It’s Hammer time once again folks, and The Creeping Flesh fails to disappoint!
Peter Cushing, playing yet another slightly mad doctor has found a bizarre humanoid skeleton on his latest expedition to New Guinea. As he performs experiments on his latest find, he soon discovers that this was a being of pure evil, and thus has been able to locate the source of evil in the creatureâ€™s blood stream! (He also discovered that if you spill water on the skeleton, it brings the beastie’s skin and veins back!) Dr. Hildern has a storied past as well. Living alone with his young daughter, Dr. Hildern is haunted by the memories of his wife, once beautiful, but more recently fallen to insanity. After passing off the troubled wife to his brother at the Hildern Mental Hospital (The Man, Christopher Lee) Hildern #1 lives in a life of worry, fearing the same fate for his lovely daughter. As he soon believes his daughter has fallen to said insanity, Dr. Hildern whips up an antidote to the evil blood critters that turns people insane (remember, back in the day insanity was considered ‘evil’) and doses up his daughter. The serum does not work as planned, and soon, Dr. Hildern has unleashed the beast in what was once his beautiful daughter.
Hammer Studios is synonymous with ‘gothic horror’ although this time around, we’re not quite so gothy. The first thing to jump out at us this time around, is the film is not quite so dark as the usual Hammer period piece. This is the only glaring difference this time around, as the plot; acting and atmosphere is on par for your usually Cushing/Lee viewing pleasure.
The Creeping Flesh brings us a new Hammer hottie in the guise of Lorna Heilbron. Passing off the first half of the movie with a convincing wide eyed innocence, the viewer soon becomes a bit enraptured, and caught up in the plight of the young lass as she watches her father perform science, for science’s sake. Peter Cushing as the esteemed Dr. Hildern, as always, manages to suck the viewer in to his manic excitement as he the mystery’s of his skeletal friend begin to unfold upon the lab table. Dapper as always, I have yet to find a Cushing performance that I didn’t like, and Dr. Hildern is no exception. Rounding out our main cast is Christopher Lee, this time sans fangs. As the dark and somber Dr. in charge of the mental hospital, Lee manages to keep us guessing throughout the film as to his true intentions. Is this man solely interested in twisted experiments on his mental patients? Does he truly care about the well being of his troubled neice? Hard to say, and that’s what draws us in to his portrayal. Normally known for Dracula, Lee comes no where near the fangs, nor the true evil of Drac, but he stands strong none the less.
I have yet to stumble across a Hammer film that I haven’t fully enjoyed. Some come across slower than others, but they are always a treat to sit through. The Creeping Flesh jumped near the top of the list in enjoyment, lacking only Ms. Pitt and the twins. With a twisting story line, and top notch acting sprinkled within, it’s refreshing to look back upon a horror film that doesn’t rely upon jump scares to reap a reaction. While not exactly scary, Flesh manages to be engaging in a dark atmosphere and leaves us alone with thoughts of just what exactly is going to happen to this poor girl. Has her well intentioned, but blinded by excitement father doomed her to a life of torment? If so, how could he not consider the implications of what he may have done to his innocent daughter? This is where the true horror lies.
4 dapper Cushing’s out of 5