The Creep Behind the Camera Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Synapse Films
Written and directed by Pete Schuermann
2014, 111 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on September 12th, 2017
Josh Phillips as Art Nelson
Jodi Lynn Thomas as Lois Wiseman
Bill LeVasseur as William Thourlby
Brian McCulley as Allan Silliphant
Laurel Harris as Helen Whittlesey
Mark Lee as John Lacky
Helen Trencher as Corey Alden
The Creeping Terror (1964) has the distinct dishonor of being one of the worst movies ever made. In it, a giant carpet monster from space attacks teenagers in the countryside and even crashes a school dance before facing off against the military. The picture gained new life in the early 1990s when the folks at Mystery Science Theater 3000 spoofed it. It has since gone on to appear in countless DVD 50-movie multi-pack collections of low-budget, usually public-domain, titles found in gas stations and discount bins. Part of the film’s odd charm results from a lack of sound recording and the over use of narration that accompanies the tale. The monster is cheap, the thrills are absent and the acting – well…everything is dubbed, so I really can’t say.
The Creep Behind the Camera tells the story of the making of this “classic” feature and sheds light on the life of its creator and star, Art Nelson. Presented as a docudrama featuring on-camera interviews with various members of the production team and Nelson’s first wife (Lois Wiseman), this movie mixes in a generous level of dramatization. What started as a straightforward documentary on The Creeping Terror quickly changed direction based on the number of outlandish stories reported about Nelson. The film ends up being just as much about him as it is his monster movie. For unknown reasons, the tale is told out of chronological order – which is fine, artistically speaking, but confusing when parallel plotlines are actually years apart.
This movie shares a cinematic kinship with Tim Burton’s highly entertaining Ed Wood (1994), which tells a similar tale of a naïve filmmaker short on talent but long in dreams of making it big in Hollywood. Unlike Burton’s titular character, Art Nelson was quite the unpleasant louse of a man. He was a known con artist who ripped off countless people. He beat his wife, committed bigamy, had drug and alcohol problems and performed other repugnant acts including filming child pornography. The biggest challenge The Creep Behind the Camera faces is trying to make its main character remotely likeable. Written and directed by Pete Schuermann, the film does its best to keep things campy and fun in telling of Nelson’s attempt to make a monster movie, but then crashes the vibe with scenes of domestic violence and the ravages of alcoholism.
Clocking in at close to two hours, Schuermann’s film feels bloated and could stand to lose approximately twenty minutes of content. The disjointed timeline doesn’t do viewers any favors either, and I wish the balance of documentary footage to dramatic reenactment had skewed more towards the former. That being said, the performances by Josh Phillips and Jodi Lynn Thomas as Nelson and Wiseman are pretty phenomenal. Phillips has a tougher time of it, as he carries the picture as a despicable individual while Thomas remains victimized and suicidal through most of her scenes. There is humor to be found in the absurdity of Nelson’s “vision”, but things just become awkward when viewers are asked to bond with a monster.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture looks as strong and vibrant as anything shot digitally in the last five years should. Colors are strong and black levels are inky and solid with no signs of smearing or bleeding.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is a solid mix that keeps most of the dialogue in the front and center speakers, while allowing the music cues to incorporate the rear channels as well.
The main attraction of this release is the inclusion of The Creeping Terror, featuring an all-new 2K scan of the picture. While still suffering nicks and scratches, this is the best the movie ever has or ever will look.
The Creep Behind the Camera includes a wealth of extras, starting with an upbeat audio commentary from director Pete Schuermann, producer Nancy Theken and actors Josh Phillips and Jodi Lynn Thomas. A lot of ground is covered in this track starting with the origins as a straightforward documentary and moving on to tales of the actual production.
The making-of featurette (26 minutes) includes interviews with members of the cast and crew, videos of location scouting, the creation of the carpet monster, audition videos and footage shot on set behind the scenes. The piece is highly informative and entertaining and definitely worth a look.
A collection of video diaries that make up How to Build a Carpet Monster (28 minutes) spans eight days of creature creation. The f/x team is hard at work building the beast and each day’s presentation is separated by individual chapter marks.
Breaking Down Art’s Death Scene (7 minutes) looks behind the scenes at the finale, narrated by Schuermann.
Pete Schuermann returns for a one-minute look at the various Movie Monster Homages found in the picture.
Actor Byrd Holland joins writer Allan Silliphant for One “Mick” to Another (5 minutes), a short discussion of their work on the original Creeping Terror.
A collection of deleted scenes (12 minutes) are actually scene extensions and alternate edits that were wisely trimmed from the finished film.
An alternate ending (2 minutes) launches into another round of talking head interviews that were also rightly removed.
A Screamfest Black Carpet Q&A (19 minutes) shows the arrival of the cast and crew at a premiere screening. The Q&A section is self-explanatory and informative.
Trailers for both The Creeping Terror and The Creep Behind the Camera are also included.
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