movie, movie review

January 16th, 2017 Movie – Creature (1998)


So, we have come to the second of several Peter Benchley movies that I decided to buy over the holidays. Now in 1994, I remember buying Peter Benchley’s latest book, White Shark. I honestly don’t know what drew me to the book more; the fact that it was a Peter Benchley book or the cool cover design on it. Either way, I wound up reading that book in a day, then decided to re-read it again a few days later. When I heard that they were making a 2 part TV movie event, similar to what they did with The Beast, I was a little concerned but hopeful that it would turn out good. Now it is time to see if those hopes panned out as I watch today’s movie, Creature (1998).

The plot: At a secret Naval research facility in the Caribbean in 1972, Lt. Richland, the officer overseeing the project, flies down from Washington to meet with the lead scientist, Dr. Ernest Bishop. Richland questions Bishop’s request for more money and Bishop has his assistant, Peniston, open containment tank to release several dolphin/shark hybrids. Bishop explains to Richland that he was able to create the creatures and due to their retaining 41% of their dolphin brain, they are able to be trained. However, during a training exercise, the sounds excite a secret experiment in another tank, which manages to break through it’s gate and enter the training tank, killing the other hybrids. As Peniston and several other workers try to shock it back to it’s enclosure, 2 workers, as well as Dr. Bishop, are dragged into the tank and killed by the creature. When the creature breaks through into another pipe, Peniston realizes that it is trying to head out to sea. He races outside and manages to trap it in a cage, then gets in a boat and tows it out to sea, with Richland ordering him to kill whatever it is. Peniston heads out to the middle of the ocean but can’t bring himself to kill the creature so he simply cuts the lines, causing the cage to sink to the ocean floor. 25 years later, marine biologist Dr. Simon Chase and his assistant Tall Man are keeping track of a great white shark when they notice it snared by some fishermen on Ben Mediera’s boat. Chase pulls up next to Ben’s boat and tries to convince them to let the shark go but when they don’t, he dives in to free the shark. Ben sees what Chase is doing and considers shooting him with a spear gun but Tall Man warns him not to so Ben simply pilots his boat away after Chase cuts the line. After Ben leaves, Chase and Tall Man head to the main island, passing by Adam Puckett, who is out treasure hunting with his girlfriend. Seeing Chase go by, Adam decides to follow after him but his anchor snags onto the cage and as he brings it up, he unknowingly lets the creature out. Meanwhile, Ben is having his helper set up a chum line in order to lure the great white to them but when the kid drops his headphones into the water, Ben yells at the kid and goes to retrieve them, only to have the creature drag him into the water and kill him. On the main island, Chase and Tall Man head to the airport to pick up his son Max and his ex-wife, Dr. Amanda Mayson, and her sea lion Robin. As they load the crate with Robin onto Chase’s boat, they see a local crazy man named Werewolf howling at them as he passes by. Max decides to go exploring the town and runs into a group of teenagers, who pressure him into jumping off a cliff in order to test his bravery. Meanwhile, Chase and Amanda are walking through town when they are approached by police Chief Gibson, who informs Chase of Ben’s death and asks him to take a look at the body. Looking at the body, Chase says the great white didn’t do it but accidentally insults Gibson while trying to ask him not to hunt it. Further down the beach, Puckett is trying to sell the cage he found but Werewolf seemingly recognizes the cage and crawls inside it until Puckett chases him away. Later, Max asks his parents to let Elizabeth, the chief’s daughter, show him around town and they agree but after he leaves, Werewolf approaches them and starts babbling but he quickly leaves when Tall Man shows up. Chase heads back to the island his lab is on and helps get Amanda situated. Amanda asks him about the place and Chase tells her that the navy told him the used it to test how to place mines on ships. Back on the main island, several kids are jumping off the cliff and when Max and Kimo, the boy who taunted him into jumping, jump off the cliff but while they are in the water, the creature attacks and kills Kimo but Max manages to escape. Chase, Amanda, and Tall Man go to pick up Max and Gibson is mad that there are now two dead bodies that he feels are the shark’s doing and as they are leaving, Puckett asks Chase about why he didn’t tell anyone about the shark. As they are heading back to the lab, Chase examines the tooth that was found on Kimo’s body and discovers that it has roots, which Amanda says are a mammalian property. When they pick