It starts off on a dark and stormy night…
Rain is pouring down outside, I had been promised a night out to a restaurant of my choosing, and then a night out to the movies. I picked that place where the big rat sings his ass off, you know the place, “where a kid can be a kid”. I also picked the movie “Back to the Future” to go see. I’m probably about 12 year old, which would have made the year 1985… Having my fill of pizza and soda pop I am happily riding back in the car to head off to the movies. Suddenly I get this weird feeling. Something in my gut. I speak up and tell my uncle that I don’t feel like going to the movies. (In my mind I was swearing up and down that something horrid was going to happen at the movie theatre, I was convinced that a shoot out or a fire was going to break out) He never questioned my reasoning for not wanting to go so we headed to my grandparents house. They are gone for the weekend, but my uncle was house sitting for them, so that is where we went. They had a garage so the only time we got wet was from the run from the restaurant to the car.
Once inside I plopped down on the couch and my uncle turned on the TV. He was cool. He would let me watch movies that my mom would never allow. Porkies, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask, Various Monty Python movies, Benny Hill, The Exorcist, Amityville Horror, stuff like that. Tonight was no different for it was the night I saw The Creeping Flesh for the first time…
In a way this movie helped to shape my view of the horror genre. The Creeping Flesh, released in the USA the same year I was born, 1973 (which is why I’m a bit partial to it), was directed by Freddie Francis. The two bigger names in the film were Peter Cushing (he plays Emmanuel Hildern) and Christopher Lee (plays Emmanuel’s brother James Hildern).
The movie starts off with a scientist, Emmanuel, telling a tale to a research assistant. He recounts something that happened 3 years prior (1893). He had just returned home from an expedition to New Guinea where he found the skeletal remains of a large humanoid creature, he reefers to it as a primitive man. He further goes on to say that he has broken research that will reveal the “ultimate evil” and that the skeleton is the key to unlocking that evil. We also learn that Emmanuel has a wife and a daughter (her name is Penelope). His wife has been locked in an insane asylum, but the daughter was told that she died, for Emmanuel feared that she would not understand why her mother was locked away. Emmanuel’s brother, James, runs the asylum.
Through flashbacks we learn that Emmanuel’s wife was not entirely crazy, rather she was more addicted to sex and during that time period (remember this is in the mid 1880′s) it is assumed that women who crave sex must be insane. Fearing that Penelope is going to run into the same “sickness” as her mother, Emmanuel has forbidden her to leave the house for any lengths of time. James then reports to Emmanuel that his was has died while being in the asylum.
Emmanuel sets to cleaning the skeleton and washes one of the fingers with water. Oddly it begins to grow flesh upon that digit right before him. Thinking quickly he snaps the finger off before the flesh can “creep” it’s way to the rest of the skeleton. From that pulpy finger he extracts blood and discovers “black blood cells” that seem to devour the red blood cells. He deduces that this is the very manifestation of evil itself.
From those black blood cells Emmanuel makes a serum as a “cure” for the biological evil. During this time Penelope is showing major curiosities about her mother. Emmanuel decides to “inoculate” his daughter, but what it does to her is a far cry from purging her of evils. She dons one of her mother’s dresses and rushes out into the night. She uses her sexuality to lure a man close to her then proceeds to give him a brutal slaying. Emmanuel rushes out into the night to find her, only to find a major thunderstorm beginning.
James, desperate to win a medical prize, decides to steal the skeleton. Thunder is booming, lightning is flashing, rain is pouring down in torrents as the skeleton is taken from Emmanuel’s home and loaded into a horse drawn carriage. Roads were evidently not the best back then, and because of a few ill-placed rocks the carriage is overturned exposing the skeleton to those torrents of raindrops. Flesh begins to grow like wild, unleashing this walking “evil” unto the world.
The ending has a major narrative twist, something that the ending of Saw reminded me of the first time I saw it, but this would not be very interesting if I flat out gave that away. This is a low budget film, and was made back in the early 1970′s, so viewers should watch it with a slight grain of suspension of disbelief.
When I heard this was coming out on DVD a few years back, I was at my local movie store and bought the first copy. I had not seen it since that night at my grandparents back in the 80′s and feared I had made it out to be something far more spectacular that I thought it was at the time. I brought it home and watched it and was not disappointed. It is now on my mandatory movies to watch each and every Halloween.