Friday, August 24, 2007

Going Underground

Having broached the subject of bad films in the last post, I'm in the mood to continue. I saw another stinker courtesy of digital TV the other day, this time of much more recent vintage and on Film Four, rather than ITV 4. This one was Creep, which was apparently backed by the British Film Council. They should ask for their money back. A horror film set on the London Underground must have seemed like a good idea. So good, in fact, that somebody did it before, back in 1972. Creep desperately wants to be the far superior Death Line (or Raw Meat, if you saw it in the states), but completely lacks the earlier film's grasp of plot, characterisation and atmosphere. My most fundamental objection to Creep (apart from the fact it rips off and fails to acknowledge a far superior film), is that its plot lacks any logic, therefore insulting the intelligence of its audience. From the off, it would be pretty bloody difficult to get locked into a tube station if you simply fell asleep on the platform. Quite apart from the fact that the stations are physically checked by staff before they close, they are also monitored by CCTV (which, incredibly, subsequently becomes a plot device for the film!). Even worse, twice tube trains stop for the heroine, but the drivers are murdered. Now, apart from the fact that the movements of trains - even out of hours - are monitored and sudden stoppages would be investigated immediately, both trains vanish, never to be seen again. Where the fuck did they go? Why didn't the second one collide with the first - there are no passing loops or sidings at tube stations?

Unlike Death Line, this film makes no attempt to explain its 'monster' (like the earlier film, the menace is presented by some kind of degenerate tube dweller). In Death Line we learn that 'The Man' is the last surviving descendant of a colony living in disused tunnels after a cave in a century earlier, and forced to kidnap the odd commuter for food. Ludicrous, but it does sort of make sense. Fast forward to Creep and all we get is a photo of the 'creep' as a child standing next to a man in a white coat (by implication a surgeon) and some pickled foetuses in a room. What the hell does that tell us? Depriving him of a proper back story deprives him of a character. He becomes simply a plot device, existing only to chase the heroine around darkened tunnels. Indeed, the film becomes incredibly repetitive as one tunnel looks much like another. Death Line, by contrast, juxtaposed the tunnel dweller's miserable existence with the above ground lives of the other protagonists, most of whom also seemed to live isolated lonely lives. Indeed, the earlier film handles its subject with wit and black humour. Nobody notices vanishing commuters until a senior civil servant - a 'somebody' - is snatched. Creep makes a vague attempt to make a similar point, but very half-heartedly.

The most dispiriting thing about Creep is that, technically, it is very well-made. However, it is utterly soul-less. You just don't give a damn about any of the characters. In Death Line - which was made on an even tighter budget - you even end up feeling sympathy for the 'monster'. What it all goes to prove is that films don't have to be shoddily made to be bad. They can be glossy and technically competent, like Creep and Twisted Nerve (which I discussed in the previous post), but still be bad. Creep could have been a reasonable film. What let it down was the limited vision of its makers - who seemed content to turn out a US-style slasher pic with people being chased around dark corridors by a maniac - and their obvious contempt for the intelligence of their audience. Oh, and another point of factual accuracy - I don't know which tube station it was filmed in, but it was far too clean to be the real Charing Cross underground station. I was there yesterday and it was as shitty as ever. Curiously, it was also far more atmospheric and menacing than portrayed in Creep...



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