Creature of Darkness is a film that doesn't set its sights too high. It uses the fairly well trod idea of an alien hunting humans on earth for a ghoulish science display. Still, this is an idea with a rich vein of material to mine. Unfortunately, Creature of Darkness succeeds only haphazardly, and fails to exploit when it should.
Andrew, played by Devon Sawa, is a troubled young man, plagued by nightmares brought on by his uncle's tales of being abducted by aliens. A couple of his friends encourage him to go camping with them to the site of the supposed abduction to work through his issues. Things start off innocently enough. They enjoy some rambunctious four wheeling through a restricted Army bombing range, the fresh air, sleeping under the stars. Things start to get weird when they come across a corpse by the side of a trail that has had its spine ripped out. As luck would have it, the same pesky alien who snatched his uncle turns up, and starts killing and / or grabbing his friends. Their cell phones don't work, the military seems content to simply observe the alien doing its work and the alien seems to be able to make deep pits appear in the ground to trap them. Things are not looking up.
Andrew wavers back and forth between bravery and sniveling cowardice as his friends get picked off, and starts a budding romance with Gina (Sanoe Lake) amidst the carnage. He explains to the group that the alien is collecting a diverse specimen group, so the Hispanic friend and the black friend and so on are in danger, though he is not since the alien has already picked up a white specimen. As the group gets smaller, they cast aside their differences and do what they can to defeat the alien.
The description above seems a bit short, but there honestly isn't much plot to write about. Andrew freaks out. Members of the group fight and get on each other's nerves. The alien snatches them. They try to escape and fail. And so on. Not a lot of effort is put forth to weave complex characters, define them against each other or even provide some imaginative dialogue or situations. The performances are fine, but not outstanding, with the possible exception of Dan White, as Mason, who delivers a natural and effortless turn. The others do their best to say the sometimes silly or awkward lines they are given. Devon Sawa, who has been known to turn in decent performances in other venues, merely phones it in here.
The effects in Creature of Darkness range from pretty good to awful. The alien itself is quite effective, with natural movements and a realistic feel. It appears to be part CG and part practical, but woven together well enough that the viewer can't tell one from the other. On the other hand, the CG jets, spacecraft and helicopters are risibly bad, looking like refugees from a late eighties video game. The little used gore effects are respectable, with the human spine that the alien uses as a weapon being the highlight there.
The biggest problem with Creature of Darkness, however, is the lack of knowledge on the part of the producers as to what really makes a film scary. When people go into this kind of film, they expect their emotions to be exploited, to be jerked around and manipulated for effect, and this film simply doesn't try. The cinematography is boringly plain. Most of the shots are wide shots, where everything is visible, and we can see the alien creeping up in the background. We see things coming a long way off, are never shocked by the sudden appearance of a horrible visage or a claw from the darkness. We are never discombobulated by uncomfortable camera angles or jarring cuts. In short, the film doesn't push our buttons. The silly dialogue and bad special effects can be forgiven, if we receive an emotional punch to the gut. Here, no mood is developed or maintained, no tension is felt, no sympathy for the victims elicited.
Creature of Darkness occasionally works well, but more often falls flat. It fails to grasp that attitude, manipulation and reckless abandon are more often than not the saving grace of low budget science fiction / horror films. The disinterested blandness on display here can't begin to overcome the handicap of vanishingly a small budget. This one is a rental only.
The video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and is unremarkable. No obvious quality issues are apparent. The image is bright and contrast is good. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
The audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, and also unremarkable. The dialogue is clearly audible and no hiss or other issue is audible. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are included. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
The only extra included is a somewhat silly trailer for the film. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality or quantity of the extras on the final product.
Creature of Darkness doesn't start off with much, and doesn't do much with what it has. There are some nice effects, but also some bad ones. The performances are for the most part merely passable. It isn't terribly tense or exciting. It isn't terribly funny or endearing. It may be good for a casual rental, but not much more.