Attack of the Beast Creatures (Review)
Attack of the Beast Creatures
Directed by Michael Stanley
Written by Robert A. Hutton
Here we have an oddity from the depths of the VHS era, a film that still hasn’t been released on DVD and might one day sink into the sands of time. A movie that has some of the oddest monsters in cinema. A group of people trapped on an uncharted island are attacked by little red creature dolls moved or tossed at them by off-camera hands (if they even move at all in the scenes!) But before the people get attacked, they have to walk. And walk. And walk. They walk so much as so little happens, the title should have been Stroll on an Island, and Maybe Some Beast Creatures Attack Later. I was expecting an awesome time of people getting attacked by dolls, but instead it was a constant bore even as the bodies started to pile up. The action is not constant but just little spurts of interest. Still, the scenes of the creatures running, attacking, and getting tossed around by the actors is why we are here, and it looks goofy enough that the sequences can be ever so fun! We’ll be including some samples for your viewing pleasure later in the review, as it is impossible to accurately describe the creatures’ movement, you just have to see it.
The Beast Creatures themselves are just a bunch of dolls, as stated earlier. Dozens and dozens of the little buggers infest the island. They are the entire reason to watch the film. You cannot pretend that the characters are interesting, or that people getting killed by acid is exciting or worthy of a movie on itself. The characters are just boring as all get out. Almost no character development and what little is done is awkward and conveyed unconvincingly by performances that wouldn’t cut it in third grade plays. Only John Vichiola as Mr. Morgan has any personality that isn’t outshown by the trees in the background. More extreme personalities would have made the film more interesting, there is a reason reality shows recruit crazy people. The long sequences of boring characters eating berries? Classic cinema. Classic like the Zapruder film! But in this case, an assassin’s bullets (or the second shooter’s!) would save us from a mess, not create one. Someone some day will take this film, edit out half of the first hour, and then release the perfect 50 minute film for the world to enjoy. Until that fateful day, we are stuck here, and must deal with the film as it is. That means we have to deal with the people in addition to the Beast Creatures. So let’s get to dealing with them, and not waste time with padding like the film tries to.
Somewhere in the North Atlantic – May 1920
Thank you, text screen.
While the credits and a low-noted score play, they are inter-spliced with a sinking ship, a lifeboat of survivors, and the lifeboat drifts away from the other lifeboats. At this point we haven’t been introduced to any of the characters, and even can’t get a good glimpse of them thanks to the bad lighting. By bad I mean it is all natural light, but must have been filmed near dusk as it is pretty darn dark. One character is a crotchety old man named Mr. Morgan, who sleeps through his turn to watch for ships. He will spend most of the film being a big jerk. Unfortunately, much of the rage we should be feeling towards his character is instead directed at the film for being so slow paced. That also means we have to endure multiple instances of grumpy old man scenes and nothing to save us for the longest time. The rest of the lifeboat is filled up with pretty much the entire cast (except a woman who drowns in the beginning and two sailors at the end of the movie) although at this point (except for Mr. Morgan) we don’t really know who is who. One of the passengers is named Mr. Bruin, who is badly wounded and needs medical attention.
Eventually the boat lands upon a mysterious island. But not Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island. Thanks to camera angles, we know that someone or something is watching them come ashore. As Mr. Bruin is dying and can’t move, they leave him near the shore to go back for later after they get a look around the island. John Trieste is the highest ranking member of the crew, so he is the de facto leader of the group, with crewmate Case serving under him. They help direct the group to go inland to look for food and water. There is a forced conversation where we find out Mr. Morgan was on the boat to go recruit a doctor to help his paralyzed wife. I guess at one point he wasn’t a bitter old man, at least enough to have attracted a spouse. The film also makes the character we are supposed to hate also the only sympathetic character, which is a big mistake.
Some berries are found, and Philip and Mrs. Gordon spend some time eating the berries. A lot of time eating the berries. Too much time eating the berries. There are also lots of shots of characters walking and a few attempts at conversations that sound like they had to be looped in later due to sound problems (probably due to crunchy leaves in the forest environment.) The characters are stomping around a forest somewhere, but the dialogue is determined to tell us it is somewhere that has unusually hot weather like the tropics despite the island being in the Northern Atlantic. This isn’t dealt with that much after being mentioned, but could have led to a whole side plot where they were brought to the island for a specific magic purpose, but there is nothing like that. Why have the script longer than three pages? Someone locates a stream, a stream where the producer/director/star put some dry ice in so it is smoking. That doesn’t matter to Pat, who runs right up to the water to take a drink, only to find out that the water is really super concentrated acid, and Pat is soon dissolved to the bone in a screaming, bloody mess. John orders Philip and the women to pick berries for everyone while the men bury Pat, which they do under a big pile of rocks. Why does Philip get to help pick berries? Either he is the token male to guard the females, or it is because he’s fat. He doesn’t do a good job watching, as something takes a nip out of Mrs. Gordon’s hand.