up the great white on the sonar, they notice something else nearby and Chase and Amanda see the creature circling the boat before heading towards the great white. As they all look for the creature, the creature suddenly attacks them and Chase manages to cut off a claw as it tries to get on board. The next day, Puckett is shown to have killed the great white and is celebrating on the dock. Chase tries explaining to Gibson about the creature, showing him the claw, but he refuses to listen to Chase. As Chase holds up the claw, he sees Werewolf staring at it and asks if he recognizes it but Werewolf runs off. Chase tries telling everyone there is still something in the water and when Max suggests cutting open the shark to see if it was what killed Kimo and Ben, Puckett refuses and Gibson agrees with him. Chase tries calling the Navy about what is going on and the Navy says they will call him back, then contact Richland, who is now an Admiral. Richland calls Chase back and asks why he is interested in Shark’s Tooth Island, the location of the naval base, and Chase informs him of the deaths and his beliefs that it has something to do with Bishop’s research and Richland tells him to do nothing and he will handle it. That night, Werewolf makes his way to Shark’s Tooth Island and uses a horn to try and lure the creature towards him so he can kill it but when he falls out of his boat, Chase jumps in the water and rescues him before the creature gets them. They take Werewolf inside the lab and he eventually falls asleep and Chase believes that Werewolf knows what happened on the Island. Meanwhile, Richland boards a helicopter with a team of SEALS and heads towards the island. The next day, Chase and Tall Man head out to hunt for the creature and find some of Puckett’s traps, which have been torn apart. When they return to the lab, they find Werewolf trying to open a hatch and when Chase opens it, he discovers a secret passage. Chase and Amanda explore the passage, which is partially flooded, and they soon find an old bunker, which was Bishop’s actual research lab. Chase finds a book containing Bishop’s notes but puts it down to go find Amanda, who had wandered off. He finds her outside the bunker, where she has gound some of Puckett’s traps as well as a glass jar that contains an embryo. Suddenly, the creature shows up and claws Amanda but gets tangled up in the traps. Chase and Amanda run for it, with Chase grabbing the notes as he leaves the bunker but as they make it back onto the passage that isn’t flooded, the creature is unable to breath and ends up suffocating. Max climbs down to look for his parent and sees the creature, then Amanda heads back up the ladder. Suddenly, the creature begins adapting to breath on land, while also strengthening it’s legs and arms and it begins approaching Chase and Max, who quickly climb up the ladder and seal the hatch. Chase and the others get on the boat and head back to the main island but as Max goes to tie off the ship, Max is dragged off the dock but the creature doesn’t kill him and Chase is able to drag him back onto the dock, then stares at the creature as it swims away. Amanda is taken to the doctor’s office, who remarks that her wounds are claw marks, which no animal on the island is capable of making, but when Chase tries to tell Gibson, he ignores him. Amanda decides to stay and help Chase but they send Max back home. As Chase and Tall Man repair their boat, they see the helicopter carrying Richland and his team flying to Shark’s Tooth Island and they head over there with Amanda and Werewolf. Meanwhile, Puckett has gone out to try and hunt the creature but as he is reeling in one of his trap lines, the line gets stuck and he dives down to free it but ends up being killed by the creature. Chase and the others reach the island but as Chase, Amanda, and Tall Man head inside the lab, Richland and his men have them escorted outside, despite Chase’s warnings about the creature. Meanwhile, Elizabeth goes to the airport and catches Max before he boards his plane and asks him to help find her cousin and they head to the old rum factory outside of town. At the lab, Werewolf has managed to hide among the machinery but Richland sees him and recognizes him as Penistonand confronts him, saying he has been cleaning up his mess for 25 years. Richland sends his SEAL team into the passageway, but is surprised to see the lab that was built down there, and when they find no sign of the creature, they set traps for it and leave. Meanwhile, Max and Elizabeth reach the rum factory but find some sort of tribal ceremony going on outside it and are told to leave. As they make their way through the marsh, they see Puckett’s head float to the surface and run for it, only to see the creature hanging upside down in a tree. Back at the lab, Chase and Amanda examine the papers in the lab and realize what he was doing but Richland heads down there and grabs all the papers from them and orders them