This week’s VHS is the seventies thriller from the UK, The Creepers.
Someone is raping and killing students at a prestigious English girl’s school. Who is responsible? And who will be next?
The Creepers is one of those movies where the title has very little to do with the proceedings. I hate to dash your hopes, but the antagonist was neither a malevolent creature, or even pluralized. It’s just a dude, and one I guessed was bent within a few seconds of him being onscreen, which I think might be a record for me.
Curiously, I later found three alternate monikers that made so much more sense. Assault is apt for obvious reasons, In The Devil’s Garden refers to an important plot point in the film and Tower of Terror recalls the landmark near which the attacks take place. Which reminds me, this electrical tower appeared to hold some sort of hypnotic power over those who got close to it, but it was never fully explored or explained. I wonder if that was a thematic leaving from the book (The Ravine by Kendal Young) on which the film was based.
This movie is fairly standard, but its release in 1971 does put it near the peak of the Italian gialli. I wouldn’t say The Creepers is anywhere near as visually stylish as its Roman counterparts, but it does share some of the same beats. The aforementioned devil plot device, where a car’s taillights cast a red glow on a fleeing killer, is up there will some of the greats. However, despite the movie’s rather grim subject matter, very little of it actually makes its way onscreen.
As with many films of this ilk, it ends up being the character interactions that offer the most entertainment. Whether its Det. Velyan’s (Frank Finlay) jockeying with the colourfully nosey reporter Denning (Freddie Jones) or Dr. Greg “pill for every occasion” Lomax’s (James Laurenson) passive-aggressive courtship of art teacher Julie West (Suzy Kendall), I did find myself chuckling several times. As you might expect, Ms. Kendall was the main reason I plucked this title from my sea of VHS tapes, and she was as lovely as ever. Coincidentally, this movie would been the same year she was in Dario Argento’s debut, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. In addition to Kendall, a super young Leslie Anne Down (below) also appears as the unfortunate first victim of the killer.
The Creepers is competently helmed by television veteran Sidney Hayers, and by veteran I mean, if you watched a show in the seventies and eighties, he most likely directed an episode of it. The main musical cue was a little hokey, but I think that was largely due to overuse.
So The Creepers is by no means a standout, but it is fairly well put together and worth a look if you can find it.