Review by Thomas Scalzo
Posted on 29 October 2008
Source World Video Pictures VHS
Categories 31 Days of Horror V
There’s enough deadwood in this vicinity to get a fire going.
Rarely have I come across a line of dialogue that so perfectly captures the essence of a film. Uttered by a survivor of a mid-Atlantic ocean liner disaster, the line epitomizes both the prevalence of verbose commentary and incessant stating of the obvious that are rampant throughout this picture. Time and time again we are offered extensive lines of dialogue that most normal human beings never deem pertinent to verbalize. That the filmmakers felt it necessary to cut away from a perfectly understandable wide shot of the group gathering firewood to offer us a close-up to relay this vital bit of information is all the evidence needed that the powers that be here don’t quite have a grasp of the subtleties of storytelling.
And yet, despite the fact that the players here are themselves little more than deadwood, they ultimately prove serviceable kindling for this film’s undeniable spark of genius, allowing that spark to grow into a conflagration of low-grade-horror ecstasy. Take the following example: after a long day of picking berries, the gang gathers round a roaring fire for some inane socializing. One particularly interesting conversation involves a young lady and one of the crewmembers of the ill-fated cruise ship. During a quite moment, she remarks, “I bet you’ve seen a lot of places working on a ship.” To which he replies, “Yep, I’ve seen a lot of places.” In short, these folks are dullards. But perfect fodder for whatever strange beings may inhabit this deserted island. Like Beast Creatures.
Now, I don’t know about most moviegoers out there, but before screening this film, if I were to envision a Beast Creature, I would have pictured a massive, hulking brute, covered with hair, and capable of tearing a man limb from limb. And it’s certainly possible that when this film was initially conceived, the titular monsters fit that bill. (The wonderful cover art, particularly the humongous Beast Creature head floating in the sky, hints at this possibility.) But when the fire dies down and the group settles in for a night under the stars, we meet the actual creatures—miniature monkey-piranhas with glow-in-the-dark eyes and lustrous, flowing hair; who appear to be made out of clay; who hiss like cats with laryngitis; and who collectively constitute one of the most wonderful movie monsters I’ve ever seen.
Capable of attacking both day and night, en masse or solo, and so nimble as to avoid any but the most precisely aimed countermeasures, the Beast Creatures hide in trees, bushes, and grasses, lurking unseen until an unwary castaway reaches to pick a berry, and then…neck bite! And should anyone try to snatch them up and dash their tiny brains out, they’ll scamper away in a flash, their diminutive arms pumping, their hair blowing in the breeze. But not to worry; once the protective cover of night returns, a constellation of their eerie eyes will once again blaze forth from the darkness, and our wary heroes will once again huddle in fear, listening to the dreaded wail of the Beast Creatures, and bracing themselves for the next bite.
Despite the film’s appallingly low budget, and inexplicable need to show us every dull moment of the group’s unending trek across the island, Attack of the Beast Creatures is a film that I now prize above nearly all others in my VHS collection. Part of has to do with the unparalleled glories of reveling in each and every Beast Creature attack—adult actors frantically wrestling with pint-sized puppets, feigning pure terror all the while. (Any time the Beast Creatures are on screen, actually, be they attacking or not, I’m happy.) And part of it has to do with the many moments of inexplicable and illogical dialogue, such as when the group learns that one of their comrades was, and I quote, “picked clean to the bone.” After a short pause, one of the survivors asks the question on everyone’s minds: “In such a short period of time?” As if the concern lay not in the fact that a man was skeletonized, but that it happened so quickly.
But over and above any outright horror elements or laughable exchanges exists an indefinable aura of moviemaking joy, an enthusiasm that can only truly be known by the folks who dared to set out into the woods with a bunch of hairy puppets and a troupe of terrible actors and make a movie. The chance to share in such joy, if only for a short time, is the unique gift offered by movies like Attack of the Beast Creatures, and the reason to keep slogging through endless hours of unremarkable horror cinema. You never know when you’ll stumble upon magic.
World Video Pictures
How Many Will Survive the Terror?
The Dead Don’t Die1975
The Brides Wore Blood1972
Girl in Room 2A1973
Nude for Satan1974
Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare1987
Brides of the Beast1968
Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye1973
The Curse of Bigfoot1976
Dark Night of the Scarecrow1981
Moon in Scorpio1987
The Legend of Hell House1973
Grave of the Vampire1974
Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake1975
Attack of the Beast Creatures1985
Humanoids from the Deep1980
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