From Here to Obscurity: Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985)

PLEASE NOTE: The movies reviewed in From Here to Obscurity have either never been given an official VHS or DVD release, have been released on VHS but are long out of print and very hard to find, or are readily available in some form but have generally gone unnoticed by most of the general public.

Somewhere in the North Atlantic in the summer of 1920, a luxury liner sinks. A lifeboat with nine survivors comes ashore on a seemingly deserted island. A badly injured man is left behind on the shore while the rest go looking for food and water. When one of them finds out the hard way that some of the pools of water on the island are actually acid pools they begin to suspect something is just not right. When they return to the shore a few hours later and discover the injured shipmate has been stripped to the bone they realize there’s something seriously wrong here. By then it’s too late to leave because someone or something has cast the lifeboat adrift and now they’re trapped on the island. Soon they find themselves fighting for their lives against swarms of man-eating, demonic cupie dolls. Yes, I said man-eating demonic cupie dolls!

There’s not much more to the plot than that. Outside of the initial set-up, the movie consists mostly of characters trekking across the island looking for some way of escape while being repeatedly ambushed by these troll dolls from hell. There’s a hint of romance between two of the castaways, some friendships formed, some bickering amongst the survivors, and one old man who slowly descends into madness but otherwise this is not a movie that is heavy on plot or character development.

Attack of the Beast Creatures is one of those rare movies that skimps on plot and character development and still manages to get away with it simply due to the film’s sheer audacity. Fortunately, the film isn’t completely self-conscious of its audacity, thus it doesn’t suffer from that sense of self-congratulatory tone that Troma movies tend to have where it feels like the filmmakers’ are patting themselves on the back for being so audacious. Attack of the Beast Creatures is a just a genuinely nutty attempt at low budget monster movie making. While it does plays itself out with a straight face, I seriously doubt anyone would be scared by anything in this movie even with the fair amount of gore on display. Whether or not the movie was made with the intention of making the audience laugh their asses off is unknown, but that’s exactly what you’ll end up doing.

Remember the killer Zuni doll that stalked Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror? Well, these things appear to be its cannibalistic, inbred, hillbilly cousins. I’d say they look like demonic Polynesian troll dolls but the movie is set in the North Atlantic and not the South Pacific. The creatures are brought to life by means of puppetry, stick puppetry to be more exact, at least the ones that actually have any sort of articulation. Their arms move up and down and their jaws open and close but that’s about it. The rest of the time they are just inarticulate dolls. Heck, their legs don’t even look to have knees. They look really cheap plastic dolls you’d win by throwing darts at balloons at a country fair made up to look evil with mostly hilarious results.

The cheap look of the title monsters is just one of the many things that make the numerous attack scenes absolutely priceless. Just as Bela Lugosi had to work the octopus’ tentacles in Bride of the Monster, the actors find themselves with a bunch of these dolls attached to their clothes so that they can flail about and scream like they’re being beaten alive. The beast creatures dive bomb people from out of the trees, swing from vines onto people, spring from the bushes onto people, and are even shown running around pumping their little puppet arms like an Olympic sprinter while accompanied by a hummingbird-like fluttering sound. They swarm on people like piranhas but it still comes down to these dolls being attached to the clothing, or obviously being held in place by the actor, while the actors screaming like banshees and flailing about like overacting lunatics. When they start ripping the dolls off and throwing them about it just becomes that much goofier. Words really cannot accurately describe just how ridiculous these attack scenes are. They are just an absurd orgy of total chaos with actors screaming and thrashing about with a bunch of toy dolls. You simply have to see it to believe it.

And what exactly are these beast creatures supposed to be? They’re not exactly beasts and they’re not exactly creatures. Are they supposed to be dolls? Are they supposed to be living totems? Are they supposed to be a tribe of pygmies? Are they demons of some sort? Were the once human? Well, don’t expect any answers. You aren’t going to get any. All we know is that they eat people, can haul ass, live on this island, and worship what looks like a huge Graham cracker. Hey, why should the monsters get any more character development than the human characters?

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Attack of the Beast Creatures is that it was the only movie by writer/director Michael Stanley. Why he never made anything else is a question I’d like answered because he shows a knack for making a wildly berserk monster movie and there just aren’t that many good ones made these days.

Attack of the Beast Creatures was made back in 1983 but not released until 1985 by producer Joseph Brenner, which is only fitting seeing as how he’s the same producer responsible for importing Inframan to America and both movies contain the same sort of frenzied, goofball, over-the-top, “What the hell is going on?!” nature. The fact that Attack of the Beast Creatures has seemingly fallen into the cracks of cinematic obscurity is a damn shame because while no one in their right mind will ever accuse it of being great filmmaking it sure is a hell of a lot of fun.

3 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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