Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'The Creeping Flesh' is a neat gothic horror flick

The Creeping Flesh (1973)
Starring: Peter Cushing, Lorna Heilbron, Christopher Lee, George Benson and Hedger Wallace
Director: Freddie Francis
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A 19th century paleontologist (Cushing) uncovers what he first believes is the missing evolutionary link between apes and men, but later finds it to be the skeleton of a demon, a skeleton that flesh appears on when it becomes wet. He devises what he believes is a inoculation against evil, injects his innocent daugther with it... and that's when the nightmare begins.

"The Creeping Flesh" is a decent chiller that is a bit slow in getting started, but once it gets going, it's a riveting experience. It's got Peter Cushing giving one of his best performances as a mentally unstable scientist, Christopher Lee at his most effective as a monstrous villain hiding behind a veneer of respectability, and the unique-looking Lorna Heilbron as a gorgeous and completely deranged young woman.

Out of all the films that uses Victorian-style fantasy, horror, and pseudo-science, this is perhaps the film that captures the sexual repression and misogynism that was at the heart of so much of Victorian thought. And Cushing and Heilbron capture this mindset to a tee.

It may not be the best horror film ever made, but "The Creeping Flesh" definitely captures the mood of "gothic horror" that I was shooting for back when I worked on the Ravenloft line. It's also a film that fans of both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee will be happy for seeking out.

(It might be a bit hard to find, though... near as I can tell, the film is officially out of print. still has some copies for sale, and I suspect it might be rented from various outlets as well.)

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