The Movie Waffler First Look Review - A CREATURE WAS STIRRING | The Movie Waffler


A Creature Was Stirring review
A pair of home invaders break into the wrong home during a blizzard.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Damien LeVeck

Starring: Chrissy Metz, Annalise Basso, Scout Taylor-Compton, Connor Paolo

A Creature Was Stirring poster

When it comes to horror movies, Christmas is the new Halloween. We now get more horror movies set during Christmas than during Samhain. 2023's batch includes the likes of It's a Wonderful Knife, Nightmare on 34th Street, The Sacrifice Game, There's Something in the Barn and director Damien LeVeck's A Creature Was Stirring.

You have to wonder if A Creature Was Stirring really began life as a Christmas movie, as aside from its title there's practically no reference to the holidays. When a vintage record player kicks into action it plays a version of Greensleeves rather than some expected Christmas classic. I often wonder if most Christian rock bands began life as regular rock outfits and made the switch in a desperate attempt to find an audience. A Creature Was Stirring gives me similar feelings.

A Creature Was Stirring review

The film is set during a blizzard (hey, I guess snow is Christmassy, right?), in the middle of which we find Faith (Chrissy Metz) and her teenage daughter Charm (Annalise Basso) stuck in their home. Charm has a rather curious condition. If her temperature rises above or drops below a specific window she turns into something resembling a cross between a giant porcupine and Ryuk from Death Note. Faith has spent her life trying to find a cure for her daughter's ailment, but for now she has to keep her largely confined to her bedroom behind a fortified steel door.

A Creature Was Stirring also falls into that horror sub-genre involving home invaders who discover the home they've invaded houses a serious threat. The invaders here are Liz (Scout Taylor-Compton) and her brother Kory (Connor Paolo). When Faith discovers the siblings she takes down Kory by planting a baseball bat embedded with sharp nails in his leg. Liz insists that they mean no harm, that they simply desperately need shelter.  Faith is struck by guilt and allows the pair to stay in her home.

A Creature Was Stirring review

It's at this point that the narrative becomes increasingly confusing, to the point that A Creature Was Stirring is a maddening watch. Liz and Kory are revealed to be Christian missionaries (the former has a massive tattoo of the crucifixion on her back, which would have made for a great visual reveal if their identity hadn't already been established through dialogue), which seems like a refreshing deviation from the usual Satanic villains of such movies. But the film doesn't do anything with this revelation, and it only adds to the confusion. Rather than mouth-foaming fundamentalists, Liz and Kory come off as the sort of well-meaning do-gooder types that knock on your door to save your soul and sell you a magazine subscription. They seem to pose no threat to Faith and Charm, so why did they break into their home rather than just using the doorbell and asking if they could come in out of the storm?

The confusion piles on as the story progresses, leaving us asking questions when we should be invested in the drama. Why does Charm turn into a porcupine of all things? There's a flashback to a traumatic childhood experience in a zoo's porcupine enclosure, and Faith gives some half-assed theory about Charm being so mentally scarred that her mind is forcing her to turn into what she fears most. Even if you buy that, it doesn't explain how there's another giant human/porcupine hybrid and a few miniature ones also scuttling about the house.

A Creature Was Stirring review

We eventually get an explanation but it comes in the form of a late twist that is so insulting to the audience's intelligence that you best not have any physical objects to hand, lest you hurl them at your screen in anger. It's a twist that makes no sense given what we've witnessed play out, and it forces us to question why we were given certain perspectives that are now rendered nonsensical.

There are several other issues that dog A Creature Was Stirring, such as LeVeck's inability to coherently convey the geography of the home in which his film takes place; a headache inducing neon colour scheme (an element it shares with another recent Christmas horror, Joe Begos' Christmas Bloody Christmas); and some woefully misguided attempts at comedy (a dream sequence involving Kory dressed as comic book hero Green Lantern is baffling as to why it's in the movie and also how LeVeck got the rights to use the character). Its biggest problem is that it never establishes who we're supposed to be rooting for here. None of the characters are likeable, and the movie keeps shifting its perspective: is the movie about Faith protecting her daughter from home invaders, or the home invaders' attempt to survive the night? A Creature Was Stirring has a promising setup that is completely wasted in an attempt to outwit the audience. In the pantheon of Christmas horrors, it's a stocking with nothing but a lump of coal inside.

A Creature Was Stirring
 is in US cinemas from December 8th and on VOD from December 12th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

2023 movie reviews