A year after subjecting the world to the awful creature feature Octaman, which is indeed about an octopus that walks like a man, writer/director Harry Essex returned with The Cremators, a sci-fi/horror flick about a giant blob of otherworldly flame that rolls around the countryside of the southwestern U.S., burning people alive. Essex, who cowrote the classic monster flick The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), employs a cinematic style that’s woefully out of time, so The Cremators includes such antiquated tropes as repetitive comin’-at-ya monster shots and wall-to-wall background music. How old-school is The Cremators? Consider the evidence. Cop-out ending that suggests the danger has not truly passed? Check. Obnoxious Theremin solos during the climax? Check. Square-jawed hero who contrives a scientific means of defeating the monster? Check. All in all, The Cremators is so old-fashioned that it could’ve just as easily been made in 1952, rather than 1972. There’s not a moment of originality or surprise to be found here, so every time heroic scientist Dr. Seppel (Eric Allison) tries to persuade disbelieving authorities that a space monster is responsible for mysterious killings, the viewer’s only possible reaction is a wide yawn. And while The Cremators is in some ways incrementally better than Essex’s previous movie—the photography is a smidgen more atmospheric, for instance, and this time there’s no dude running around in a rubbery-looking octopus suit—Essex set the bar so low with Octaman that even marginal improvement is insufficient to raise The Cremators from the ranks of grade-Z horror. Plus, the way Essex once again cops story elements from The Creature from the Black Lagoon represents a startling failure of imagination. And need we mention that the sight of a glowing special-effects ball is no more frightening here than it was in the innumerable ’60s Star Trek episodes featuring similar beasties bedeviling the starship Enterprise? Happily, Essex stopped directing after The Cremators, returning to the safe harbor of writing movies that better filmmakers captured on celluloid.
The Cremators: SQUARE