Creatures from the Abyss is an Italian nautical disaster horror – as wild and expectation-defying and royally f’ed up a creature feature as you’ll ever see.
Also known as Plankton (because nothing strikes fear into the heart of a horror fan like microscopic floating protozoa), Creatures from the Abyss begins innocently enough: five friends taking a dinghy out for a summer beach excursion. Unfortunately for them (as well as day-for-night continuity), they quite stupidly run out of gas and are soon frantically bailing water in pitch black seas.
Stupid people doing stupid things is a tried-and-true prescription for getting folks into harm’s way, and this is no exception, but what happens next is completely unexpected: quick-cut lightning strikes and cellular organism cutaways, an epinephrine injection of Lovecraftian weirdness.
The fivesome frantically paddle toward their ostensible safe haven and board her.
And what they find is not what you think.
The cabins are bedecked in pink and blue pastels, as if the ship was a sound stage for Suspiria. There’s a blinking mermaid cyclops clock, a bar stocked with the finest Italian liquors and an automated Siri-like shower that proffers erotic advice to bathers!!!
Soon, however, they find out that the party boat’s been abandoned, its radio is busted and they’re floating on a “ghost ship.” To quote Seneca the Younger, “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”
In the bowels of the vessel, its research labs are filled with weird aquatic lifeforms in suspended animation, preserved in special liquid (“they frighten me, they have an evil expression!”)
With repartee like that, you likely guessed we’re not in Kansas anymore, but in an Italian production shot in Florida. That means hallucinatory dialogue, bad ADR and keyboards right out of Lamberto Bava World, not Disney.
The group finds mysterious white powder, initially thought to be Peruvian marching powder, but the floating lab isn’t a means for transporting illicit drugs: the researchers had been doing nutty experiments with the frozen fish section of the Devonian Era.
What happens thereafter we cannot spoil, but suffice it to say, the denouement is astonishing beyond all our land-lubber expectations. We’ll say this much though: something is radioactive, something is contaminated and there’s a sexual subplot that will blow your grey matter.
Creatures from the Abyss is relentlessly exploitative, baffling and mesmeric — just the way we like ’em.
**** (out of 5)
[CHECK OUT OUR REALLY AWFUL MOVIES PODCAST DISCUSSION OF CREATURES FROM THE ABYSS]