Creeper, The (1948)

Creeper, The (1948)

“There was blood — the old man’s blood — on her hands, under her nails.”

Two scientists (Ralph Morgan and Onslow Stevens) return from the West Indies with a potent serum derived from cats. When Morgan is mysteriously murdered, his cat-phobic daughter (Janis Wilson) tries to determine the identity of the killer.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Gaslighting
  • Horror
  • Murder Mystery
  • Scientists

Clearly made to capitalize on the success of Val Lewton’s RKO horror films, The Creeper unfortunately fails to elicit anything close to the same level of enjoyment or psychological complexity as Lewton’s classic thrillers. The story — involving a mysterious serum, cats, phobias, and the West Indies — makes little to no sense, instead serving merely as a pseudo-scientific backdrop for what turns out to be a rather ordinary tale of rivalry and revenge. Janis Wilson (in her final screen appearance; a former child actress, she gave up acting after this) gives a campy, one-dimensional performance, all wide eyes and blank stare; equally incompetent (and instantly forgettable) is John Baragrey as her would-be lover, Dr. Reade.

Director Jean Yarbrough and cinematographer George Robinson do manage to effectively employ shadows in their atmospheric camerawork — but ultimately they can’t lift this silly film above its nonsensical and uninteresting script.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Effective use of shadowy cinematography

Must See?
No; skip this one. Listed as a Camp Classic in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Creeper, The (1948)

  1. Finally! The movie we’ve been waiting for! The one all about “cellular phosphorescence”. In other word, ‘Wha~?!’

    In total agreement here, this is a stinker – and, again in this case, mislabeled as a camp classic. True, Wilson’s bug-eyed turn does flirt with camp, but that’s as far as it goes. Camp needs something to work with – that ‘certain something’ not served up here.

    Wilson actually put me in mind of Ann Miller to a degree – and I wondered what Miller would have been like in a scary musical. Wilson’s beau made me think of a cross between Victor Mature and Yves Montand. (These are the kinds of things I thought of as the movie failed to engage.)

    Director Yarbrough has a frighteningly unimpressive filmography – most of which I’ve never heard of anywhere. Two years before ‘The Creeper’, however, he helmed ‘The Brute Man’ – which MST3K got its mitts on, and which does have camp value.

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