Review: Crustacean (US-2010; dir. L.J. Dopp)
by Robert Hood
Crustacean is a horror-comedy in the colourfully weird “Circus Freak” subgenre — a heritage that includes films that range from the heights of the horror classic Freaks (US-1932; dir. Tod Browning) and the excellent The Elephant Man (US-1980; dir. David Lynch) through the flawed but interesting Nightbreed (US-1990; dir. Clive Barker) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (US-1983; dir. Jack Clayton) to schlock masterpieces such as Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case trilogy (US-1980s), Freaked (US-1993; dir. Tom Stern and Alex Winter) and Hideous! (US-1997; dir. Charles Band).
Truth to tell, Crustacean lines up pretty much on the Troma/Full Moon ultra-schlock side of cinema production, sporting cartoonish gore, sick visual humour, even-sicker jokes, an absurd plot, low-budget histrionics and a mockingly celebratory horror-genre self-awareness. Nothing here is meant to be taken too seriously.
Lobster-Baby (Zenius Muleckis) is the main attraction in the Travelling Carnival of Freaks owned by Professor Nightwind (Peter Atkins). While the Carnival is visiting a small US town (in fact, populated by only two families — one even more inbred than the other), Lobster-Baby escapes from his cage — bloodily, of course — after being mocked by one of the inbred locals. He sets out on a rampage of limb-severing and head-removal, while searching for the gal who took his fancy. Thus begins a tale of Shakespearean complexity involving death, mutilation, love, familial revelations, twins and lots else besides.
This is not big-budget Hollywood schlock. It’s low-budget Independent schlock. Luckily whatever Crustacean might lack in contemporary rapid-fire editing, eye-exploding SFX and megastar credentials, it makes up for with a wicked sense of humour, low-budget enthusiasm, genre savvy and all that’s needed for a film to become a Z-movie cult favourite. Director Dopp knows his stuff: the gore is bloody and frequent — cartoonish, sure, but that’s its appeal — as Lobster-Baby’s claws go snicker-snack around assorted necks.
There’s nudity (by way of gratuitous shower scenes and a repeated cameo by “The Girl Gone Nuts in the Woods” — marked as such by on-screen captions). There’s swearing. There’s stupid slapstick, from the inbred Stain brothers in particular. There’s fart jokes. There’s fake circus freaks, such as the pinhead Siamese twins who are neither pinheads nor cojoined. There’s two beautiful female leads — one (Angela Berliner) demure, and the other (Hannah Harper, ex-Penthouse chick) less so, the latter of whom spends half the movie covered only in a towel after “the Shower Scene” (and then she gets her head chopped off):
Oh, and there’s a pointless cameo by “the Producer’s Girlfriend”.
Gross humour as well as social and political satire abounds, and there’s an easy self-awareness that runs through the whole film — most obviously in its genre referencing, postmodern captions, horror parodies and general air of wanton silliness. There’s even excellent music by Dopp and famous sax player Tom Saviano. And in case you weren’t paying attention, the final over-credits song recounts the entire plot for you, in rock-a-billy style.
While not perfect and very lumpy in places, the film has a fun, let-it-all-hang-out enthusiasm that makes Crustacean an entertainment you will laugh along with, scoff at to your more-arty friends and secretly remember with affection. Competent-to-excellent performances, cheesy FX, cameos by genre personalities, satire and genre clueyness overcome its rough-and-ready structure and typical lapses in pacing, and what it all adds up to is good ol’ gory horror-comedy fun!
Check out the comprehensive Undead Backbrain article on the film for more details regarding its personnel and to read statements about it by the director. Go to the official Crustacean website for more info — official DVD release date: March 2010.
Other link: Trailer on the film’s YouTube Channel.