This review is part of the Horror’s “Worst” Films: Tasteless Entertainment or Endurance Test? series.
Horror’s “Worst” Films – The Creeping Terror (1964)
By 1964 Stirling Silliphant was a respected writer for television and would go on to write some of the most popular movies of the 1960s and 70s. His two brothers, Robert and Allan Silliphant, also wanted to break into the movie industry and Allan wrote/produced one of cinema history’s most bizarre films, The Creeping Terror, though practically nothing of what made it to the screen was how he had envisioned it. They teamed up with director A.J. Nelson, who went by the moniker Vic Savage and who, unbeknownst to them, used their brother’s pedigree to lure in potential investors, often paying Savage a few hundred dollars in return for bit parts. Essentially, Savage was a con-man, a sociopathic egomaniac (starring in the film himself), and a drug-addicted sadist looking to make a quick buck. When they realized their association would hurt their brother’s reputation, the Silliphants backed out of the project. However, just before the release of the film Savage was sued and, facing possible jail time for fraud, fled. Savage’s misdeeds are chronicled in the aptly named docudrama The Creep Behind the Camera (2014). He would die in 1975 of liver failure. Eerily, Savage would not be the only connection to crime that the film would have, as the assistant director was Hollywood stuntman Randy Starr. It would be Starr’s gun that would be used by the Manson family in the Sharon Tate murders in 1969.
If there’s a thread of commonality between many of these terrible films from the 1960s, it’s the absence of live sound as a cost-saving measure. Like The Beast of Yucca Flats, Savage filmed the movie silently and added audio later, and not very well as the lips often do not match up. The long stretches of silence with occasional voiceover recall those educational videos from the 1950s, though there’s far less continuity to be found here. And here’s a question: did we really need the scene of a mother giving her baby a rectal thermometer?
Regardless, these shortcomings pale in comparison the majesty of awfulness that is the monster, which is basically a slow, awkwardly shuffling bundle of carpet and fabric that makes Star Trek’s horta look like a masterpiece of creature effects. It’s languid pace is not a problem for the teen-hungry creature because nobody in this movie knows how to run, walk, or roll away from it. We see a woman laying on a blanket, screaming as it takes its time getting to her. It’s the kind of stuff you see in parodies of monster films, but not in monster films themselves. And luckily for the U.S. military, which sets out to incompetently confront the monster, its crashed ship is filled with dials that are labeled in English.
At one point it appears as if we’ve intruded on the plot of another film filled with long scenes of teens dancing goofily at a party until, of course, the creature shuffles in to swallow them and no one is able to find a well-marked exit. Truly, the monster is something that must be seen to be believed, particularly when it humps a car in order to try to flip it, but the rest of the movie is a horrendous mess. The carpet-creature is tasteless entertainment, but the rest is an endurance test, so have the fast-forward button ready.