Damien LeVeck’s second film, “A Creature Was Stirring,” presents a stark departure from his debut, “The Cleansing Hour.” In the latter, LeVeck exhibits impeccable instincts, crafting a polished and chilling exorcism thriller that stands out as one of Shudder’s standout original releases in 2020. However, the same finesse does not carry over to “A Creature Was Stirring,” as it ambitiously explores various subgenres with a scattershot approach. While LeVeck’s fearlessness is evident through the risks he takes, the film’s overall lack of coherence plays against its favor.
In this obscure holiday-themed horror, Chrissy Metz takes on the role of Faith, seemingly a single mother, barricaded with her daughter Charm (Annalise Basso) during a lethal blizzard. The narrative introduces intriguing elements, such as Charm’s mysterious affliction and Faith’s haunting past linked to drug addiction. Faith’s bedroom serves as a makeshift laboratory, showcasing her nursing background through scribbled notes and bubbling beakers. As the chilling circumstances unfold, Faith’s demons are compounded by the intrusion of religious travelers, portrayed by Scout Taylor-Compton and Connor Paolo.
The storyline weaves together psychological chills, creature thrills, and family dysfunction, attempting to provide a commentary on the specter of addiction. The film grapples with the question of whether Faith is keeping Charm imprisoned against her will, a mystery that both the trespassing characters and the audience are meant to unravel. However, the film’s multifaceted narrative, filled with teenage angst and medication regimens, occasionally struggles to sustain suspense, with distracting subplots pulling focus away from the central conflict.
Despite attempts to infuse the film with holiday cheer through Christmastime accents and decorations, technical aspects, such as cinematography and special effects, reveal budgetary constraints. The creature itself, symbolizing Faith’s addiction, appears with the charm of ’80s schlock but is hindered by costume limitations. Performances, while occasionally showing moments of depth, are stunted by an overall lackluster atmosphere, with scenes often feeling melodramatic rather than convincing.
In essence, “A Creature Was Stirring” is an obscure Christmas horror that falls short of fully embracing the holiday spirit. LeVeck’s direction lacks precision, and the screenplay’s ambitious swings lack consistency. While the film’s ideas may be commendable on paper, their execution leaves much to be desired. The holiday thriller, with its mediocrity, is a stirring blend of disparate elements that fails to coalesce into a satisfying conclusion.