Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Down the Tubes

Film: Creep (2004); Death Line (Raw Meat)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

Sometimes, a horror movie is just a variation on a theme. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a horror movie that is about some sort of subterranean humanoid or critter that hunts humans for one reason or another. Creep from 2004 is yet another entrant into this particular category of horror movies. The location here is the London Underground and the creature is some form of mutated human. This is a pretty standard entry in this genre; if you’ve seen Death Line, you’ve seen this in large part.

We start with Arthur (Ken Campbell) and George (Vas Blackwood) working in the sewers under London. They find a tunnel in one of the walls and Arthur goes to explore it. George eventually follows him and discovers Arthur injured and in shock. Moments later, a woman appears, screaming for help, only to be dragged off into the darkness.

Now that the basics are set up, we need to meet our main character. This is Kate (Franka Potente), who is at a party and decides to go to a different party where allegedly George Clooney will be in attendance. She heads to the nearest Tube station, but falls asleep while waiting for the train, and when she wakes up, she finds that she has been locked into the station. Eventually, and empty train arrives and she takes it, but it stops and leaves her at another station. She’s not alone, though—on the train with her is Guy (Jimmy Sheffield), a co-worker who was at that initial party with her.

Initially, it appears that Guy has orchestrated what has happened, because he sexually assaults Kate. Soon enough, though, Guy is dragged off of Kate and off the train. He appears a few moments later, telling her to run. Run she does until she encounters a homeless couple named Jimmy (Paul Rattray) and Mandy (Kelly Scott), whom she had encountered earlier. Jimmy and Mandy clearly live in a hidden spot in the Tube station where they are looking to indulge in their heroin habit, but Kate persuades Jimmy to help her find a security guard by paying him £50.

Of course, they are being followed by the titular creep, who is responsible for the disappearance of Arthur and George at the beginning of the film as well as for the attack on Guy. He’s going to go after Mandy while Jimmy and Kate are out walking, something they will discover when their dog Ray appears just after they find the badly-wounded Guy. Naturally, Jimmy runs off to save Mandy while Kate attempts to flag down help by talking to a security guard. Before he can help her, though, the creep gets him as well.

And on and on. Eventually, Kate gets captured and tossed into a holding cell where she meets George from the start of the film, and the two of them attempt to escape, which covers the rest of the film.

There are some decent jumps in Creep, but this is very much a movie that you have seen before in most of its guises. While I didn’t hate the film, it’s hard to say that it’s one that I was really entertained by, mainly because it doesn’t do anything new or different. It’s also a movie that violates its own rules in some significant ways. Some spoiler information follows, but it’s not that spoiler-y, especially if you’ve watched a few movies in this vein before.

The creep (Sean Harris) is some form of mutated human who has lived in underground for a considerable time, based on what we understand. While I don’t want to go through his entire backstory, he is clearly someone (something?) who has been preying on people for years but has gone undetected. Fine—I accept that even if it’s kind of nonsense. But what is established to some extent is that the creep (whose actual name is Craig we eventually discover) kills for food. The holding pens are there to keep potential food sources alive until he needs them. Again, I’m willing to accept this as established for the world of the film.

And yet, in the course of the film, presuming that Arthur and George vanished the same night, since two municipal workers vanishing has not made the news or instigated a search, Craig kills Arthur, Guy, Jimmy, Mandy, the woman from the opening scene, and the security guard—six deaths—for food. How much is this dude eating? If he kills for food and keeps the rest alive until he needs them, there should be five more people in the holding pen with Kate and George.

And that’s the problem—the film clearly violates its own terms. I’m willing to accept a lot for the sake of the narrative, but when you establish a world for the film to be in but then break the rules of that world because the story demands it, you lose me, and that’s what happens with Creep.

If you want pale, carnivorous, underground humans, watch The Descent.

Death Line is where Creep came from, and there was a part of me that knew that based on the basic plot summary. However, I hadn’t actually seen Death Line and knew it only by reputation. I knew the basics of the plot and that it also went by the much more sensationalistic title of Raw Meat. The thing is this—the vast majority of what I said about Creep above applies to Death Line, but with a better cast.

I’m serious about that cast—while our main characters are journeymen actors, the police detective at the center of this is played by Donald Pleasance, and there’s a brief scene with Christopher Lee playing an agent of MI5. Pleasance always had the ability to play interesting villains and weird characters who feel like they aren’t quite all the way there. That’s absolutely the case with Inspector Calhoun, who has a bizarre case dropped in his lap that he seems to be both enjoying and frustrated by.

The start of this, though comes with James Manfred (James Cossins), a wealthy man, looking for some action on the Tube. He’s attacked, though, and he’s found on a staircase by Alex (David Ladd) and Patricia (Sharon Gurney). Alex is convinced that he’s drunk, but Patricia wants to see if he needs help. Eventually, they speak to a police officer who goes back into the Tube station with them to find the man has disappeared.

Of course, there is someone or something living down in the Tube. We will learn eventually of an urban legend about the creation of the London Underground. During the construction, there was a cave-in and a number of people were lost, and evidently trapped below ground. All that is left of those people are a couple of their descendants (Hugh Armstrong and June Turner), who are effectively unnamed in the film. Close to a century of them and their ancestors living below ground have left the two of them horribly deformed and essentially unable to communicate. They are also, naturally, cannibals.

And that’s the film. We’re going to learn that our cannibals are going through their own issues. The woman is pregnant, but dies, leaving the man alone. This sends him into a rage, and he kills a few maintenance workers. Meanwhile, the police, led by Inspector Calhoun, begin their own investigation into the missing people. And, naturally, we’re going to have to put Alex and Patricia back in danger. Because the man is now alone, it’s Patricia he goes after, and it’s evident that he’s not going to use her for food.

Death Line is extremely straightforward, and that’s not at all a surprise. This isn’t a movie that makes its way based on any nuance. It’s also substantially better than Creep in almost every way. Where Creep goes for brutality and a gross out, Death Line is much more about making things disturbing. Oh, there’s some genuine nastiness in the corpses that are littering the bowels of the train station and the physical characteristics of the man and woman, but it’s a lot more restrained. We’re also given a chance to find out about the man and woman. It’s not necessarily a way to make them sympathetic, but to give us some understanding of them.

The best part of the movie is the performance of Donald Pleasance. Christopher Lee might be the class of this film, but he’s only in a single scene. It’s Pleasance, seconded by Detective Sergeant Rogers (Norman Rossington, immediately recognizable as the Beatles’ manager from A Hard Day’s Night), who chews all of the scenery and makes a meal of the film. He’s having a great time in this.

The reality of this is that Creep is essentially the third act of Death Line pushed out to feature length. The fact that Death Line gives us a great deal more than just the pursuit and capture in the train station makes it a lot more interesting. We do more with these characters than just watch them in peril, and it gives us something more at stake. When Patricia is in danger, we care more, because we’ve seen her much more than just superficially.

Death Line is worth your time. If it has a main drawback, it’s that the opening title sequence has a soundtrack that genuinely sounds like it belonged on the set of Boogie Nights.

Why to watch Creep (2004): Your VHS copy of C.H.U.D. no longer plays.
Why not to watch: It violates its own plot rules.

Why to watch Death Line: It feels like the original “humanoid cannibals in the London Underground” movie.
Why not to watch: The opening music is straight 1970s porn.


  1. Replies
    1. Death Line is worth your time. Creep is derivative and not very good.