The Night the Creatures Came
Night of the Silicates
The Night the Silicates Came
While director Terence Fisher showed a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and flair for the gothic horror productions he made for Hammer, his approach to films with a contemporary setting was significantly less accomplished. The two science-fiction pictures he made for producer Tom Blakely’s Planet Film Productions are ample evidence of this. Although I enjoyed both Island of Terror and its thematic sequel Night of the Big Heat (1968) it’s clear that Fisher’s heart isn’t in either project. This is despite the erstwhile support of Peter Cushing in both films. Where Fisher conjures up moments of sublime inspiration for Hammer, here his direction is bland and awkward, as featureless and uninspired as any hack invited to direct a low budget genre film. But somehow Island of Terror still manages to possess a certain charm, almost as if the ultra low budget is seen by the filmmakers as a challenge to their ingenuity. With its extremely silly and unconvincing monsters Island of Terror is very reminiscent of early 1970’s Doctor Who, and like Doctor Who a greater reliance is placed on the writing. Although the screenplay by Edward Mann and Al Ramsen is entirely unpersuasive in its badly researched science, the film moves along at such a quick pace that it doesn’t really allow an audience time to laugh at the absurdity…that comes after the end credits have rolled.
The Silicates themselves are an absurdity. They resemble organic Hoovers and are virtually comatose. But that doesn’t stop one of them finding the time to somehow climb a tree! Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of their makeup is their ability to divide every six hours, and their on screen appearances are given added resonance by an eerie electronic sound. But the Silicates are far too visible, their first manifestation (a tentacle appearing off screen to strangle the local policeman) is very effective. But from this point onwards their impact is lessened by the frequency of their appearances. The film was entirely shot in the Buckinghamshire countryside, but with a judicious use of sound effects, the filmmakers just about manage to convince us we are on an island. Despite its myriad weaknesses Island of Terror is cheap and cheerful fun. It proves a dictum that I have held too for many years; if it has Peter Cushing in it, its worth watching.
© Shaun Anderson 2011