A Creature Was Stirring [REVIEW]

In the overstuffed genre of Christmas horror films, director Damien LeVeck distinguishes his entry “A Creature Was Stirring” through sheer height of concept. By taking the outlandish premise of a were-porcupine attack seriously, LeVeck crafts an efficient B-movie creature feature that largely succeeds through committed performances and playful holiday aesthetics.

The story follows overwhelmed nurse and single mom Faith (Chrissy Metz) on a blizzardy Christmas Eve. Still grappling with addiction issues, Faith contends with a moody teenage daughter whose mysterious condition involves violently transforming when her temperature spikes. Their tense dynamic is complicated by two stranded backpackers seeking shelter, who may have sinister ties to the beast lurking in the garage.

LeVeck bathes the film in twinkling holiday lights, lending the mundane house an almost comic book-like appearance. He also embraces editing disjointedness to signal expanding metaphorical undertones. While ambitious, the third act symbolism doesn’t fully connect. But the were-porcupine itself, envisioned by effects team Ill Willed Productions, makes for a nifty and sinister sight.

Much credit is owed to Metz, who compellingly anchors the absurdity through her raw performance as Faith. Equal parts loving, terrified and vengeful, her clashes with her onscreen daughter (Annalise Basso) resonate with insight into the ups and downs of parenting a difficult adolescent.

For horror fans, “A Creature Was Stirring” offers a clever high concept brought to life through solid execution. Some narrative overstuffing aside, LeVeck’s stylistic flair and Metz’s intense work make this a holiday horror treat worth biting into.

Beyond the film’s central were-porcupine conceit, LeVeck peppers the story with details that demonstrate thoughtful investment in the holiday horror trappings. The single mother anchor grappling with a problematic child not only echoes classics like The Babadook, but also touches on heavier themes of addiction and redemption.

LeVeck’s stylistic choices further reflect careful genre modulation. The dreamlike sheen courtesy of twinkling Christmas lights nods to the fantasy tilt of horror tales like Rare Exports. And the eventual tipping into metaphorical territory follows in the footsteps of seasonal descents into madness like Black Christmas.

Of course, the film lives and dies on selling its high concept creature. And here is where LeVeck smartly backs a practical approach to complement his ambitious vision. The were-porcupine itself may show budget limitations in full reveal, but largely remains an ominous and spiky silhouette presence throughout.

The director’s editing patterns also display savvy understanding of horror pacing. Disjointed transitions and time jumps purposefully jar to suggest expanding threat. And LeVeck builds tension less through outright attack scenes than suggestions of lurking menace, from creepy shots of the basement to the beast’s haunting growls.

Anchoring it all is Chrissy Metz’s raw lead performance, which grounds the B-movie plot in credible maternal anxiety and emotional turmoil. Her clashes with onscreen daughter Annalise Basso carry shades of classic multi-generational horror dynamics.

For holiday horror that values atmosphere and performances over gore, A Creature Was Stirring proves Damien LeVeck has creative vision that belies the absurdity of his concept. It makes for a seasonal creature feature worth raising a spike-laden glass to.