The movie announces its intentions early with a well choreographed sequence that follows two sanitation workers (think Ed Norton with a Cockney accent) as they investigate a blocked line. Turns out the sewage was blocked up because the pipe was stuffed with human remains, though solving the mystery doesn't get them very far when they run afoul of the titular fiend.
The film then cuts away to a swank party thrown by a fashion magazine where we meet the main character, Kate. Here the filmmakers take a big chance as Kate is a bit of a snot. Her cushy job doesn't appear to have enlightened her much as her big plan for the evening involves flipping off a coworker and making for an even swankier party where she intends to seduce George Clooney, who is in town to take in the fall line.
Kate arrives at the subway station nine minutes before her train is scheduled and opts to kill time by killing a bottle of vodka. Unfortunately her intolerance for alcohol sends her into a Smirnoff's-induced sleep which causes her to miss the train and totally derails any chance of canoodling with Clooney. When she awakens the station has been shut down for the evening, but her nightmare has just begun as the station is inhabited by a ghoulish figure that picks up her scent and decides to compete with Clooney for her affections.
What follows is a nightmarish spin on that age-old commuter fear of being stranded in the subways after closing time. Kate lucks out in that this station has a few non-mutant inhabitants. She briefly hooks up with a homeless couple but only winds up leading them into the clutches of the Creep, who basically spends the rest of the movie making mincemeat out of everyone who attempts to help the somewhat shallow Kate. The list also includes one of the sanitation workers from the opening, as well as an ad executive from the party who, frankly, deserves a date with the Creep after attempting to sexually assault Kate.
It all leads up to a spectacular showdown between Kate and the Creep which culminates in one of the most creative death scenes ever committed to celluloid and clearly demonstrates that a length of chain with a hook at one end is a fashion accessory that is a definite no-no when worn too near a subway train.
This one works because director/writer Christopher Smith understands what makes for a good thrill ride at the movies. He wisely keeps the Creep in the shadows for 80 percent of the film and never fully explains how he came to be. There are plenty of clues draped around the proceedings which indicate that he was part of an underground experiment and was raised by his creator who appears to have been kicked out of mad doctor school for being downright mean.
Smith also adds nuanced touches such as having a swarm of rats always preceding the Creep's arrival. This one is cleverly explained later on and the answer is so simple that you'll be a bit aggravated if you don't see it coming.
Smith also dares the audience to almost side with the mutant by refusing to make Kate a comfy character you can feel close to. She comes off as aloof for most of the film and is only able to enlist the aid of others by offering them money.
Smith does redeem her in one shining moment when we see her reaction to the idea that the Creep has murdered a dog that was taken in by the homeless couple. Smith may enrage some audiences by tricking them that way, but I freely admit that I could have cared less what happened to Kate until it was clear that she cared for the animal. It's a nasty trick but very perceptive. Audiences tend to get more upset about animals being harmed than humans which holds true for most of us.
Smith also deserves kudos for casting German actress Franka Potente as Kate. She's a good choice and doesn't appear concerned about being liked, which is vital to the success of the film. She was also good as a heroine you could get behind in the 2000 horror film “Anatomy.”
The disc also features extras which offer some insights into the making of the film. Most interesting is an alternate opening scene that was wisely cut, though it would have provided the audience with a back story on how the creep came to be. Though the story boards indicate it would have been an exciting scene, it would have made the proceedings more pedestrian had the audience known exactly what lay in wait for the characters who must contend with the Creep.
An alternate ending is also talked about, but the director says that it would have been too much like scenes audiences have seen before and that the film's budget wouldn't have done it justice anyway. Seen one train decapitation and you've seen them all, folks. As it is, the ending they came up with was superior anyway and has the virtue of being a first.
Any way you slice it, this Creep is a welcome addition to movie monsterdom and deserves a place at the table somewhere between Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers.
Best line: “Homeless people don't go missing; homeless people are missing.”
2004, rated R.
The Black Lagoon gets awful murky sometimes and requires periodic maintenance and dredging. Contest players have noted that we are experiencing some technical difficulties at our website so we will be suspending our latest trivia contest while we make our best effort to get the gremlins out. We will repost the “Sonny Chiba” contest once we've sorted out the technical problems and we apologize for the delay.