid to live?


The second most expensive item in the budget were the bags of flour thrown at the camera to simulate the grenade going off.  It does kill the monster, but then the scientist, poking through the bits of charred cloth, finds some electrical wires, a bell goes off in his head, and he races back to the space ship, commandeering the Army's truck (which during the week was used to ferry migrant workers to the farm fields.)


He gets there just ahead of the deputy and his wife, who have to drive the police car on the dirt roads since it's probably not legal to drive a fake cop car on the paved ones, and slithers inside, only to trigger an inexplicable explosion in the control panels that char him real crispy and release the second monster, upon whom the scientist had been experimenting.


Despite being horribly burned--think of a hot dog you've left on the grill a little too long--the scientist manages to get out of the space ship and is crawling away from the second monster, who is presumably freakin' hungry by now, and has a hankering for barbecued scientist.  Fortunately--or unfortunately--this one is no more agile than its mate, and what follows is the most laughable slow-motion chase since OJ Simpson's white Bronco.


The scientist is then menaced by the thing long enough for the cop car to plow into it and fling it up onto the hood of the Army truck--the world's first alien roadkill.


Cue the scientific gobble-dee-gook. 


The dying scientist tells the cop and the girl that the aliens were some kind of information-gathering engineered life form, that ate humans, analyzed their chemical composition as well as their weaknesses, and then transmitted the information obtained back into outer space.  So I guess their names were Spirit and Opportunity.  The cop tries ineffectually to destroy the transmitters, gently hitting them first with the butt of his gun, then with a pipe, so that they didn't actually damage the stuff they borrowed from the AV department.


Failing to stop the transmission, the cop asks the still-not-dead-yet scientist what this will mean for Earth.  The scientist offers a hope that perhaps the civilization that sent the probes no longer exists, but ends by saying "Only God knows..."  He dies, the girl cries, the narrator collects his fee, and "The Creeping Terror" enters the annals of movie history as one of the worst films ever made.


Will Conservatives like this film?  HELL NO!  Nobody in his right MIND would like this film!!  I need to go gouge my eyes out and rinse my brain with bleach now!