Interview: Mehcad Brooks Sinks His Teeth Into ‘Creature’

The release of horror movies into theaters can be a touchy business. Depending on a variety of factors – from the actual release date and rating of the picture to the general tastes of today’s movie audiences – it is sometimes easier to release a film direct to cable, DVD or On Demand. However, this often limits an audience’s chance to see a B-level horror flick in the actual movie theater.

This week is different for the new monster movie Creature, which is the freshman directorial effort of Fred M. Andrews. The film, which tells the story of a group of beautiful people who go for a camping trip into the Louisiana bayou and come face-to-face with a local monster legend, is seeing a wide release in the U.S.

Creature star Mehcad Brooks took some time to talk with us about working on this film and shooting in the swamp.

“I’m just a film nerd, period. Definitely a horror film fan,” Brooks said, who recalled watching horror flicks at his grandparents house when he was younger. He’s no stranger to the horror genre, having played the role of Benedict “Eggs” Talley on the second season of True Blood. “It’s a lot of fun. You get to exercise the muscles that are rarely used. Most Americans don’t experience that guttural fear on a day-to-day level. It’s also very imaginative.”

In particular, at a time in cinema history when directors are opting for creatures built within a computer and CGI blood, the reaction of the actor requires more and more imagination. With Creature, however, the monster and blood are all done with practical effects, and the man behind the monster is actor Daniel Bernhardt.

Brooks said that it makes his job easier to have a real thing to interact with on set. “I respected the fact that it was Daniel Bernhardt,” he said. “I think the benefit of having a man in a suit a la Frankenstein is there was a human element to it. There’s an actual humanity to the thing you’re supposed to fear. It’s a unique quality we haven’t seen since Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

The Lock Jaw suit weighed several dozen pounds, and in the heat of the Louisiana summer, the moisture made the foam material even heavier. Brooks recalled Bernhardt needing to ice the suit just to keep cool during the shoot. When asked if he would want to return in a rubber suit for a sequel to the film, Brooks barked out a strong, “Hell no. Hell no.”

But it wasn’t just the rubber suit monster to worry about. Creature was filmed in the swamps of Louisiana in Prairieville, which is between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. It was not uncommon for real creatures to show up on the set. “We had a couple gators pop in and try to be extras,” Brooks said. “Pretty much every take you see that takes place in the swamp, there’s at least one, if not two, snake wranglers just off frame.”

Much of the film’s climax takes place in the mud, which the crew had to make themselves because they didn’t know what they’d find in real mud. “It smelled a little like nasty chocolate,” Brooks said, describing how it caked and stiffened around the body when it dried. ‘You walk around really tight and kinda stiff, and you smelled like week-old dessert.”

But the production wasn’t just filled with creatures and mud. “It covers all the iconography of the genre,” Brooks said, including a key element of any b-level horror flick: nudity. “We have enough breasts,” Brooks said when the conversation turned to the inevitable with someone like me. “It’s very sexy. Breasts are a good thing.”

Creature opens nationwide this weekend.

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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