Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Creeping Flesh (1973)

Proving that Hammer Films’ horror-flick formula was hard to duplicate, this meandering knockoff from low-rent company Tigon Pictures features Hammer’s two most beloved stars, plus a storyline suitable for Hammer treatment. What’s missing is the quasi-literary execution that made even the worst Hammer flicks feel like pulpy Victorian novels sprung to life. Therefore, even with regular Hammer director Freddie Francis at the helm, the atrocious script for The Creeping Flesh precludes the existence of coherence or credibility. When the movie begins, obsessed scientist Emmanuel Hildern (Peter Cushing) returns from a foreign expedition bearing the gigantic skeleton of some sort of missing-link creature. Dr. Hildren lives with but mostly ignores his daughter, Penelope (Lorna Heilbron), who believes her mother died when she was young. In truth, her mother went insane, so Emmanuel committed her to an asylum run by his icy brother, James Hildern (Christopher Lee). In quick succession, Emmanuel discovers that the ancient skeleton regrows flesh when exposed to water; Penelope uncovers the truth about her mother and learns that Mom died in the asylum; and a psycho killer escapes from the very same nuthouse. So, as the overstuffed plot grinds along, the skeleton springs to murderous life, Penelope slips into the same madness that once gripped her mother, and the psycho killer fixates on Penelope. To say these varied elements don’t gel would be to understate this picture’s problems. Whereas Hammer flicks generally focused on one horror trope at a time, The Creeping Flesh combines killer-on-the-loose thrills, psychological drama, and supernatural scares, so each element gets short shrift. Worse, the special effects for the skeleton scenes are weak, and neither Cushing nor Lee gets to do anything particularly interesting. Heilbron is fine as a sheltered girl unleashing her inner hellion, but her performance isn’t strong enough to compensate for the movie’s discombobulated narrative.

The Creeping Flesh: LAME

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