Attack of the Beast Creatures was one of those films that seemed to be in every video store you went into back in the day. The artwork on its box guaranteed that. The fact it was “Presented by” Joseph Brenner and released by Western World Video guaranteed it wouldn’t live up to the promises that artwork made.
Writer Robert A. Hutton and director Michael Stanley (Doing Agatha) may not have created the epic creature feature they envisioned, but they created something that’s arguably better. A film that stuck in the minds of many of those who rented it, myself included.
A ship sinks somewhere in the North Atlantic in the year 1920. We hear the tragedy but don’t see it. Nine survivors escape in a lifeboat and eventually drift ashore on an island that doesn’t look like it’s in the frigid North Atlantic. In fact it looks a lot like Connecticut where it was filmed.
They leave the injured Mr. Bruin (Robert T. Firgelewski, the film’s sound and mechanical effects guy) on the beach and go looking for food and water. Things do not go well. They find some edible berries and Pat (Frans Kal) thinks he’s found water. It turns out to be acid which dissolves the skin off of his body. Then something lurking in the bushes bites Mrs. Gordon (Kay Bailey).
Worst of all, when they get back to the beach they find that something has reduced Mr. Bruin to a skeleton. There’s something deadly on the island, and the castaways have no idea just what they’re up against. And it’s what they’re up against that makes Attack of the Beast Creatures so unforgettable. First seen very indistinctly at night, the night scenes are so dark most things are indistinct actually, all we can make out is their ghostly white glowing eyes and loud screeching.
Once we see them in daylight we appreciate them for what they are. If you’ve seen Trilogy of Terror then you remember the Zuni doll that chased Karen Black around. Now, imagine a horde of it’s dollar store cousins. Whether stiffly running after their prey like wind up toys or, more frequently, being thrown at people by somebody standing just out of camera range it’s an unforgettable sight.
Just what these things are is never explained. Nor are the pools of acid or the other skeletons they find on the island, who would come there or why is a mystery. Apparently the creatures are at least somewhat intelligent though, we see them worshipping a giant idol they created at one point.
Scenes like this plus a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of the cast and crew make Attack of the Beast Creatures such an enjoyably cheesy film. The enthusiasm doesn’t make up for the lack of talent, but it does elevate the results above dreary, by the numbers films like The Jonestown Haunting and Asteroid-a-Geddon cranked out by a cast and crew who are only in it for a paycheck.
Attack of the Beast Creatures was the first film for all involved and for just about all of them it was their last as well. Director Michael Stanley (not the singer for The Michael Stanley Band) would do one more film twenty three years later but that seems to be it. And you have to give him credit for having the audacity to attempt not only to put a horde of creatures on the screen with no budget, but to add the problems of a period piece costumes to the production as well.
Maybe that’s what made the difference. They were amateurs who were having fun playing dress up and running around in the woods rather than the usual cast of D list “anything for a buck and a credit” professionals who just see films like this as another crappy gig.
Attack of the Beast Creatures is available on YouTube and a few other places. The DVDs I have seen, sometimes under its original title Hell Island, look like somebody torrented the film and burned it to disc, tape dropout, tracking noise and all. As far as I know it’s never had a proper DVD or Blu Ray release apart from an extremely limited run by Stanley himself and sold from the film’s website. The site is gone, but there’s an archived version of it available.
Hopefully Vinegar Syndrome or Code Red will get around to Attack of the Beast Creatures eventually. Until then, there’s YouTube.