CREEP! is a movie about the making of a movie whose biggest star is a phallic monster made out of a rug. The monster is from outer space and it's hungry. Oh, and its mouth? It looks like a vagina. The CREEP! crew, including Colorado Springs-based director Pete Schuermann, launched a Kickstarter campaign today to raise $65,000 to bring the rug monster (back) to the big screen after its debut in 1964's The Creeping Terror.
Considered one of the worst movies ever made, The Creeping Terror was the brainchild of a psychopath named Art Nelson. He was a small, violent man who used drugs and wouldn't hesitate to steal a donation can or pick someone's pocket, Schuermann says. Obsessed with redheads, he stalked Lucille Ball for a while, and he once shot in the arm the actor who played Alfalfa in The Little Rascals. But the victims of his bullying were most often women, especially his starry-eyed young wife. Nelson, who used the alias Vic Savage in Hollywood, would parade other women -- many of them looking to break into the film business -- into their home, Schuermann says.
"He didn't have a pot to piss in," Schuermann says, "but he'd convince these women he was making movies. Forget the fact that his monster is a rug."
But the lameness (and sexual innuendo!) of the monster isn't the only thing that makes The Creeping Terror awful, Schuermann says. Monster movies were moneymakers in the 1960s, and many were made without an eye toward detail or quality. Still, this one stands out as the worst of the bunch. For one, there's almost no dialogue. Nelson skipped town before the film was done -- and he took the sound recording with him.
"So in the movie, all of the dialogue -- every bit of dialogue! -- is read by the narrator," Schuermann says."'The colonel felt the monster might be roaming in the woods...' That's what makes it the worst." Desperate to save the movie somehow, the film's backers settled on narration, hoping that at least a few drive-ins might show it simply because it was a monster flick, Schuermann says.
"What's fun about CREEP! is popping the ballon of show business," he says. "And it's not just show business. It's show business."
Schuermann's fascination with The Creeping Terror began in 1978, when he was a young teenager who'd just moved to Colorado. A fan of creature features, Schuermann saw the movie on TV one night. "This one, The Creeping Terror, was so badly done, it was hilarious," he says. "It was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen -- unintentionally."
He and his brother wrote a letter to a science-fiction magazine, asking if anyone else had seen The Creeping Terror. They got responses from as far away as Canada and France. The boys even started a Creeping Terror fan club. Schuermann still has his homemade membership card, which featured a drawing of the monster.
Both Schuermann and his brother grew up to be filmmakers. Schuermann's most successful project to date is a documentary called Haze, about the death of University of Colorado student Gordie Bailey, who died in 2004 of alcohol poisoning as the result of a fraternity hazing ritual. After that film did well, Schuermann says people kept asking him what he wanted to do next. "I didn't really want to do another serious project," he says. "I just thought back and said, 'It'd be great to learn how The Creeping Terror was made.'"
Schuermann began interviewing people involved in the film, including Richard Edlund, who designed the title sequence for The Creeping Terror and went on to win four Academy Awards for his work in special effects on the Star Wars movies. But it was tough to find any archival footage or photographs of the filming of The Creeping Terror. That's when Schuermann realized that he'd have to re-create those scenes himself, and CREEP! morphed into a combination documentary and narrative film.
And to re-create the filming of the movie, they'd need to re-create the monster -- which they did. "One of the themes of our film is that Art Nelson is essentially this walking human organ," Schuermann. As for his monster, Schuermann says the screenwriter of The Creeping Terror told him that "the intention back then was to try to make it look like a combination of male sex organs and female sex organs."
By that criteria, the movie was a smashing success.
The rug monster will be in attendance at a sold-out event in Colorado Springs tomorrow called CREEP! with Cocktails & Cinema. The Kickstarter campaign offers another opportunity to get up-close and personal with the hairy thing. If you donate $5,000 or more, the monster will eat you on film. "And we'll put it into the movie," Schuermann says.
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Watch the CREEP! trailer below.