"And you knew about this?"
Stan Winston is one of the most popular special effects guys working in Hollywood today. His specialty is in making big, drooling beasties and cool looking aliens/cyborgs/freaks/monsters. Winston's Oscar winning work has been featured in such movies as Aliens, Jurassic Park, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Relic, End Of Days, and A.I. Artificial Intelligence, just to name a scant few. In 2001, Winston released a line of detailed action figures inspired by the 1950s Arkoff monster movies. What other way to follow-up that success then by making those action figures into full fledged feature films? Under the great banner name of "Creature Features" (and co-produced by the legendary Samuel Arkoff and his son Lou), Winston and some talented filmmakers have put together five films of terror that will be released on DVD via Columbia TriStar. The first of these spine-tingling titles is the fish-out-of-water-then-gets-cap tured-by-sailors-then-eats-sailers-after-turning-into-a-monster tale She Creature!
Facts of the Case
Angus (Rufus Sewell, Dark City) runs a traveling carnival sideshow in the early 1900s. Along with his sexy girlfriend (Carla Gugino, Spy Kids) as his faux-mermaid, Angus is eager for some fame and fortune. After befriending an old sailor (Aubrey Morris, Tales From The Crypt Presents: Bordello Of Blood) and hearing his tale of woe, the old man treat's Angus to a glimpse at one of the most astonishing and amazing things on earth: a captive, real life mermaid (Rya Kihlstedt, Deep Impact)! Seeing this as his ticket to the good life, Angus and a few of his friends kidnap the mermaid and head out to sea for America with their new found prize. But this is no ordinary mermaid—this is the she creature! At first appearing docile and sexy, the mermaid soon turns out to be more than the ship's crew bargained for—and much more deadly than anyone could have imagined! On a restless sea, the crew is now trapped with a monster that makes the Creature from the Black Lagoon look like Kermit the Frog! Get ready for horror that will drown your very soul!
Well, I just have to tell you that She Creature was a pleasant surprise. With some fancy production values and a decent cast, She Creature is a genuine treat for horror fans. I don't know what I was expecting when I sat down to watch this movie, but I was pleased tenfold to find this to be a stylish, fun movie that doesn't take itself too seriously.
I know very little about the mermaid legend. I actually saw The Little Mermaid in the theaters back in 1989, but from my recollections Ariel never tore the head off of a sailor and ate his liver. This is a shame, since I thought it would have really propelled a stronger narrative. While it hasn't been on the forefront of my mind, I think that I've always subconsciously wanted to see a horror movie with a killer mermaid in it. Mr. Winston, I tip my hat to you for getting She Creature onto celluloid.
She Creature utilizes the age old "get a lot of people on a boat with a monster and see what happens" story. You know what I'm talking about; Virus, Deep Rising, and Deep Blue Sea all used this same idea to various extents. Nothing is more fun than watching people run around a huge barge while being attacked by a gruesome monster (ah, reminds me of my post-prom date on Lake Michigan). Heads roll, arms roll, legs roll…sushi lovers beware! The California roll has turned and its next course is going to be you!
The cast of She Creature is above par for this type of straight-to-video fare. My favorite cast member was Rufus Sewell as the deceptive Angus. What a poor soul this guy is; even though you know he's gonna get his just dessert in the end, you still kinda end up liking the guy. Carla Gugino as his hubba-hubba woman is also pretty good, parlaying her boobs for all they're worth (the camera often lingers on her breasts just because it can). Gil Bellows (The Shawshank Redemption, Ally McBeal) pops up for a quick cameo, though it's rather pointless. The real star of the film is Rya Kihlstedt as the monstrous mermaid. Pouty and alluring, Kihlstedt receives the thankless role of swimming around naked in a tank with a rubber fin wrapped around her crotch while people stare at her from the deck (ah, that also reminds me of my prom, but that's a much more terrifying and altogether weirder tale than She Creature).
If the movie has one true downfall it's that we don't get to see enough of the creature—the filmmakers smartly save the beast for the last part of the film, but even then I didn't feel I saw enough to justify the wait. Come on guys, if you've got a cool creature expose it for all it's worth! Otherwise, this is a goofy little horror movie that answers the age old question "if I find a mermaid that's foretold to be a killer monster, should I take it on a boat in the raging sea?" The answer, of course, is "yes."
She Creature is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Columbia has done a very good job at making sure that this transfer looks clean and solid with only the slightest amount of edge enhancement present. The color patterns all look bright with the black levels even and well saturated. A small amount of artifacting shows up, but it's not enough to get worried about. Overall, this is a good looking picture for its low budget origins.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround in English and French. This is a decent track that utilizes some directional effects, though not as often as I'd have liked. The front and rear speakers are all used with some ambient noise, though normally this seems few and far between. The middle-to-end scenes is where the surround sound tends to kick in. Also included on this disc are subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai.
For a direct-to-video title, She Creature certainly has been given its fair share of extra features. Starting off the disc is a commentary track by producer/effects guy Stan Winston and effects supervisor Shane Mahan. This is a very nice track that features a lot of information on the beginnings of the "Creature Feature" series (those great movies of the '50s), stories from the production ("She Creature" was not the film's original title), and a lot of funny banter between Mahan and Winston. Up next is a short two-minute or so featurette on the making of She Creature. Sadly, this featurette doesn't give a lot of information, only sporting a few interviews by director/writer Sebastian Gutierrez and some very brief behind-the-scenes shots.
Finally, there are a few photo galleries with images featuring drawings, make-up effects and production stills, five trailers for various Columbia TriStar horror movies, and some select filmographies on the cast and crew.
Here's a little bit of trivia info: one of the producers of She Creature (and the following "Creature Features") is none other than actress Colleen Camp (Apocalypse Now, Wayne's World, Die Hard With A Vengeance). As for the movie, it's a hoot and easily worth your time as a rental.
A shiver-me-timbers good time. Not the perfect horror movie, but certainly not the worst. Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track by Stan Winston and Shane Mahan
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