July 7, 2011


Creature: Kinski

In the semi-distant future, on a remote moon of Saturn, two astronauts consider an enormous alien egg. One fellow peers into the translucent shell and sees the face of a hideous creature. “Wherever that thing came from,” he observes, “it wasn’t bred for looks.”

Those nutty astronauts—always joking around. However, these two get egg on their faces, and everywhere else, when the creature finally comes out of its shell.

That’s the opening scene of Creature, and you can tell already that the location isn’t really Saturn. No, it’s a much more familiar place: the planet of the Shameless Ripoffs, in the galaxy of the Endless Retread.

This time the film being replicated is Alien—a starkly derivative movie to begin with. Creature is quite upfront about this; it seems to have been made by people with very little malice or ill-will. Very little imagination or talent, either.

Following the bloody overture, we see a mission sent to Saturn to find out what happened up there. When the mission crash-lands on the planet, the creature picks up the scent and starts picking the astronauts off one by one. Sound familiar?

That’s the extent of the narrative, although writer-director William Malone (the man who gave us Scared to Death) works hard to inject some of that human relationship stuff in there too. It doesn’t quite take, although the acting is admittedly more ironic and less godawful than you usually see in outings of this type.

A bit of life is supplied by the appearance of Klaus Kinski (from Werner Herzog’s Aguirre), the leader and lone survivor of a rival space team. Kinski is frothing at the mouth in his mad Wagnerian way (as per usual) about the creature. It’s entertaining, but he succumbs to the bite of the creature and his flesh starts falling off all too quickly.

The production values here are less tawdry than in many quickies, but the slickness of the sets doesn’t do much to elevate the absurdity of the plot twists.

At one point, the survivors try to think of a way to destroy the creature, and one crew member says, “I saw this movie once where…” and proceeds to describe how the carrot from another world in Howard Hawks’s 1951 movie The Thing was finally killed off. We’re supposed to believe these people are scientists?

The crew has a careful balance of male and female astronauts, but less to provide a picture of a liberated future than to allow a bit of skin to show. The female members, supposedly biophysicists, look and act more like they’ve just gotten off the night shift at the Los Angeles Playboy Club.

It’s that sort of movie—cheerfully mindless of its own incongruities. But that’s no recommendation. Like its beloved creature, this movie wasn’t bred for looks.

First published in the Herald, May 1985

Malone didn’t direct another theatrical feature until House from Haunted Hill in 1999, which I have not seen. He followed with feardotcom, a movie in which the eponymous website’s actual address was Awesome. Somehow it starred Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea, and Stephen Dorff, and was set in New York City but filmed, needless to say, in Luxembourg.