After Pat is buried, John and Case go back to check on Mr. Bruin, despite Mr. Morgan complaining to them. John yells at Morgan (unconvincingly) and heads to Mr. Bruin, but find he is now a skeleton! And not in a good way, he’s dead! John and Case decide to not tell the rest of the people that Mr. Bruin was skeletonized so they don’t start freaking out. The people already have to deal with acid streams and Mr. Morgan, so skeletonized people will probably push them over the edge into madness. Or make them wander around the forest for a while longer, boring the audience until they start to panic and lose hope. Good thing John and Case are looking out for us, the viewers at home.
They set fire for the night, and Philip notices John and Case are on edge, they tell him, and as Philip is a vet he says that he’s never seen an animal bite like the one on Mrs. Gordon’s hand. Morgan spends the entire night complaining, making everyone wish he was “accidentally” tossed overboard when they were still on the high seas. The characters go through what little character development we have, with Diane revealing she likes to whittle because her dad did it. She and John kiss (I guess whittling is just THAT hot!) but are interrupted by a complaining Mr. Morgan. He’s probably mad he isn’t getting any action, as this is 80 years before Viagra.
They take turns on watch, and Cathy is up when she notices an ever-increasing amount of glowing eyes in the forest watching them. Suddenly she’s bit on the back, as the Beast Creatures attack! Someone starts tossing the dolls at the actors, who must now pretend the immobile objects are attacking them, and writhe around like they are struggling. You may have seen similar situations in films like Hobgoblins. One of the creatures is accidentally tossed in the fire by the off-camera Beast Creature Thrower. Some swing in on vines like Tarzan, despite the forest being a New England forest which doesn’t have tropical vines. The creatures bite everyone in the camp, Case begins beating them with sticks, and John smashes one that runs right towards him with the goofy running sounds the creatures make. The creatures are still press on their biting-spree, Cathy is too traumatized to fight back, and Morgan is bit in the leg. Finally, the creatures pull back, and Mr. Morgan’s leg is hurt bad. Cathy gets out of her catatonic state to start ripping her dress to make a tourniquet.
By the next morning, we see the creatures pushing the lifeboat out to sea. Morgan’s leg is worse, but he is still alive. The group then starts to walk. And walk. And walk. They are being watched all this time by the Beast Creatures, who occasionally run up and take a chunk out of one of them, then scamper off. If the rest of the movie was just the characters getting slowly nibbled to death it might be entertaining just to see them all suffer slowly, but the film can’t even deliver on my thirst of vengeance against these awful, boring people. Damn you, movie! Mr. Morgan throws a rock and hits one of the creatures. For being fast and with sharp teeth, they certainly are easy to kill. More walking, and more random monster attacks.
Eventually, they take a break, and Mrs. Gordon wanders off (something you always want to do when being stalked and hunted down by killer doll people) and discovers some water. Actual water, not acid. Everyone starts to get back into high spirits after finding the water, and soon put down their guard, leaving Mrs. Gordon alone in the stream where she has an ever-increasing amount of Beast Creatures standing in a nearby tree watching her. Standing because they are immobile dolls, but eventually they attack! The rest of the group is also attacked by other Beast Creatures. More doll tossing! I love it! The score decides it will make some weird metallic notes each time one of the Beast Creatures is thrown away or killed by the group. This odd synth-ish soundtrack choice was surprisingly common in 80’s B-movies, as getting your friend who dabbles with the keyboard to do the score for a six-pack was very economical. This fight is somewhat interesting, but we’ve seen most of it before. After a brief lull, wave two hits, and the cast is fighting off more dolls thrown at them from off-screen. Eventually the dust settles and the dolls retreat, but Mrs. Gordon is dead. She died of doll poisoning. The shot of her dead, lying in the stream with dead Beast Creatures all around her would be tragic or emotional in any other film, but this one goes against the grain and manages to make it sterile and devoid of any feelings except relief that one less boring character will annoy the audience.
