Savant Short Review:
2001 / Color / 1:78 anamorphic enhanced / 91 min. /
Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature
Starring Rufus Sewell, Carla Gugino, Jim Piddock, Reno Wilson,
Mark Aiken, Fintan McKeown, Aubrey Morris, Gil Bellows, Rya Kihlstedt, Hannah Sim
Cinematography Tom Callaway
Production Designer Jerry Fleming
Art Direction Peter Borck
Film Editor Daniel Cahn
Original Music David Reynolds
Written by and
Produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff, Lou Arkoff, Colleen Camp, Buddy Epstein,
Robyn Rosenfeld, Stan Winston
Written and Directed by Sebastian Gutierrez
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
As part of the Creature Feature line of remakes of early AIP exploitation hits, She Creature
can sport a dandy (and sexy) Stan Winston mermaid, with a couple of extra monsters thrown in for
good measure. The acting is fine, and the photography rich and evocative, but neither the script
nor the direction of this monster potboiler are exciting enough to avoid boredom.
An Irish carnival promoter named Angus (Rufus Sewell) and his girlfriend/fake
mermaid Lillian (Carla Gugino) visit a sea captain (Aubrey Morris) who keeps a real Mermaid,
a dangerous murderess (Rya Kihlstedt), in a fishtank. Angus steals the exhibit and heads
out for fame and fortune on an America-bound sailing ship. But as the murders stack up, Lillian begins
to believe she's experiencing an unwelcome telepathy with the mysterious creature, whose personal plans don't
include captivity in a circus.
Touted as the best of its batch of cable TV Creature Features, She Creature has some good qualities, but ends up
being less entertaining than its 1956 namesake, The She Creature. It was a ludicrous but
charming tale of a hypnotized damsel, Marla English, and her prehistoric alter-ego summoned
from the depths of the sea by crazed mentalist. What this soggy saga most resembles is the interesting but
flawed Night Tide, with Dennis Hopper.
That film was a Val Lewton-ish attempt to conjure up a possible mermaid ... this is a straight
A promising opening introduces the convincing mermaid monster very impressively, upright in its tank,
with its giant tail lazily spread across the glass. Veteran Aubrey Morris (A Clockwork Orange,
The Wicker Man, Lifeforce) gives the mermaid mystery and credibility with his
acting skill. But the carnies who steal it are less interesting, and although they're acted by
the charming Carla Gugino (Spy Kids) and Rufus Sewell (Dark City), we care little
about what happens to them. First off, they're thieves, but their compulsion is just the usual
ambition to escape the working world and become somebodies. They're presented as such nice folks,
even though both make bland confessions of unsavory backgrounds.
When the murders start is when things get murky both in and outside of the sexy topless mermaid's
fishtank. Most of the monster attacks aren't directly shown, except as hokey killer POV's. Who
knows about the mermaid at any given time, and their attitudes toward it, are poorly delineated.
The captain goes from outrage to acceptance to suicidal delirium with a total lack of motivation.
The crew are gentlemen one minute, and unruly gang rapists the next. Since the mermaid
has the ability to cloud men's minds, we're supposed to accept the inconsistent events, but as
we never are given enough info to understand what 'rules' the mermaid monster follows, we can't
enjoy or appreciate the plot. The 'unseen' killings are simply incoherent. It's as if we are
watching Dracula's voyage to civilization, but don't know what vampires are, or why the
rats are acting strangely.
Fussy editorial gimmicks don't help matters. The continuity can fragment into attractive but
meaningless mermaid pin-up art montages without warning. Too much action is kept offscreen, while
we see too much double-exposed 'mentally warped' visuals that simply don't mean anything. When the
mermaid runs amok for the finale as a traditional monster, there's neither suspense, nor surprise.
There's a lot of talk about a race of mermaids in the Sargasso Sea (shades of Hammer's The
Lost Continent, and just as much of a snooze) and an ending leaving an opening for more episodes
of The Mermaid Chronicles, but we've since sunk without a trace.
Columbia TriStar's DVD of She Creature is a fine 16:9 transfer that registers Tom Callaway's
handsome photography well. The sound is also okay, although the score is unmemorable and there's
not much of a wooden sailing ship feel to the soundscape. The volume of the feature track is very
low, especially when compared to the bubbly menu audio. A cable-tv featurette is included to
remind us that Stan Winston is both producer and head of the monster makers. The director appears here
and seems very, very young. Stan Winston keeps the commentary track for himself and his effects
supervisor Shane Mahan. Three-quarters of the
crew list are various mermaid effects people. They did a fine job on a monster fit for a much more
exciting vehicle than this; Ann Blyth has nothing to worry about.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
She Creature rates:
Supplements: Commentary, Featurette, photo gallery
Packaging: Amaray case
Reviewed: March 19, 2002
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson
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