CREATURE. Science fiction horror in homage to “Alien”

“Creature” is the science fiction film by William Malone from 1985.

Maciej Kaczmarski

2 May 2024

Creature aspires to nothing more than a solid B-class production, yet it still stands out favorably against other films that emerged in the wake of Ridley Scott’s famous success.

In the future, humanity develops new technologies for extracting natural resources on other planets and celestial bodies. Two corporations, German Richter Dynamics and American NTI, compete for primacy in the field of planetary geology. Two employees of the latter corporation discover an ancient alien laboratory on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon; within one of the sarcophagi lies an extraterrestrial being that awakens and kills the scientists. Several weeks later, the spacecraft from this research expedition crashes into the Concorde station near Earth’s moon. NTI sends a mission to Titan to investigate the fate of the missing astrogeologists. During the journey, the crew of the Shenandoah cruiser intercepts a distress signal from a ship belonging to Richter Dynamics. Upon landing on Titan, it becomes apparent that the sole survivor from the previous expedition is a German scientist who tells a tale of a terrifying creature that murders everything in its path.

The great success of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) initiated a veritable flood of imitators: Alien 2 – On Earth (1980) by Ciro Ippolito, Contamination (1980) by Luigi Cozzi, Galaxy of Terror (1981) by Bruce D. Clark, Star Crystal (1986) by Lance Lindsay, Creature (1986) by Deran Sarafian, to name a few. It’s worth remembering that Alien itself is not entirely original and owes much to Planet of the Vampires (1965) by Mario Bava. Creature is one of many debts to Scott, but what distinguishes it from other copies is that it doesn’t hide its inspirations; rather, it celebrates them. The plot is nearly identical to the original, the monster eerily resembles the Xenomorph (though crossed with a crocodile), and one of the characters is named Hans Rudy Hofner, a clear allusion to H.R. Giger. There are more borrowings: from The Thing from Another World (1951) by Christian Nyby and Forbidden Planet (1956) by Fred M. Wilcox to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) by Stanley Kubrick and Jaws (1975) by Steven Spielberg.

All of this gives the impression of an attempt to cash in on the success of *Alien* while simultaneously paying homage to Scott’s film. Creature is B-class science fiction, but quite good in terms of entertainment value, and the budget of over $4 million allowed for decent special effects (its creator, Robert Skotak, later worked on… *Aliens – The Final Showdown* (1986) by James Cameron!), set design, and costumes reminiscent of the spacesuits in Kubrick’s *2001: A Space Odyssey*. The biggest weakness of Malone’s film, aside from its derivative script, is the abysmal acting reminiscent of soap operas; a notable exception is the reliable Klaus Kinski in the role of Hofner. The German actor spent only a week on set but, in his usual manner, rarely followed the director’s instructions and harassed the female cast [1]. Surprisingly, Malone spoke positively of working with Kinski. “He was very helpful with suggestions and working with other actors. […] It seemed like [other actors] were really working harder because they were working with him” [2] – recounted the director.

Creature premiered at the Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Films in 1985 and was nominated for two Saturn Awards (Best Horror and Best Special Effects). After some time, the film entered the public domain, resulting in a series of unofficial VHS and DVD copies (it could also be found in Polish video rental stores). Only in 2013 did Malone release an official edition of *The Monster* under the original title *The Titan Find*, in a director’s widescreen version. Ignoring the obvious parallels with *Alien* and the poor acting, Malone’s film today holds up with its ominous atmosphere, considerable tension, brisk pacing, chilling scenes, open play with sci-fi convention, special effects, and high entertainment value. Creature is no masterpiece, but it delivers more sinful pleasure than contemporary amusement parks like the unbearably pompous, bloated, and egocentric superhero cinema.