If a naked four-armed actress from a Shannon Tweed movie rose up out of a lake and kept whispering "Come to me," would you dive in and find her, even if you knew she was probably a prehistoric Scottish kelpie monster in babe disguise?
Of course you would! If you don't, there's no movie. This is basically the plot of "Creature of the Mist," written and directed by Karl Roulston, the pride of Jersey City,
New Jersey, and it's one of those "Lovecraftian" stories.
In case you haven't been paying attention the last decade, "Lovecraftian" is the highest compliment you can pay to an independent low-budget filmmaker.
H.P. Lovecraft is more famous today than he was when he was alive, and every aspiring filmmaker expects his flick to become the next "Re-Animator." There's been such an onslaught of these suckers that last month they had a whole festival of them in Portland, Oregon, where "Creature of the Mist" had its world premiere.
And Karl did a pretty good job being Lovecraftian. He's got the spooky isolated mist-enshrouded village. He's got the mutant slime creatures at the bottom of the lake. He's got all kinds of supernatural and outer-space reasons for the strange happenings around Lake Panakee. (Get it?) And he's got the beautiful goddess who is, in fact, a horrible devouring monster.
Fortunately, he's also got Danielle Ciardi, who does star in Shannon Tweed movies and other late-night-cable fare like "The Story of O," and she definitely WOULD inspire you to face down one-eyed crabosauri for a shot at those pouty lips. He also finagled a performance out of Christian Peppard -- son of George Peppard and Elizabeth Ashley -- but all he does is one scene at the beginning where we're introduced to the wheelchair-bound painter who tells us his story.
What happened is that 40 years earlier the guy's beautiful wife died after just one year of marriage, and he was so grief-stricken that he rented a cottage at this Walden Pond type place where he could "chase off the chill of the grave." Instead, he starts chasing off the warmth of a fantasy woman in his dreams who seems to have something to do with the odd creatures at the bottom of the lake he notices while snorkeling. He investigates at, among other places, the local strip club and the county Indian museum, and what he discovers is that the lake was formed by an earthquake in 1798, and shortly thereafter an Indian brave named Chikowa was beckoned into the water by a beautiful woman and was never seen again.
It gets weirder, but not before our hero Brian spends a lot of time running through the woods, haunted by the monstrous femme fatale's whisper, and ultimately discovers that the sly beauty has a whole host of forlorn lovesick men housed in a military barracks that's been on the lake bottom ever since it was destroyed by the earthquake.
For a low-budget movie, the special effects are outstanding, including lots of underwater photography, some animated mutants, and the creature itself.
All of this is told in flashback within flashback within flashback --at one point, I counted four times removed from the present, which is actually not the present but the future - and the main suspense is provided by the mystery of what exactly this woman is doing, is she friend or foe, and how did she get there in the first place.
I won't tell, but I WILL mention that her purpose in life is to spread universal love throughout the cosmos. Yes, that's what I said.
Okay, let's look at those drive-in totals. We have:
Twelve dead bodies. Fourteen breasts. One earthquake, with flood. One spirit-goddess fire ceremony. Crab creature. Frog creature. Insectoid creature. Ancient one-eyed skeleton creature. Tentacle telepathy. Slimy-tail whiplash Fu.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Alan Jasper, as the old man telling the story, for saying "She's not just a dream, but she's not quite real either"; Danielle Ciardi, in a twin role as the beautiful dead wife and the beckoning spirit who says "Embrace me, and all that you have suffered will be forgotten"; Joseph Travers, as the entranced man in the flashback, who asks "Have you ever dreamed of the woman of the waters?"; James Maxwell, as the old coot who runs the Indian museum and knows more than he's telling; Donna
Bender, for doing a gratuitous topless number in the middle of the movie; and Karl Roulston, the writer/producer/director, for doing things the drive-in way.
Three stars. Joe Bob says check it out.
"Creature of the Mist" Web site: none.
(To reach Joe Bob, go to joebobbriggs.com or email him at
JoeBob@upi.com. Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas 75221.)