Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Savage Creatures – review

Director: Richard Lowry

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

Vampires, zombies and aliens… oh my… oh, and cannibals. Richard Lowry throws the lot at us in a very low budget film that surpasses the budget, limitations and low grade effects to become a fun run through a grindhouse landscape.

This isn’t perfect by any stretch but with a fast pace and short (75 minute) run time it was great fun. But let’s see just what was packed into that runtime.

The film starts with some meteors passing the moon and heading for earth. We then get landscapes in a red tint, which I thought was going to be a default – sort of, this is what the meteors did – but it was a credit sequence effect and through the credits we also got flashes of spoilers from the upcoming feature. So, starting proper, a car is seen. It drives into the mountains and a snowy landscape. Inside a woman, Liz (Cean Okada), holds a cross whilst Darby (Ryan Quinn Adams) drives. When the camera goes into the back of the car a young woman is unconscious and tied up.

Cean Okada as Liz
They pull in the driveway of their house and Darby carries the girl in. They inject her and take her to a bathroom. Placing her in the bath, the girl is stabbed and then Darby chops her up with an axe. Hymns play on the radio as Liz cleans up the blood. We see them cooking, saying grace and it is absolutely clear that they are cannibals. Darby comes to bed, getting in besides Liz; his fart and waft (and the filmic gag thereof) shouldn’t work but they both laugh and it does raise a viewer snigger. We discover later they are mother and son and so the bedroom scene carries an incestuous undercurrent although we see nothing sexual.

They drive out the next day and bury some of the remains (this seems slightly incongruous as body parts, clearly from earlier victims, are later discovered in their chest freezer). However the trip allows them to pass two vagabond looking young women, Ursula (Victoria Steadman) and Rose (Kelly Brown), walking the road. They turn the car around and offer them a lift and then, when driving, suggest they come to their home for a shower and a hot meal. Once they get there the travellers are looking to rob the cannibals, who in turn are looking to chop up and eat their guests.

Rose with fangs showing
They manage to split Ursula and Rose up and drug them both. Ursula is taken to the bathroom to be killed but Liz leaves Darby to it – she needs new cleaning products and so drives into town. Darby stabs Ursula and then chops her arm off, but when he looks it is reattached. The clever part of this was we don’t see the reattachment any more than he does, it saves developing a sfx that might not work. He chops it off again and again it reattaches and he asks 'what are you?' By now Rose has come in behind him, they both sprout fangs and attack.

bitten then staked
After the attack they retrieve their bags. They travel with stakes and mallet and stake Darby before he can turn but leave him in the bath for Liz to find, when she returns. Liz does find him, runs downstairs and grabs a gun. Bullets don’t phase the two vampires who attack and, subsequently, stake Liz. Ursula can’t be bothered dragging the bodies too far and so they are put in a cupboard. The film decides to slow the pace here, just for a moment, and we get a scene of the two vampires sharing a blood bath (the blood seems quite dilute, go with it). The conversation takes in their age (Rose turns 426 at midnight), the poisonous nature of modern blood (due to chemicals and drugs), the fact that the cannibals actually had chemical free blood, and how inconvenient modern life was with security cameras and such like.

zombie attack
The next day – late afternoon – Rose wakes. Ursula has been listening to the radio about the meteors and the fact that they contain creatures. We get a ‘War of the Worlds broadcast’ moment as a reporter describes the hatching of an alien. There is later radio chatter about victims coming back and rabidly attacking the living. The vampires decide to split but, on the way to the cannibal’s car, they hear a scream in the woods. They investigate and see someone prone, with an alien enfolding their body, and then zombies running through the trees towards them – so they run back to the house. A couple of zombies break in and they kill them with headshots (lucky shots as it turns out) and Ursula is bitten. She seems to react but then reveals she is joking, the bite has healed.

gun toting nun 
There is a commotion outside and they see a priest, Father Cooper (Greg Travis, Lilitu) and a nun, Sister Gigi (Kannon Smith), toting guns and shooting zombies as they run to the house. They let them in. Cooper asks about the homeowners – calling them God fearing Christians – and then reveals that headshots are not the trick with the zombies but actually destroying the pineal gland – the source of soul energy. He says that the aliens essentially eat the victim’s soul and then the victim tries to recover what they have lost. The church has known about them for some time (a previous invasion is the source of the Book of Revelations).

ranting priest
He rants a bit and starts showing his cross around. Now the vampires have been out in sunlight (sunglasses worn) and have reflections but they do retreat from the cross and the holy water he starts splashing around. He then finds the bodies of Darby and Liz, drops the holy water and comes out with the best line in the movie: “you avoided the crucifix, you moved away from the holy water, bite marks on the neck, spikes in the chests… you’re feminists, both of you.” He does, of course, get to a vampire conclusion but the zombies are breaking in and there are aliens around.

autopsy with knife and fork
Phew… there is so much packed in here. I want to mention a moment when we see a zombie kill someone, get the pineal gland and eat it. Their face does (through post production effect) light up as they take the soul energy but then it seems to shoot up through them and through the ceiling – that bit is all very Lifeforce (though unexplained in the film). The vampires discover that the aliens (which fly and also seem to be able to appear out of thin air) have a combined brain/heart and a crossbow bolt through it will kill it. The aliens are able to fire small bugs at people that bite and incapacitate them. Vampires do not have souls. At one point we get a passing mention of “Mother Lilith” with regards the vampires.

vampire eyes
There is so much going on here and it is great fun. There was too little of Sister Gigi (who was incidentally introduced as mute) but Greg Travis chewed the scenery wonderfully as the Irish priest. Whilst the acting wasn’t anywhere near A list, it was all watchable, and Kelly Brown and Victoria Steadman had a rapport and chemistry that worked. The effects were definitely B movie – the aliens, especially, looked cheap (though the one for a makeshift autopsy with knife and fork looked better than the floating ones, which all died with the exact same repeated screech sound effect).

soul sucking alien
But it was fun. I can’t stress that enough. It moved at pace, the camerawork supported the pace, as did the editing. It might have been cinematic guff but it was enjoyable guff and worth watching because of it. That is why, despite its problems, this is going to get a credible 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

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