Attack Of The Beast Creatures

Director: Michael Stanley       
Robert Nolfi, Julia Rust, Robert Lengyel

What on earth ever happened to the lovable bad movie? I'm talking about movies that are not just badly made, but are entertaining to watch in their badness, movies like Plan 9 From Outer Space or Robot Monster. These days, if we get a bad sci-fi movie, it comes as something like Battlefield Earth. Oh, there may be a few unintended laughs to be found here and there in the worst that comes from Hollywood and elsewhere these days - even Battlefield Earth did make me smirk a few times - but they are isolated moments in what is otherwise dreck at its worse. These days, we are lucky to get something of the magnitude of Troll 2 every few years. So what happened? Well, it's true that a number of lovable bad movies need years to "mature" before they can be appreciated by a new generation, but even then the crop has been pretty feeble in moviemaking for the past few decades. After a little thought, the answer to this pressing question seem to be more or less the same reason why I felt the nostalgic attitude of Beyond Atlantis didn't work: Today's audiences, weaned on a diet of irony and satire, won't likely be tickled by something modern-day that has what seems to be a patronizing attitude towards them. And while many of the movies being made today are as stupid and simple-minded as classic so-bad-they're-good movies, these new movies are a different kind of "dumb", one that all the same satisfies the mass audience of now. It's a "dumb" that often keeps down a potentially playful and imaginative spirit in order to get straight to delivering the goods.

The ironic thing is that the bad movies coming from the golden age of cinema - even those that are so bad they are bad -  are, more often than not, easier to sit though than the typical bad movie that's made today. It's that playful and imaginative spirit that often gives even the dreariest of creaky tales a certain spark. I feel I should also note that many of the best genre movies that have been made in the past few decades have had that spark, that sense of fun. Can you imagine Raiders Of The Lost Ark without that spirit? (I can - The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, and The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor.) Boondock Saints had the spirit. And so do the modern so-bad-they're-good movies Troll 2 and Sinbad Of The Seven Seas. If we are going to try and resurrect the lovably bad movie genre, we need to loosen up and become playful and imaginative once again. But that won't be enough - we also need to retrain our writers and directors. It won't be enough to train our writers and directors to be merely incompetent - that's already happening, as you can see for yourself at any multiplex. They need to be trained so that (1) their incompetence seems to come from insanity, and (2) that you get the sense they were really thinking they were doing a good job. That's what makes a lovably bad movie - one that gets you to repeatedly think: "I can't believe human minds thought that was a good idea!"

If you want more instruction on what is needed to make a lovably bad movie, an excellent way would be to personally seek out the movie being reviewed this week, Attack Of The Beast Creatures. I should immediately point out that this particular movie is not in the league of Troll 2 or Sinbad. It has more of its share of clunky moments that will seriously bore and irritate any viewer. But that's what makes it a valuable instrument of learning. Right next to these clunky moments that don't work, you see examples of what does work in making a lovably bad movie; a good part of learning what to do involves learning what not to do, after all. Besides, as clunky as it may get, you'll still find more entertainment in it than in many serious-minded movies. In fact, the laughs start even before you watch the movie. Think about the title for a second. Uh, couldn't something in that title be considered kind of redundant? Next, consider the fact that the movie was released by Western World Video. Who? Well, they were only around for five minutes or so, but they made their mark by releasing movies like Claws, Criminally Insane, Octaman, Flesh Feast, Portrait Of A Hitman, and Invitation To Hell. So it's pretty safe to assume at this point that what we are about to see is not going to be of the highest quality.

That feeling happens to be reinforced when the first few seconds of the Attack Of The Beast Creaturesmovie start playing, with the proclamation of exploitation legend Joseph Brenner being the presenter of the movie. My research suggests this may have been the last movie he was every involved with. In fact, my research also revealed it was the last movie for all the cast members as well, who were also making their motion picture debut. Some of the actors listed in these opening credits are also seen in the technical credits, another sign that this is going to be amateur hour. Another sign being that almost all of their last names are names like "Nolfi", "Lengyel", "Murgalo", and "Firgelewski" - and as you probably know, the more any domestic movie is packed with names that you've never heard of before, the greater chance it's going to be amateur hour. Attack Of The Beast Creatures is no exception. It starts off with some of the worst day-for-night photography you've ever seen, making it almost impossible to make out an occupied lifeboat in the foreground about half a mile away from the completely dark silhouette of a half-sunken ocean liner. The lifeboat occupants are seen fishing people out of the water; these drowning people must have been very strong swimmers, especially since we see that the ocean current is pushing the lifeboat back towards the sinking liner. I'm still wondering how the lifeboat managed to get so far from the liner despite the current, because the occupants of the lifeboat don't seem to have any oars.