The rest decide they need to move on, to get off the island. They are heading to the boat at the beach, I guess, except they walked less than a day in one direction, and instead of going straight back, are going on some weird random path that has them go by all new landmarks. More brilliant leadership from this band of losers. Thanks to this new strategy, we get more scenes of them walking. And walking. And walking. Enough with the damn walking! Mr. Morgan starts to get delusional, he attacks Diane thinking she is a Beast Creature, and then starts to run, his mouth foaming. I guess leg injuries give you LSD fits and super-rabies. John chases after him and in doing so they pass by the skeleton of another unfortunate island traveler. Beast Creatures must not like bones, or marrow, and also ritualistically put bones back together of the people they eat. Eventually Mr. Morgan runs into an acid pond, and is soon dissolved into a skeleton. No wonder Mr. Morgan was so cranky, someone stole his skeleton and replaced it with one of those high school display skeletons, complete with the detachable top of the skull!
Now for something new, more walking! Thanks, movie, I was getting mildly entertained for a second there. But we are back on track for the dull stupor of Attack of the Beast Creatures. Case Quinn manages to almost fall off a cliff, it is like he didn’t have enough practice walking in the many many scenes where he was walking earlier! When a character fails at walking in a film that is almost 90% walking, that is just a complete failure of a film. The group gets near a rock formation, and hears some weird noises at the top. Being on the island all this time, they cannot recognize the sound of the Beast Creatures, despite the fact the noise is very apparent to anyone else who is watching the film. The characters think it is a swarm of bees! So they all go to take a look. At this point I am ready to hunt down the cast and force them to watch just the walking scenes for 30 hours at gunpoint. That should leave them nice and dead. For those of you who were put off by the walking, we got something worse about to happen. “Rock climbing, Joel!” Yes, the cast will be climbing rocks to get to the top.
At the top, the group sees an amazing sight. Amazing because it is one of the few creative things to happen in the film. The Beast Creatures are hard at worship at an Idol. And Idol made out of cardboard! Because they are dolls, most of them are praying while still, but a few are shaken by wires or something to make them wiggle. This sight puts off the group enough the want to head to the boat now. Why didn’t you just head straight for the boat in the first place? What was this crazy side-quest to nowhere? What the heck, movie? The Beast Creatures praying noise stops, as they have been alerted to the group and are now coming to get them. Run! No more walking, it is all running! And running. And running! Philip trips on a vine trap, and gets impaled by a spear! He’s not dead, but can’t run to the beach anymore, and the film has shown something else creative to the audience’s surprise. John stays with Philip, while he sends the girls and Case Quinn ahead to the boat. They get to the beach, but as we all recall, the boat is gone. It looks like they are trapped, and hopefully will die.
The two remaining girls get menaced by several Beast Creatures, and make plans to do something, but the writer couldn’t be bothered to make it clear what they are planning to do. They get swarmed, anyway. Philip is dying with John near him, and John must have gone deaf to not hear the girls screaming so close to him. Case Quinn sees something at sea, and gets excited. But the producers couldn’t afford to film a period boat, or even some stock footage of one, so we don’t get to see it ever. The girls are still being attacked, and as Quinn runs back, he falls in a pit (Quinn just can’t get that walking thing down pat. Maybe more practice will help!) and Beast Creatures encircle the opening and then fall in on him. The girls are still being attacked, and Quinn tries to climb out of the pit but falls back in. Diane is killed by the Beast Creatures, but John manages to arrive and save Cathy. He smashes the Beast Creatures that are chowing down on Diane as well. John is a regular hero, if you like your heroes a day late and a dollar short. John also has flashbacks of all the bad things that happened on the island, in case you forgot or dozed off during the long walking sequences. I hate rapid flashback sequences at the end of films to show the emotional impact, they always suck. They then find Quinn dead.
Next is the most elaborate Beast Creature running sequence in the film, as several are chasing after the two survivors to the beach. John sees a ship coming, sending a life boat. We actually see the life boat, unlike the ship, because that is much cheaper to rent. Why the two sailors are bothering to come to the island is not explained at all, they just decide to go on a rescue mission after maybe seeing some guy briefly before. John is attacked by Beast Creatures one last time as he swims out to the boat, but Cathy helps pull the creatures off, and they get on the lifeboat. One sailor asks “What were those things?” and the movie ends. No answer, and no need to. The credits roll, and we see that the film was put out by Obelisk Motion Pictures, and Obelisk just happened to be the name of the lifeboat in the beginning of the film. Nice. It’s also nice that this is the only film from Obelisk Motion Pictures. Also, after the credits end, the synth music that was playing keeps going, not wanting to stop and deprive the world of its synthy goodness. Oh, synth music, why won’t you quit? The rest of the film was a complete phone in, you should be, too.
Well, we end with a question: Which was the most wooden, unbelievable characters, the humans or the Beast Creatures?
Rated 4/10 (Mysterious bite, random sailors x2(spot the director!), Beast Creature!)
Rated 4/10 (Mysterious bite, random sailors x2(spot the director!), Beast Creature!)
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