Louisiana was the first U.S. state to try to boost its local economy by offering tax incentives for film productions. “Come make ya movie down hyeah in Looziana!” the state’s lawmakers said, all folksy-like. “We’ll make it cheapa for ya than it would be in Hollywood! Also, we have allygatas!” The plan worked, and many films were made in Louisiana that would have otherwise been produced elsewhere, with non-native alligators.
Of course, the downside to this strategy is that it attracts cheapskates, and cheapskates often make terrible movies, and maybe they wouldn’t have been able to make these movies at all if it weren’t for Louisiana’s assistance. So thanks a lot, Louisiana, for “Creature,” a tepid horror flick from 2011 that set a new box-office record for worst opening weekend for a movie playing on more than 1,500 screens. It made $327,000, or about nine tickets per day at each theater.
If it weren’t for that distinction, there would be nothing memorable about “Creature.” Even the title suggests indifference.
“What should we call our movie?”
“Well, it’s about a creature…”
“LET ME STOP YOU THERE!”
The handful of people who paid to see the movie probably enjoyed the opening scene, in which a nubile young lady disrobes, wades nakedly into the bayou, and gets her legs bitten off by an alligator. Who is she? Why is she skinny-dipping in a swamp? It doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter! The important thing is: boobs. Boobs, and also dismemberment.
After this remarkable instance of giving the people what they want, the movie makes the bold decision to give the people what they do not want: a rehash of the last hundred cheap horror movies they saw. Six attractive, horny young people on a road trip stop at a dilapidated country store in the boonies, where they are greeted by the customary assortment of lascivious, possum-scented hillbillies. The chief ‘billy, Chopper, is played by Sid Haig, a veteran actor whose long resume of grindhouse and exploitation films means he has probably been photographed with more naked women than any other ugly man (non-porn division). He tells the kids about Lockjaw, a half-man, half-alligator beast from local folklore that is the bayou equivalent of mythical creatures like Bigfoot and Ron Paul. The young people scoff at such notions and do not believe that Lockjaw exists, whereupon Lockjaw kills most of them, the end.
I’ve done some streamlining, but that’s the gist of it. Note how they tried to throw us off in the beginning by showing a regular ol’ alligator chompin’ that poor nude girl’s legs off. Garden-variety gators are the least of your troubles in this corner of the bayou! (Still, you should not have alligators in your garden.) The leader of the sextet of young people, Oscar (Dillon Casey), grew up ’round these parts and fills his friends in on the details of the Lockjaw legend:
Years ago, after generations of inbreeding, the only remaining members of a local swamp family called the Boutines were a brother and sister, Grimley and Caroline, who considered it their duty to procreate and continue the Boutine bloodline. Don’t worry: they got married first. Well, wouldn’t you know it, on the night of their wedding, a big white alligator hopped up out of the water and dragged Caroline off to its lair. The local mud-dwelling swamp-squatters had long told of an immortal white alligator with godlike powers, and now it had taken Grimley’s wife-sister away with nary so much as a how-do-you-do.
Is this creature Lockjaw?? NO. This is a different creature, one that pre-dates Lockjaw. You could make a movie about a fearsome, possibly divine albino alligator if you wanted to, and you could even call it “Creature.” (Or, I suppose, “Albino Alligator.”) But that’s not what this is about. See, Grimley was so mad at the super-gator that he followed it to its lair, killed it with his bare hands (!), ate it (!!), and then ate all the spare human body parts that were lying around, too, for good measure (!?!). Grimley was pissed, my friends, experiencing the kind of rage that can only lead to slaughtering a monster and dabbling in some light cannibalism. Naturally, Grimley’s actions caused him to mutate into a human-alligator-deity hybrid named Lockjaw, and he still roams the swamps to this day, eatin’ folks and whatnot.
So anyway, that’s what we’re dealing with here. Oscar and his pals drive to the Boutine house to gawk at it, then set up tents nearby to camp for the night. Whatever the original destination and purpose of their road trip was, I have forgotten it, and so have they. Everybody gets drunk and/or stoned and/and horny. Ex-Marine Niles (Mehcad Brooks) and his girlfriend Emily (Serinda Swan) sneak off to have sex in the woods. Karen (Lauren Schneider), a situational lesbian who flashed her boobs at Chopper back at the store, puts the moves on Beth (Amanda Fuller), then is interrupted by Karen’s boyfriend, Randy (Aaron Hill), who cuts a snake in half in anger. Randy was in the military, too, and cut a lot of snakes in half in Afghanistan, probably.
The huge shocking surprise is that it turns out Oscar and Karen are brother and sister — we learn this only after she performs a sex act on him — and Chopper, from back at the store, the one Karen flashed her boobs at, is their daddy! Everything is gross! You’ll never feel clean again! This has all been a carefully planned ruse to lure some dummies into the bayou as sacrifices for Lockjaw, whom the locals revere as a monster-god, like Cthulhu or Ron Paul. Also, Lockjaw wants to make a baby with someone and perpetuate his bloodline, which was already as stagnant and filthy as a Tijuana outhouse when it was just the Boutines. The gene pool has certainly not been improved any by Grimley’s ingestion of and transformation into a reptilian swamp demon.
But I get the feeling Karen was not entirely aware of the extent of her brother and daddy’s plan, as she reacts indignantly to being tied to a chair in the Boutine cabin and having her foot cut off. Perhaps she, like me, doesn’t understand why the foot thing was necessary. Lockjaw doesn’t need to be lured by fresh blood, and he would probably prefer a bride who is ambulatory. He doesn’t choose Karen anyway. There are still two other females of child-bearing age running around the woods, and Lockjaw likes to leave his options open. Even a hell-spawned man-gator beast needs to play the field.
The other huge shocking surprise is that it turns out Niles and Emily are the movie’s heroes. We assumed they were tertiary characters at best, but nope, they’re the ones who manage to survive. How do they do it?? Well, as you know from seeing other movies like this, the only way to escape from an unrelenting supernatural monster who has effortlessly slain every other character in the film is to try what everybody else tried and get lucky. To that end, Niles has a fistfight with Lockjaw and pushes him into a sinkhole in the mud, and then he and Emily run away, easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Writer-director Fred M. Andrews may have had a franchise in mind when he created “Creature.” It ends leaving the door open for further adventures of the Lockjaw-Boutine family. But instead of making another film, Andrews might find it cheaper to just go to the home of everyone who saw “Creature” and describe it to them in person.