[box cover]

She Creature

It's 1905. Irish carnival manager Rufus Sewell and his sideshow "mermaid" mistress Carla Gugino encounter a very lovely and very real mermaid (Rya Kihlstedt) who's a great deal more than what she seems. Rufus steals the sexy beast from its keeper (Aubrey Morris) and the lovers set sail bound for fame and riches rivaling P.T. Barnum's. During the voyage, they encounter rough crewmen (read: fresh meat), dark secrets of the mermaid's former owner, hints of the love that dare not flap its flipper, the treacherous mer-folk isles, and the final half-hour of Alien.

Produced in 2001 for Cinemax, She Creature is the child of special-effects wizard Stan Winston by way of father-son B-movie moguls Samuel Z. and Lou Arkoff. Fully titled Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature, it's the inaugural installment of their "Creature Feature" series, which takes cheesy Arkoff flicks from the 1950s and remakes them as cheesy TV movies with modern trimmings. As a modern low-budget "boo!"-monster movie with no pretensions to the contrary, She Creature is an enjoyable empty-calories snack food for a brainless night in front of the tube. Sewell and Gugino play it straight, and moistened beauty Kihlstedt gives plenty to the thankless role of the mute eponymous peril. The first hour has a fine old-fashioned Hammer Horror air about it. Thereafter it all descends into a derivative monster chase through claustrophobic corridors. If the sailing ship had as many holes as the script it could never leave port, but She Creature is sufficiently fun hokum splashing around in atmospheric, albeit familiar, territory.

Other titles in the Creature Feature series are Teenage Caveman, How to Make a Monster, and Earth vs. the Spider, which tells you everything you really need to know.

*          *          *

Columbia TriStar's She Creature DVD offers both widescreen (1.78:1 anamorphic) and full-frame (1.33:1) transfers, which look as good as you would expect from a recent TV movie. The Dolby Digital 5.0 audio is unremarkable yet comes through strong and clear (although the difference in volume between the feature and the main menu will have you punching the remote).

Extras include audio commentary by Stan Winston and effects supervisor Shane Mahan, a large photo gallery of artwork and production photos, a short and pointless "making of" item, the usual filmographies, and trailers for other Columbia TriStar horrorshow releases. The subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese , Chinese, Korean, and Thai indicate a wildly hopeful marketing department. Keep-case.

—Mark Bourne

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