DirectorChalit Krileadmongkon, Pakphum Wongjinda
Release Date(s)2022 (October 3, 2023)
Studio(s)Neramitnung Film/Fatcat Studios (Well Go USA Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: D-
Human bodies taken over by monsters or aliens is a familiar horror film premise, explored in such classics as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s an unsettling notion, and suspense builds as we see ever-increasing cause to wonder whether characters are actually themselves or shells hosting a malignant alien entity. Creepy Crawly, a horror film from Thailand, offers yet another variation on the theme.
In a prologue, blogger Kat is camping alone in the woods. Strange noises multiply behind her. The scene shifts to a big city in Thailand in March, 2020, with the country in COVID lockdown. A bus filled with citizens is brought to the Srichanpen Hotel for a two-week quarantine. Among them are Tevika “Fame” Marley (Chanya McClory) and her brother Flew, on assignment to investigate the hotel’s questionable reputation. Another brother/sister pair, Leo (Mike Angelo) and Lena, are accompanied by their father.
Prawit, the proprietor of the hotel, is officious and dictatorial in enforcing the COVID protocols and short of patience with even his guests’ minor requests. Kat is his newest employee, and she has brought something back from the forest—a creature that occupies her body and can move at will to other human targets. The creature is based on the malicious god Tabonglung, a huge centipede that possesses human bodies.
Creepy Crawly (aka The One Hundred) uses the slasher trope of gathering a vulnerable group in a single location with a monster stalking and killing them one by one, producing plenty of blood and gore. The characters are mostly indistinguishable from one another except for Leo, whose brooding demeanor is explained through flashbacks. The other characters, predictably, bite the dust at regular intervals.
The centipede creatures are definitely creepy, as per the title, and disturbingly large. In one long shot, they can be seen slithering about, nearly covering an entire common area of the hotel. Occasionally, one scampers on the ground or onto a vehicle or over someone’s shoe. Most people are put off by the sight of a centipede, so large, fast-moving, lethal ones are all the more ominous.
These creatures are largely produced by CGI, with some sequences more effective than others. The CGI is used sparingly for the first fifteen minutes or so but then dominates the plot as characters run around, trying to escape the creatures and the mysteriously locked hotel.
Written and directed by Chalit Kraileadmongkon and Pakphum Wongjinda, Creepy Crawly relies on the suspense of uncertainty as to which character contains the body-hopping creature and when and how it will reveal itself. As the film progresses, the suspense dissipates as the directors speed the pace so much that the film morphs into an action picture. The only attempts at characterization are the flashbacks that explain Leo’s pent-up anger, but these details of Leo’s childhood don’t relate to his current predicament. The other characters are ciphers whose only purpose is to be given gory send-offs by the centipede creature. A sense of paranoia should gradually rise to overwhelming levels once the characters know how the monster functions, but it’s not developed nearly enough here.
Creepy Crawly reminded me of the Saturday matinee monster movies that were ubiquitous back in the day, with giant insects being a favorite. Oversized ants, tarantulas, grasshoppers, and spiders all made their way into horror/sci-fi pictures of the 1950s and 1960s. Of course, there was no CGI back then, so filmmakers were limited by existing technology and usually small budgets to create their monsters. Creepy Crawly follows the slasher formula but with an onslaught of killer centipedes instead of a madman.
The film is in Thai with English subtitles. Since the pace is brisk, the subtitles often zip by quickly, which forces viewers to read rather than focus on the action. An optional version dubbed in English would have helped.
Creepy Crawly was shot by director of photography Metee Thuentap and presented in the widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The color palette tends to darker hues, and lighting in the hotel is often intentionally dim to heighten tension. Unfortunately, the prologue is shot in a thinly wooded area by day, which diminishes suspense because the setting looks anything but scary. The CGI is obvious and doesn’t blend naturally with live action. Detail is very good, particularly the creatures’ razor-sharp, pointed tentacles adept at impaling victims. Much blood and gore accompanies the kills.
The soundtrack is Thai 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. English subtitles appear at the bottom of the screen. There’s also a Thai Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Dialogue seems clear, but the pace of the action makes reading the subtitles difficult. The sound effects are very eerie. A crunchy, crackling, gurgling sound indicates the presence and closeness of the menacing centipedes.
Bonus materials on the Blu-ray release from Well Go USA Entertainment include the following:
- Trailer (2:07)
- Gangnam Zombie (1:42)
- Forgotten Experiment (2:28)
- Bad City (1:54)
The main attraction of Creepy Crawly is its multi-legged centipedes. Despite the prominence of CGI, the film has an old-fashioned structure: establish the horror of claustrophobia by trapping a group of individuals in an environment in which their lives are in jeopardy. If not one of the best creature features, Creepy Crawly is a fun popcorn flick.
- Dennis Seuling