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Yuletide Terror: A CREATURE WAS STIRRING Review


A woman crawls through a dark tunnel while holding an illuminated candy cane to help her.
Image Courtesy of Well Go USA

By Steph Cannon


The Christmas season is filled with celebration, merriment, and time spent with loved ones. It’s the few short weeks where, despite the chill in the air, the warmth of the holiday season glows brightly amidst the hustle and bustle of shopping and planning. As with anything, though, there are those exceptions - and sometimes Christmas can bring a sense of foreboding dread to those who aren’t filled with the seasonal spirit. Director Damien LeVeck’s A CREATURE WAS STIRRING examines a holiday of horrors for one small family and their unexpected guests during a torrential blizzard.


Faith (Chrissy Metz) is a nurse and single mom consumed with tending to her teenage daughter, Charm (Annalise Basso) and her extensive daily needs due to an unknown affliction. Through expositional dialogue and tedious notes taken by Faith, we discover early on that Charm’s condition is mysterious, but straightforward. As long as Faith keeps Charm’s near-constant fever below a certain level, she is able to function and be safe. Should Charm’s temperature rise above that threshold, however, she is then overtaken by frightening episodes of psychosis and convulsions.


In order to achieve this, Faith must administer an alarming amount of medication and methadone to keep Charm’s side effects at bay. Given Faith’s occupation, and her confidence in tending to her daughter, nothing should be amiss…or so we’re led to believe. The relationship between mother and daughter is tenuous at best, but Faith appears to be every bit of the concerned, doting mother she portrays herself to be, even after it’s revealed she has a dark, sordid past.


While holed up inside their heavily decorated home during a severe Christmastime blizzard, they’re taken by surprise, thanks to a pair of siblings who break into their home, claiming to be seeking shelter from the storm. That duo - overly religious Liz (Scout Taylor-Compton) and her cautious brother, Kory (Connor Paolo), appear threatening at first, but quickly convince Faith that they are just desperate and lost. Inexplicably, Faith allows them to stay in her home, even offering for them to have dinner with her and Charm, who’s been heavily drugged in order to appear somewhat “normal”.

A woman is holding a baseball bat while illuminated by red/purple neon colors
Image Courtesy of Well Go USA

As the night wears on, Liz and Kory discover the depths of Charm’s illness, and the dark secrets hidden deep inside the house they once thought would provide warmth and solace. As the details of Faith’s dark past begin to unravel, the threat to everyone involved becomes increasingly more monstrous and sinister.


A CREATURE WAS STIRRING is a complex, multi-faceted tale that delivers multiple twists and turns as the story progresses. Part creature feature, part expose on mental health, and a sprinkling of psychological thriller gives this yuletide horror flick several layers of intensity to keep it feeling fresh and intriguing from start to finish.


The foundation making this film truly work are the character interactions, thanks to a talented and diverse cast. Metz and Basso have the natural push and pull that’s so common amongst a mother and her teenage daughter, with Basso pulling her weight in delivering a somber yet equally chilling performance. She knows how to toggle between sympathetic victim and eerie menace with an expertise beyond her years. Metz, for her part, showcases her acting chops by proving she can hold her own in the horror realm, setting herself apart from her dramatic This Is Us role.


From a production standpoint, the movie does well in providing a setting steeped in holiday horror. While Christmas is the timeframe in which this takes place, it also doesn’t play too pivotal of a role other than grounding the viewer in the juxtaposition of the horrific events combined with the brightness of the season. All the same, the happenings that take place within the period results in a unique and twisted story.


That’s not to say it isn’t without its faults. Most notably is the fact that the viewer must really pay attention to what is going on in order to even partially comprehend and understand the plot. There are moments that will leave you scratching your head as to how they are occurring, let alone the underlying reasons.


Thankfully, it all gets wrapped up in a neat, bow-adorned box by the end, which offers up a one-two punch of shock and understanding. Fans of practical effects and old school creature features will appreciate the overall tone of this film, while those who are looking for a multi-layered structure of intrigue will enjoy the more complex issues it touches on.


If you’ve grown weary of the over-abundance of joyous, stereotypical Christmastime movies and are in the hunt for a unique, twisted film to curl up on the couch and partake in, A CREATURE WAS STIRRING just might be up your alley.

 

A CREATURE WAS STIRRING arrives in theaters on December 8th and will be available on VOD December 12th. For more on the film, check out our interview here with Director Damien Leveck and Connor Paolo.




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