This Twilight wannabe, Gothic horror had huge potential, but despite some really great moments and aspects, it never rose above its original intentions.
One of the true pluses of the film was that it was not about discovering magic ability. Magic was already a given. And, in fact, the displays of magic are executed matter-of-factly and feel both natural and, at times, a bit unnerving when you consider the situations. In addition, neither of the leads are particularly beautiful or unique, they are real people; I mean that as a compliment. Too often the romantic leads of these kinds of films have people so quaffed and pretty that an audience cannot put themselves in their place… they can only wish they were they were model-perfect too and living a fantasy. That is distancing, however much fun some may find it. Creatures goes for a more down to Earth approach and uses physical beauty, where it does, in a very specific way.
But even with all these aspects, with the brass ring well in hand for a movie that could have broken some new ground, the writer/director, LaGravenese (Water for Elephants, Paris Je t’aime), kept dropping the ball. The fault is much more on the screenplay side, which ironically is where he is better known. The script retained the feel of the young adult novel it was based on, but to reach a broader audience and to create something that endures, it needed to evolve. In the end, rather than develop all the characters as people, they kept collapsing back into cliches.
There is nothing that drags a story down more than a cookie-cutter character. And when you have talents like Viola Davis (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, It’s Kind of a Funny Story), Jeremy Irons (The Hollow Crown, The Words), Eileen Atkins (Wit, The Lost Language of Cranes), Emma Thompson (MIB3, Wit), and even the much younger Emmy Rossum (The Day After Tomorrow, Phatom of the Opera) being wasted like that, it is frustrating.
The teen leads fared a little better. Ehrenreich (Stoker) and Englert (Ginger and Rosa) really didn’t have much exposure prior to this release. It was a good introduction to general audiences for both, and their work will be interesting to watch. Creatures preceded notable film releases for each of them and there are others already in production. With a better, more committed script, they may well have launched their careers more spectacularly.
Overall, there are aspects of this film that are worth seeing, but it ultimately doesn’t rise above similar movies of the genre, which was a true shame when you see what might have been. The approach, emotions, and stakes are all there. The execution and oversight failed. Another reason so few can direct what they write… they are too close to the work to see the flaws. Those that can wear multiple hats and produce something like a Perks of Being a Wallflower are few and far between. Sadly for this film, LaGravenese is definitely not one of them.