The lure of the impulse buy is a hard one for the film geek to resist. We’ve all fallen prey to those cheap box sets filled with forgotten Spaghetti Westerns, Kung Fu Films, Horror or whatever 35mm print someone found in their garage and was able to license for 3.97. Most of the time these films sit unviewed on the shelf still in their shrink wrap. Cheap License Theater is a weekly trip dedicated to exploring these cinematic backwaters of the not-quite-public-domain.
Worth Watching? If you’re reading this column there is an excellent chance that the answer is hell yes. As someone who watches a lot of terrible films to fuel this column it’s easy to get jaded. To yawn away at shoddy scripts, bad acting, sloppy plotting and wholly absent technical skill. Yet every now and then there comes a film that breaks through the numbness and manages to shock with the sheer weight of its incompetence. Simply put The Creeping Terror is one of the most astonishingly awful films ever made. A Z grade sci fi film that makes Plan 9 From Outer Space look like Stalker. The sort of film that proves The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra was less a parody than a loving recreation.
The Creeping Terror follows a young, newly married, Sheriff’s deputy who chances upon a UFO, surely one of the cheapest UFOs in the proud history of cheap UFOs. Happily it’s nothing compared to the alien that emerges from it; a creature that looks like what would happen if a Triffid made love with a yak. The fact that the creature moves at less than caterpillar speed does not prevent it from devouring much of the local populous. The creature lumbers across the wilderness, waltzing with ease through the perimeter set up by an unusually dull military force. Once free he blissfully munches his way through an entire dance hall of sock hoppers, picnickers, housewives and proves terrifyingly resistant to Earth’s greatest defense… folkies wielding acoustic guitars (in what plays like an exceedingly strange outtake from Inside Llewyn Davis). The usual coterie of clean cut young people, paunchy law enforcement, steel jawed military men, and paternalistic scientists who naively believes in the creatures goodness Until It’s Too Late(!!!) are all powerless against it.
Business as usual for a budget monster from out of space but what sets The Creeping Terror from the ranks of the merely incompetent to the realms of the beautifully surreal is the soundtrack. Most of the film’s sound was destroyed, in an incident that is at best “sketchy as hell” (the story, related in the DVD’s liner notes is a bit involved to get into here but involves one or more of the filmmakers being complete conmen and the film itself nearly being repossessed). While normal filmmakers would take this as an insurmountable blow, or perhaps more optimistically a sign from a benevolent God, the producers of The Creeping Terror forged bravely ahead. Overdubbing some of the dialogue and replacing a staggeringly large portion with what must be the single most obtrusive voice over of all time. A voice that blares over maybe sixty percent of the film explaining things that ought not be explained. Not merely basic exposition but actions and movements that are clearly visible on the screen. Not content to settle for mere bad narration, Creeping Terror pushes to blissful bizarre filling the down time with weird rhapsodic monologues about the characters interior lives that approach beat poetry. A true contender for worst film of all time, Creeping Terror is a must for kitsch fans and masochists of all stripes.