She Creature (2001)
She Creature (2001)

Genre: Fantasy and Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 29 min.

Release Date: December 20th, 2001 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Sebastian Gutierrez Actors: Rufus Sewell, Carla Gugino, Jim Piddock, Reno Wilson, Mark Aiken, Fintan McKeown, Aubrey Morris, Gil Bellows, Rya Kihlstedt, Hannah Sim

 


 

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n a semi-artistic fashion, the film begins in black-and-white, in a dark castle where an elderly woman dodders across cold stones, toting a flickering candle. But then, it proceeds to lose all visual quirkiness by utilizing a first-person camera perspective to show the victim getting attacked – with flashes of red color and a close-up on a bloodied eyeball. If anything gives away the low budget and made-for-TV vibe, it’s editing like that, which also regularly resorts to fade-outs to progress the story – or, more evidently, to avoid filming costly sequences.

Somewhere in Ireland in 1905, a traveling roadside attraction show attempts to make a modest living with fake wonders. A zombie is nothing more than an actor and a mermaid is just a woman wearing a costume. The small gatherings they muster aren’t particularly convinced, but the gimmick keeps the circus of oddities in business. When Lily (Carla Gugino) and barker Angus Shaw (Rufus Sewell) are confronted by irate customer Captain Woolrich (Aubrey Morris), he tells them of the Queen of the Lair of real mermaids living on a forbidden island, who poses a great danger. Of course, they don’t believe a word of his tall tales.

To inject some wonderment into the skeptics, Woolrich shows them the young woman he has imprisoned in a large tank in a back room of his mansion. At first, they assume she’s an actress like Lily, but the large chains, the unwrinkled skin, her webbed appendages, and the amount of time she spends underwater lead them to believe she’s a genuine mermaid. Intent on adding the creature to their show (and profiting handsomely), Angus and his employee Bailey (Reno Wilson) sneak back to Woolrich’s home to steal her. In the process, Woolrich dies of a heart attack. Stunned but not deterred, Angus gathers up his prize and sets sail for America to unveil her to high-paying crowds. But in the bowels of the ship, the dark powers of the mermaid are slowly exposed.

And that’s not the only exposure going on. The mermaid, played by Rya Kihlstedt, is permanently topless, and the camera never bothers to shy away from the partial nudity. This is probably for the best, serving as an easy distraction from the bland dialogue, which seems to exist solely to bridge special effects scenes or nightmare jump scares. Fortunately, those gory bits aren’t too bad, featuring the striking makeup and prosthetics work of the Stan Winston Studio (Winston himself serves as a producer), with a goal of something along the lines of “Species.”

“I think she ate him!” Though the siren is unpredictable, mysterious (and gains human legs every full moon), telepathic, and cannibalistic, the majority of the story focuses on the beast’s mental influence over Lily, who is coerced into doing the monster’s bidding while also losing her grip on reality. The body count is minimal (or, rather, mostly taking place offscreen) and the pacing is slow, but the subject matter is approached with a deadly seriousness that helps mask the plainness of the plot. Interestingly, as this movie was at one point marketed as “Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature” – debuting on Cinemax for their “Creature Features” series (paying tribute to the independent films of American International Pictures) – it would seem that a second chapter was intended but never made.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10