Peter Benchley’s Creature (1998 Mini-Series) Blu-ray

61rkeflfayl-e1426885065926The sharkman sub-category is one of those really tiny ones. Only two other movies come to mind: Proteus (1995), which wasn’t specifically about a sharkman but it leads up to a giant sharkman-type mutant thing rampaging around on this oilrig in the final act, and the SyFy original Hammerhead (2005), which like most of SyFy’s creature flicks ends up being more of an action flick than a monster movie. Good FX for the sharkman, but seen very little as I recall in the flick. It would seem if you want a die-hard movie about a creature that’s part shark and part human you really have to go with this mini-series.

I caught it on TV when it first aired back in 1998 and instantly loved it, but I have to admit I thought it was an odd way to go for an adaptation of one of Benchley’s novels. Based on his ‘White Shark’ book I would naturally assume a theatrical movie would best represent this material better. It certainly did for his Jaws (1974) novel. I never read White Shark but I did read his killer squid book, Beast (1991), which also became a two-part mini-series. The book was scary and amazing, the mini-series was utter shit. They should have done a big budget movie. The same should have happened with White Shark but at least I loved the TV version of that one.

Olive Films’ re-release of this mini-series is divided into two parts: Night 1 and Night 2. I found that strange. Shouldn’t it be Part 1 and Part 2? I also thought they would’ve integrated both into one long 3-hour movie like what Warner Brothers did with Salem’s Lot (1979), but obviously not. I’m also going to be a little judgmental of the title as well. I see nothing wrong with “White Shark.” Renaming it Creature seems too generic, besides when this came out there was already another movie called Creature in existence, William Malone’s 1985 Alien rip-off, and now we have yet another movie titled that which came out in 2011, that one’s about an alligator man roaming the bayou eating a bunch of kids.

Creature starts off with a prologue set in the Caribbean on an island called Shark’s Tooth Island in 1972 . Military scientists have created a couple of half dolphin, half shark hybrids they intend to use in the war, but they’ve also created something worse, a half man, half shark creature. During the demonstration of the dolphin/shark hybrids the shark mutant frees itself, but a Lt. Thomas Peniston (Giancarlo Esposito) manages to drive it into a cage and intends to take it out to the middle of the ocean and execute it, but he can’t do it. He cuts the line instead and lets the caged beast sink to the bottom.

Twenty-six years later Marine Biologist Simon Chase (Craig T. Nelson) has bought the now abandoned military facility to use in his own shark studies, but some of the local businesses don’t like him. He’s all about keeping his sharks safe and that means bumping heads with local trappers and businesses that cater to taking fishermen out to sea so they can reel in the “big one.” Big ones sometimes mean sharks. A local by the name of Tall Man (Cress Williams) is his only friend and assistant.

A local trapper accidentally frees the sharkman as his anchor gets snagged on the door and pulls it open. This part never made sense to me. So, the sharkman continued to live in that confined cage for 26-years without anyone chancing upon it? I’m not sure which is harder to believe, it living in the cage for that long or no one finding it? Anyway, it gets out and predictably starts eating people.

The locals and the local chief of police, Rollie Gibson (Blu Mankuma), blame Chase and the pregnant shark he’s studying, and you know how it goes after that, they go out find a shark, kill it and hang it up for display on the dock telling everyone they can now calm down because the killer shark is dead. Classic Jaws mentality. But we all know it ain’t dead and more people are going to get chomped on.

Chase’s ex-wife, Amanda Macy (Kim Cattrall), also a marine biologist, and their fifteen year old son, Max (Matthew Carey), show up to visit for a week as the sharkman is making a menace of itself. Eventually Chase and Amanda have a close encounter with the beast on their boat at night. It tries to climb in and they get a damn good look at a pair of arms no normal shark is supposed to have. Using a machete Chase hacks off one of its nails.

By now they’re coming to some idea this thing may be connected to the facility Chase is using so they try and get answers from the Navy, but the Navy ain’t talking. The final act of Night 1 concludes with the discovery of a secret bunker where this sharkman was created. It’s all flooded now, but Chase and Amanda find a crucial notebook detailing the science behind its creation and reluctantly run into the beast itself. It’s been hiding out down there when it’s not eating people.

At this stage of its “evolution” the sharkman has two arm-like limbs only and cannot breath air, as it attempts to kill Chase and Amanda it beaches itself in a hallway appearing to suffocate but within minutes it adapts to being an air breather and two legs break away from it now giving the mutant full mobility on land.

The sharkman has now fully cometh!

When Night 2 picks up two characters from the prologue step up to being major players: Adm. Aaron Richland (Colm Feore), who was called in to see the results of the dolphin/shark hybrids and “werewolf” (aka Lt. Thomas Peniston) (Esposito), who was in Night 1 but only here and there. He’s called “werewolf” because he howls a lot, talks to himself and acts generally crazy. Why? I’m not really sure. It’s never fully explained why he went bonkers. Richland shows up with an armed team to hunt the creature down and ends up butting heads with Chase. Chase wants to try and prevent it’s extermination, or at least, get photos, because afterwards there’ll be no evidence it ever existed and plus he learns sharks are immune from getting cancer. His brother died of cancer years earlier and if he had a lot of this illegal research available he might have saved him, Richland doesn’t care about that and burns down the underground lab right before Chase and Amanda’s eyes.

Amanda figures out this sharkman has to be stopped before it goes into a breeding cycle, for it does and mates with another shark mother nature has a new organism to introduce the rest of humanity.

“Werewolf’s” secret finally comes out when Chase and Amanda are told by him that his blood was used in the creatures birth, which now explains why he couldn’t kill the thing in the prologue.

Richland is killed by the sharkman in the swamp, leaving Chase, Amanda, Tall Man and “Werewolf” to try and stop it now. Everyone ends up back in the underground bunker and the connected caves where they lure it out into the facility above, trap it in a decompression chamber and explosively decompress it. “Werewolf” sacrifices himself to keep the creature in the chamber, but he dies at the hands of the thing and not the decompression way.

The man-in-a-suit FX was created by the late FX artist, Stan Winston, and the animatronically controlled head is as expertly crafted and operated as the rest of the suit. Incidentally, monster suit operator, Brian Steele, is at the helm of this creature. His latest work in bringing a monster to life was in the February released Killer ‘Squatch flick, Exists (2013).

This is a near gore free adaptation by the way. Some blood splatters against a window, and there’s a floating head in the swamp, but nothing in the way that would shock anyone.


Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio—no subtitles

The picture and audio were excellent. There are no extras on this release.


 

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About Shawn Francis

Movie collector and horror writer.
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