Centipede! (2004)


centipede - Centipede! (2004)Starring Trevor Murphy, Margaret Cash, Larry Casey, George Foster

Directed by Gregory Gieras

The whole time I was watching Centipede! I kept thinking I was watching a movie from the mid/late 80’s produced by New World Pictures and that is not necessarily a bad thing either. Sure, New World produced a bunch of really crummy horror movies back in the day, but they also produced some movies that while nothing special still make for some fine cheese today. And that’s what Centipede! Is – fine cheese.

The first thing that makes Centipede! stand out from the ungodly number of nature gone amok movies (most of which have also premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel) is that movie seemingly forgoes any and all CGI. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve often expressed my thoughts in many of my reviews and news reports about how sick and tired I am of filmmakers today using usually cheap and completely unconvincing computer effects when they could have just used more practical special effects method. It’s hard enough to make quality CGI creatures in mega budget Hollywood productions (I’m talking to you, Van Helsing!) so why low budget filmmakers today keep insisting on using infinitely bad computer animation often to the detriment of their movies baffles me. Puppetry and suitmation may not bring to life a 100% realistic creation but it’s actually there, it’s tangible, and not just an animated image. I’ve always stated that the best special effects are the ones that capture my imagination, whether it’s a giant rubber suited monster destroying cardboard buildings or the nearly flawless computer generated dinosaurs of the Jurassic Park films. It’s rare that cheap computer animated creations capture my imagination because too often they have no personality of their own, the characters in the film are unable to interact with them much, and too often they look like something from the cut scene of a PS2 video game. God, I am so sick of that.

Fortunately, it appears writer/director Gregory Gieras understands just how awful bad CGI monsters tend to look in low budget monster movies so he’s gone back to the tried and true methods of the past. The giant centipedes here are not CGI, but puppetry. There was a scene or two of the centipedes’ multiple legs scurrying about that may have been done via computer but that’s about it. No, the effects are not 100% believable and I know that’s going to be a turn off for some, but if you’re old fashioned monster movie fan like myself, you’ll find it has a certain charm that computer generated insects couldn’t evoke.

The plot centers on a group of young thrillseekers reuniting as a group for one last time before one of them gets married to some rich socialite, thus giving up his carefree lifestyle. They travel to the Shankali Caverns in India to do some caving, but are unaware that the mostly unexplored caves are also home to giant centipedes. An unfortunate chain of events involving an unlucky member of their group being the first to discover the big bugs causes a cave-in that traps them within along with their Indian guide, who even got a chance to give the traditional B-movie warning about the foreboding legends surrounding the unchartered caverns beforehand. From there it’s mostly the group trying to find another way out before discovering the hard way just how dangerous giant centipedes can be. All the while, the Indian police try to find another opening into the caves in order to rescue the trapped spelunkers.

Old fashioned creature feature is probably the best description for the movie because it has a tried and true formula – people trapped in an enclosed space with a monster – that is used quite often, especially in slasher movies, but here Gieras doesn’t make the mistake most of these movies make by having much of the film consist of the characters wandering around or just milling about in order to just fill time between kills. There is a little of that in the early going but when they come to realize early on that what’s in there with them they don’t hesitate to try and get the hell out of there and Gieras actually comes up with a couple of unique situations that make things a bit more complicated than just finding the exit. In the process, he also manages to come up with scenarios that don’t overexpose the centipedes by keeping them hidden or just off-camera while still playing a crucial part in the scene.

The characters are mostly one-dimensional. Heck, there were two characters along the way whose deaths had me wondering who exactly they were again. What they lack in depth they make up for by playing off of one another well and the actors do their best with what they have to do, which mostly consists of being in a state of utter panic. The only real negative here is the romance between the budding groom and his former flame, who is now the girlfriend of another member of the group. First of all, for a guy supposedly getting married, he doesn’t hesitate to drop everything and start pining for the ex the moment he sees her again. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that actress Margaret Cash is very easy on the eyes, but still. Likewise, she all but adopts the attitude of “Oh, are you still here?” with her current boyfriend the moment she lays eyes on the ex. The way this romantic subplot plays out, frankly, the centipedes are more believable. Fortunately, the subplot is not something that takes center stage much.

Having actually been filmed on location in India, I’m guessing they employed several Indian actors, all of who speak English, but with very thick accents. At times, they’re speaking English but I’ll be damned if I understood a word they said. Other times, they all sound like Apu from “The Simpsons” to such a degree that they almost come across as walking stereotypes. Personally, I thought their fast talking; often incomprehensible English gave the movie a little more personality.

Is Centipede! scary? No. Will it satisfy those that like their monster movies bloody? I doubt it. The version of the film I’m reviewing is the one that premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel, it didn’t really seem to have much that needed cutting out in the gore and profanity department and it doesn’t appear there is any nudity that needed to be cut out either, which is too bad because again, Margaret Cash is quite hot. I suspect when the movie does get released on DVD it will carry a PG-13 rating and there’s nothing wrong with that either. Centipede! is an old fashioned creepy crawler creature feature that should entertain those that can appreciate a fun throwback to the monster movies of the past couple decades. Hey, they even eventually find a way to toss in some good old toxic waste for good measure.

I am beginning to notice a trend in regard to Sci-Fi Channel premiere movies. Whenever the movie premiering wasn’t specifically made for the Sci-Fi Channel or produced by UFO Films or Nu Image then the chances of the movie not totally sucking increase dramatically? For example, last month’s Frankenfish. Although, that theory will probably be put sorely to the test later this month when Species 3 debuts…

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3 out of 5

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