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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
She Creature (2001)

"For hundreds of years, men have believed in an enclave of islands, known as The Forbidden Islands, where mermaids breed."
- Capt. Woolrich (Aubrey Morris)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: April 18, 2002

Stars: Rufus Sewell, Carla Gugino, Rya Kihlstedt
Other Stars: Jim Piddock, Reno Wilson, Gil Bellows, Aubrey Morris
Director: Sebastian Gutierrez

MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, nudity and some violence
Run Time: 01h:29m:56s
Release Date: April 02, 2002
UPC: 043396073647
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BB+B B+

DVD Review

Originally produced for HBO, She Creature is a throwback to the golden age of monster movies, with the benefit of substantially improved special effects. Under the guidance of effects wiz Stan Winston (Jurassic Park, Terminator, Aliens), this film is the first in the Creature Feature series, where titles, and titles alone, from some of the great Samuel Z. Arkoff horror films of the 1950s are used as inspiration to create an entirely new library of monster movies. It's a nice concept, and if this film is any indication, the rest of the series should be a good time.

With She Creature, writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez tackles the legend of the mermaid, and his story is about as far removed from the cuddly world of Splash or The Little Mermaid as you can get. Angus Shaw (Rufus Sewell from Dark City) is the proprietor of a traveling sideshow in 1905 Ireland, and one of his main acts purports to feature a mermaid, who in reality is the very human and very lovely Lilly (Carla Gugino from Spy Kids).

One evening, a grizzled, slightly tipsy sea captain named Woolrich (Aubrey Morris) reveals to Angus and Lilly something he has been hiding for years: a real live mermaid (Rya Kihlstedt), chained inside of a massive tank. It's not long before Angus gets the bright idea to steal the creature for his sideshow, take it to the States, and make millions. This is, of course, despite the grim, cautionary tale that the captain weaves about the unpredictable dangers of the half-fish half-woman. With dollar signs flashing in their eyes, Angus and Lilly set sail for the States with the pilfered mermaid safely below deck. Or so they think.

Two-thirds of She Creature takes place aboard the boat, mostly at night, and Gutierrez quickly builds the tension by introducing the concept that the mermaid has the power to control the minds and thoughts of others; it's sort of like a heavy-duty form of one-way telepathy. Lilly falls under the spell of the unnamed creature, and she is quickly plagued by some strange and creepy nightmares, one of which has her losing her hands. As Lilly struggles with what seems to be a case of sudden insanity, she explores the journal Captain Woolrich left behind and eventually learns the horrible truth behind the mermaid. Here's a hint: she likes to eat people, which is never a good thing.

Rya Kihlstedt makes an impressive and spooky mermaid, and her long, flowing red hair sort of makes her resemble Ariel's kinkier, nastier cousin, albeit minus The Little Mermaid's handy clamshell bra. She doesn't have any proper dialogue, but she has a distinctive, otherworldly look to her that lends itself nicely to the role. The Stan Winston effects, which form her fishy lower half, look terrific, and the mixture of puppets, live action and a combination of the two make for some wonderful effects shots.

Other than Kihlstedt's quirky fish-girl, two other actors give this film a nice punch. I really liked Gugino's layered performance, and I found her sudden descent into madness to be crafted surprisingly well. Her acting here is far better than what is typical of the genre, and when all is said and done, is really the focus of the story. The great Aubrey Morris chews up the scenery with a B-movie fervor as the crusty captain with the deep, dark secret, and when he utters the line "I don't sleep much anymore," it is perfectly campy.

Sewell, on the other hand, sleepwalks through the same kind of wide-eyed, deep-in-thought, permanently perplexed character that he did so well in Dark City, and here he drifts in and out of his Irish accent indiscriminantly. His character is actually pretty bland, even with the whole rich sideshow angle to work from.

This is a stylish, largely gore-free horror film, with plenty of what director Gutierrez calls an appropriate "Poe vibe." Carla Gugino gives a strong performance as a woman slowly losing her mind, and not only that, I am firmly convinced she possesses the cutest smile in movies today.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: A solid 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer here, even more respectable when one considers that this a made-for-cable feature. To its credit, She Creature looks like a theatrical release, and the image transfer reflects that. The whole film is bathed in deep golds and browns, and give the proceedings a slight turn-of-the-century feel, and D.P. Tom Callway works this limited color field effectively, keeping the look consistent throughout. Image detail is very good, even though much of the film is quite dark (for mood). I caught a couple of minor specks late in the film, but overall the source print is quite clean and presentable.

A pan & scan version is also included, and appears on the same side as the widescreen transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.0
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: It is interesting how finicky we DVD-philes get these days when it comes to an audio transfer. In the olden days EVERYTHING was mono, and we liked it (there's no DTS mix on Bride of Frankenstein, is there?). On a disc like this, which is an homage to the classic B-movie horror genre, it might seem somewhat hypocritical to over analyze the audio. In fairness, the 5.0 surround track boasts a few good rear channel jolts, but not enough to fall all over myself praising the mix. I would have liked to have heard more of a conscious effort to immerse the viewer by actively mixing some creaks into the rear channels (the bulk of this film does take place on a boat, after all). Regardless, the front speakers handle the dialogue sufficiently, with a fair amount of noticeable imaging giving the audio track some depth. The score works particularly well, and really gives this film a theatrical feel.

A French 2.0 surround track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Creature Features, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Night Of The Living Dead (the color remake), Wolf
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Stan Winston, Shane Mahan
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: For all of those special effects junkies out there, the full-length, scene-specific commentary from Stan Winston and Shane Mahan should be a worthwhile plus. It was great to hear these two discuss the creature effects, but the absence of writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez on the track is a bit odd, considering the effects in She Creature are subtle (at least until the final act, that is). As for the commentary, both men are relatively talkative, and give a nice history of the whole Creature Feature series, and its origins. Winston reveals that the War of the Colossal Beast was the original Arkoff title that film was to be inspired by, and he points out a few spots where characters mention a "colossal beast." I found the track to be not only entertaining, but informative.

The Making Of She Creature (02m:23s) is a brief, extended commercial, featuring a few quick sound bites from Gutierrez, interspersed with scenes from the film, as well as some footage of the sets.

The photo gallery is pretty extensive, and is broken down into four categories:
Monster Sketches (15 images)
This is a set of black & white drawings showing original concepts for the mermaid and her final transformation.
Building the Monster (14 images)
These color shots from Stan Winston Studios show the process of actually building the creature.
Behind-the-Scenes Photos (53 images) and Production Stills (55 images)
The over 100 production and behind-the-scenes stills in these two groups should satisfy even the most extras-hungry fan. Although, not enough Carla Gugino, if you ask me.

There is even a neat animated Easter Egg (sort of an apropos coda) that, if I can find, then anyone can.

The remainder of the extras include filmographies, subtitles (English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, Thai), five trailers (Creature Features, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Night of the Living Dead, Wolf), weblinks (screenblast.com and distantcorners.com), and 28 chapters.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

This is old-fashioned horror movie fun, made on a deceptively limited budget. If you miss the "old days" of horror movies, if The Creature From The Black Lagoon makes your pulse race, then She Creature is well worth a purchase.

 


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