Despite their drifting back towards the liner, one of the occupants exclaims (because the movie is too cheap to actually show it), "We're drifting away from the other lifeboats!" Already numbed by the movie's stupidity, they quickly fall asleep, and are awoken the next morning when their lifeboat beaches itself on an island, an island almost completely covered with a lush and thick forest. They are dismayed to find one of their own with a severe wound, taking the time to make him comfortable on a sheltered part of the beach. But it seems they find medical care boring, because they all decide to leave him there and explore the island. Where have they drifted to, after that long night on the lifeboat? "I don't know - Greenland?" answers one of the liner's crew as they push through the thick branches and undergrowth of the forest. It might sound implausible, but this guy is shown to know his stuff, since he later states that they sank in a frequented trans-Atlantic shipping line. Wherever they are, we soon find out they are in a dangerous place. There are acid pools all over the island. One guy, seemingly without the sense of smell, thinks one such pool is of water, and dunks his head in. He also seems to be deprived of the sense of touch, because he lets his face get sizzled in the acid for several seconds before taking it out. His spaghetti sauce-covered face screams with pain before he falls back into the pool, dead. The aforementioned fearless crew member comes across his half-submerged comrade sizzling in the acid. He sadly pays his respects by silently kneeling down and touching the guy's shoe.

Of course, this is not the biggest danger that the castaways find on the island. That come from those beast creatures, the attacks of which and the castaways' attempted escape from them concerning the remainder of the movie. So, what is a beast creature? Well, from what I see here, there is a strong possibility they are distant cousins of Zuni fetish dolls, one of which was seen in the classic made-for-TV movie Trilogy Of Terror. They are about the same height, also have long black hair and white eyes, though the eyes of the beast creatures uniformly glow in the dark like flashlight bulbs. Instead of having brown wooden bodies, they have paper-mache bodies the color of watercolor red, which visibly starts coming off when they get submerged in water. They have bouts of paralysis, seeing how in many shots they are perfectly still as they stand on the ground or perch on branches as they look on at the horrified castaways. Occasionally they'll get help from unseen humans on the island who will attach them to vines and release them so they can swing in Tarzan-style, or simply throw them from out of camera range onto the castaways. They do run pretty fast once they break out of their paralysis, though they still need rods under their arms to pump them up and down the way humans use their arms while running. One thing really amazing about them is seen several times during these running scenes when the camera goes below waist-level; from the looks of it, they are able to run without moving their legs at all.

I'm pretty sure I am correct in thinking some of you are feeling that there is no way that the filmmakers could have been serious in their intentions, with all these ridiculous and unbelievably incompetent things happening. But as hard as I looked at the movie, I couldn't find any evidence to suggest that. In fact, there's plenty of evidence that suggests the contrary. For example, instead of setting the movie in the present-day with brain-dead youths, as you often find in movies like this, the events actually take place in 1920 with a cast consisting of people who are middle-aged or older - with more mature characters, there's instantly less opportunity for winking at the audience. Yet as it is, Attack Of The Beast Creatures is probably funnier than had the movie been intentionally designed to be a horror comedy. Intentional comedy certainly can be funny at times, but it's hard to beat ranging from stumbled lines of dialogue that were not reshot ("This should hold until we can fit... uh... fix it properly") to acid-stripped skeletons that have a visible removable top on their skulls. And the sight of several castaways fighting off attacking beast creatures that are not only not moving, but are obviously fastened to their clothing by artificial means... it's pure lovably bad movie gold.

More specifically, it's pure gold surrounded by a lot of worthless rock. Well, kindergarten through high school probably taught you that not all learning is fun, so here's the inevitable boring part of the lesson on bad movies. More precisely, what things in a bad movie can prevent it from being lovably bad. Attack Of The Beast Creatures has two such things, each used repeatedly enough so that this part of the lesson will have assuredly sunken in by the end of the movie. The first is padding; between bouts of beast creature insanity, we are treated to the castaways walking... walking... walking... and walking. It's not just bad that they are doing nothing but walk in these sequences, but they walk at an excruciatingly slow pace, evaporating any possible energy that may have been remaining. The second of these things is whenever the movie decides to be totally serious and stop being playful and imaginative. That's when the castaways become sensitive to each other, talking about their lives and each other with revelations that serve no purpose or bring any new insight in these people you'd never invite to a party. But as you could probably see, this flaw is technically an offshoot of the one previously mentioned. And after reading this entire review from start to finish, you also could probably see that movies like this one were what coupons and 2 for 1 days at your local video store were made for.

(Posted November 10, 2016)

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See also: Blood Freak, Elves, Troll 2