Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 6, 2018)
A horror anthology with a Christmas theme, 2018’s All the Creatures Were Stirring provides a mix of tales. These begin when a couple on their first date find themselves in a creepy theater on Christmas Eve.
In this venue, Jenna (Ashley Clements) and Max (Max Skipper) watch the stage production All the Creatures Were Stirring, a horror anthology. How meta!
Creatures the movie doesn’t simply show Creatures the stage play, though. We view the start of each segment – presented in an abstract way – and then leap to actual filmed representations of these stories.
“The Stockings Were Hung” focuses on an office Christmas party that turns into a violent torture test, while “Dash Away All” features a man (Matt Long) who encounters two odd women while stuck in a department store parking lot.
For the third tale, “All Through the House” features Chet (Jonathan Kite”), a modern-day Scrooge forced to go through his own visitations. In “Arose Such a Clatter”, a man (Mark Kelly) hits an animal with his car and suffers dire consequences, while “In a Twinkling” tells of Steve (Morgan Peter Brown) and the mysterious visitors he deals with every Christmas.
If nothing else, the folks who produced this DVD deserve credit for their refusal to emphasize one potential selling point: the presence of Constance Wu in “Twinkling”. The star of Crazy Rich Asians, you’d think the DVD’s case would scream her participation, but it barely mentions her.
Perhaps the powers that be thought the horror crowd would avoid a movie with the star of a rom-com like Rich - or maybe Wu threatened everlasting vengeance if they used her name to sell this messy melange. I’ve certainly seen worse anthologies, but Creatures nonetheless fails to satisfy.
Three of the stories – “Hung”, “Dash” and “Twinkling” – come with intriguing ideas, but they falter as they progress. “Hung” suffers from a truly lousy ending, and “Dash” comes with a terrible non-ending.
Of the five tales, “Twinkling” probably works best, but it also seems like a mismatch for this set, mainly because it lacks any sense of actual terror. More of a Twilight Zone reel, Steve’s “predicament” seems fairly benign, and the segment fails to convey the expected scares or menace.
“House” becomes a dud because it follows Christmas Carol too explicitly. Of course, it takes some liberties, but it doesn’t tweak the source in a manner meaningful enough to give it a twist.
“Clatter” fares worst of all, as it barely even attempts a plot. It comes with a gory idea for a story but not one that the film fleshes out in a substantial way. Once you figure out its gimmick – which becomes obvious quickly – then we get little else of interest.
The lack of real follow-through becomes an issue for Creatures, by which I mean the five stories seem undernourished. As noted, some boast the bones of interesting material, but they play out in such a thin, insubstantial manner that they don’t satisfy.
And then there’s the framework of the Max/Jenna date. We know it’ll develop its own creepy vibe, but it follows through on that promise in a wholly unsatisfying way.
At only 80 minutes, Creatures flies through its segments quickly enough that they never leave us bored, but that doesn’t mean they succeed, either. While aspects of the movie show promise, the end result seems unfulfilling.