Creatures, the latest film from Tony Jopia (Crying Wolf, Deadtime) describes itself as “Gremlins meets Kill Bill meets Shaun of the Dead”. That’s certainly setting some high expectations for a film that was probably filmed for less than an original poster from those three films would cost you. But Jopia did manage to deliver some cheap fun with the killer alien rabbit film Cute Little Buggers, can he do the same with what sounds more like “Gremlins meets Critters meets ET on the Night of Creeps”?
Dr. Serling (Romain Barbey) and his astronomy class have their trip to the observatory rudely interrupted by a sheep’s head hitting the window of their bus. Stepping out to see what’s going on they discover a crashed spacecraft and a furry little creature called Gizmo, err Mumpy. But things soon turn sinister when they find a flock of dead sheep, and Akane (Rina Saito, Tokyo Ghoul, Black Rat) finds their driver equally dead. Until he comes back as a zombie. It seems Mumpy isn’t the only alien here, and the others aren’t nearly as cute, or friendly.
They eventually end up taking refuge in an old manor house belonging to Colin (Derek Frood, Poldark, Parasitus). With only his collection of antique weapons to defend themselves with, can they hold off the invaders?
Creatures certainly feels like it wanted to be an 80s movie. Unfortunately, despite the involvement of the puppet creation team that worked on The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance this looks much more like Hobgoblins or Ghoulies than Gremlins.
“Creatures is for all the fans of ‘80s pint-sized creature feature movies. It really does have a bit of everything: action, comedy, sci-fi thrills, and tonnes of gore, a true love letter to movies that I grew up with.”Producer Stu Jopia
The effects for the creatures themselves are a very mixed bag. Mumpy is cute enough to help hide the fact he’s an obvious puppet. The aliens chasing him are very obviously some kind of puppet, you can see the texture of the latex they’re made out of. The puppetry similarly varies in quality. Shots where the puppeteers can easily be hidden are effective, ones of them leaping at their victims are laughable.
The shots of groups of them in the open seem to be CGI. The best I can say about them is that they’re better than the spaceship CGI at the film’s beginning, which is awful. The supposedly funny reaction of the soon-to-be headless sheep and assorted CGI gore actually manages to be worse. The occasional practical kills are fairly good though.
The script for Creatures, written by Tony Jopia, Andrew Fawn and Stu Jopia (Good Tidings, Dawning of the Dead) is horribly bland and lacks the wit and engaging characters of the films it claims to emulate. None of the film’s characters have any personality and the writers resort to worn-out, arguably racist tropes like making Akane, the film’s only Asian character, an ass-kicking martial artist who’s also lethal with a katana.
Even the film’s borrowings don’t feel like actual homages. The Christmas setting isn’t put to any real use, unlike Gremlins which worked it into the film’s plot. Similarly, the Night of the Creeps-inspired alien slug zombies feel more like a cheap alternative to using the alien puppets than a true reference. Creatures is more of a soulless cash-in on nostalgia than a tribute to it. Or maybe it was well-intentioned, but just ineptly executed. Either way it’s best avoided.
Originally scheduled for release last December, Creatures seems to have snuck out now without much fanfare, and it’s not hard to see why. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more details.