Saturday, July 18, 2015

#211: Attack of the Beast Creatures (Michael Stanley, 1985)

Made in 1983, this extremely low budget Connecticut-filmed micro-indie doesn't have a whole lot going for it, besides its fantastically redundant title, but it powers through all its limitations and weaknesses with energy and pizzazz. This is not a good movie, or even a barely competent one, but I admire its plucky charm and just as plucky lack of charm. Somehow, these people made this movie and it exists, and that is something.
Set in 1920 for no real discernible reason other than to put some of the men in tuxedos and the women in old-fashioned evening gowns and flapper-wear, Attack of the Beast Creatures begins with a group of survivors on a lifeboat pulling some other survivors out of the water and trying and failing to rescue a few others. The surviving motley crew are American passengers and employees of a ship sailing for England. The ship sank somewhere in the North Atlantic, and our survivors are adrift on the ocean looking for any sign of help. They eventually make their way to a strange island where the plan is to take shelter for the night and find some food before making signal fires in the morning.
The freaky island has other plans. Despite its delicious berries and refreshing streams with fresh fish, the island also contains deceptively tranquil pools of water that are actually flesh-melting acid, as one poor sucker finds out to his face-melting chagrin. The acid pools are merely the preamble to the island's premier attraction: a population of tiny, flesh-eating terrors strongly resembling bright-red versions of the killer Zuni doll that tormented Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror. These little guys have strength in numbers, and love chomping down on our collection of shipwreck survivors.
And that's pretty much it. The rest of the movie is a series of attacks on the humans by the tiny doll monsters as our ever-decreasing crew attempts to make it back to their boat and get the eff out of Dodge.
Director Stanley and writer Robert A. Hutton make sure each character gets exactly one character trait, and they squabble, help each other, and yell and scream a lot as they fend off attack after attack by our Zuni-esque beast creatures. The acting is pretty bad across the board, though this is the only movie most of our cast and crew has ever made, so that's pretty understandable. The sound and lighting are also fairly poor, but our filmmakers give it all they've got, adding spooky electronic music to underscore the action and quick cutting and camera movements, POV shots, and goofy sounds to give the otherwise fairly static beast creatures a sense of menace and movement. I also enjoyed their glowing eyes in the dark while one of our characters stood watch at the campfire.
I don't know the origins of this film, but judging by the number of Huttons in the credits, I assume this was a largely family-financed and produced labor of love that accidentally stumbled into limited distribution. The 1980s VHS release is long out of print, and no official DVD exists. Don't hold your breath for a Criterion release. The best way to see Attack of the Beast Creatures now is YouTube. As of this writing two separate accounts have uploaded the whole thing. It's not a good movie, but it is a good time, and I couldn't help but smile through most of it. 

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