destroyed in order to cover up his involvement. Back in the jungle, Max and Elizabeth manage to make it to Tall Man’s house and ask his girlfriend Tauna for help. She doesn’t believe their story about the creature but radios Tall Man to let Chase and Amanda know that Max is there, then radios the police station to let Gibson know about Elizabeth. Chase, Amanda, and Tall Man head for Tauna’s house but as the are on the radio with them, the creature attacks them. Chase yells through the radio for them to turn on everything electric but gets no response except for screaming. As the boat nears the shore, Chase grabs a spear and dives into the water and swims to shore, then runs to Tall Man’s house. When Amanda and Tall Man join him, they see no sign of Tauna or the kids but they soon reveal themselves to be hiding in the ceiling. The head to the police station to tell Gibson what happened but he still doesn’t believe Chase and when Richland shows up, asking where the marshes are, Gibson says he will show them. Knowing that Richland plans on destroying all evidence of the creature, Chase makes plans to go after them and get pictures but notices the picture of Peniston and Bishop and realizes that Peniston is Werewolf. In the marshes, the SEAL team starts getting picked off by the creature and Gibson is knocked into the marsh but is rescued by Chase while the creature attacks and kills Richland. They head back to town, and Chase makes plans to head back to the lab to kill the creature, while Gibson apologizes to Elizabeth for not believing her. On the island, they see Peniston there and Amanda starts yelling at him, asking why he didn’t kill the creature back then and Peniston says it’s a part of him, indicating that they used his blood to create it. Chase and Amanda come up with a plan and head out around the island to find where Puckett’s boat is anchored, then send Robin down there with a camera strapped to her, to explore the area. When they see an underwater cave on the monitor, they have Robin go inside but when they hear the sound of the generator coming from the cave, realize it is a way inside and Chase has Amanda call Robin back while he radios Tall Man and Max to warn them. When the creature trips the motion sensors that the SEALs placed in the tunnel, Tall Man and Peniston head down there and find the creature eating Robin. Tall Man goes to shoot it but Peniston stops him and the creature ends up wounding Tall Man. Chase and Amanda get back to the lab and Chase heads into the tunnels to help Tall Man while Peniston distracts it with the training beacon he wears around his neck. They manage to get back to the surface but Chase tells Peniston to leave the hatch open while Amanda and Max help get Tall Man to safety. As the creature climbs out of the tunnels, Chase, with Max and Peniston’s help, manages to lure the creature inside the decompression chamber but the power cuts out as the creature enters, with Chase and Peniston still inside. Peniston begins talking to the creature and tells Chase to go, saying he can’t let it die alone. As Chase closes the door, the creature approaches Peniston but then kills him and starts trying to break out of the chamber. Chase yells for Tall Man to start the generator but Tall Man collapses from his injuries and Amanda is forced to do it. With power restored, Chase activates the decompression chamber and once it is pressurized, breaks the glass window, causing explosive decompression resulting in the creature exploding. With the creature dead, Chase, Amanda, Max, and Tall Man head back to the boat to get medical treatment for their injuries.

This was a pretty decent movie and had some good moments but also a little disappointing. The acting was pretty good, with both Craig Nelson (Chase) and Kim Cattrall (Amanda) doing good jobs in their roles. It has been a while since I read the book but I know there were several changes made to the overall story in this translation. The first part being that in the book, the creature was made by Nazi scientists during WWII and was lost in the Caribbean while being transported instead of being a US Navy experiment, and there was also not an Admiral and a SEAL team trying to cover things up. Some other changes were that Max was younger and that his love interest is not the chief’s daughter, but a deaf girl he befriends on the main island, as well as the scientist that goes to work with Chase not being his ex-wife, and having 4 sea lions instead of 1. The special effects regarding the creature weren’t too bad at times but there were some instances where the creature looked too rubbery, which kind of hurt the scenes at times. As with The Beast, this also suffered from being too long, as they tried to put too much in the movie, some of which was entirely unnecessary. Not a completely bad TV movie but the book was definitely better.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5


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