Face-Off: Forbidden World vs. Creature

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

Coming to theatres this weekend is director Daniel Espinosa’s LIFE, a film that is obviously inspired by the 1979 sci-fi horror classic ALIEN. There have been many films released over the decades that ALIEN had a clear and direct influence on, beginning with a flood of such films that hit soon after the movie’s release. Audiences were given lots of rip-offs and cash-ins to help pass the seven year wait for the sequel ALIENS. Among the ALIEN-inspired films to be released between ’79 and ’86 were the two we’re looking at today – Allan Holzman’s FORBIDDEN WORLD (a.k.a. MUTANT), a 1982 release, and William Malone’s CREATURE, which came out in 1985. In anticipation of LIFE, I wanted to look back at two earlier ALIEN-inspired films, and these ones stood out as being a couple of the most similar to ALIEN.
There is a galactic food crisis sometime in the future, and the scientists in a laboratory on the planet Xarbia are dedicated to finding an answer to the food shortage through bacterial genetic engineering. Being so isolated out there, they can take experimental risks that would not fly on Earth – and the latest risk they’ve taken has resulted in the creation of the deadly, monstrous Subject 20, which kills all of the lab animals and sets itself up in a cocoon inside an incubator. When the next stage of its life cycle emerges from that cocoon, it starts to massacre the humans in the research station as well. FORBIDDEN WORLD owes its existence to ALIEN, but also to many other sci-fi/horror films about experiments gone wrong.
A major scientific discovery has been made a few meters beneath the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan: a 200,000 year old alien-built structure and sarcophagi that contain the “corpses” of hideous creatures. When the study of this place goes spectacularly wrong, crews from rival corporations NTI and Richter Dynamics race each other to Titan to claim the discovery – and when they get there, they find that one of the creatures has risen from its sarcophagus and is out to kill anyone who crosses its path. It is aided in this endeavor by parasites that turn its victims into the walking dead. CREATURE wants to be ALIEN very badly, you can see it and feel it in every frame of the movie. Cash-ins don’t get much more blatant than this.
The man called in to deal with the “lab accident” on Xarbia is Mike Colby, whose job is to traverse the galaxy solving problems for the Federation. Colby is a simple kind of man who doesn’t know anything about this genetic engineering stuff. When faced with something like Subject 20, he has a straightforward motto: “If it moves and it’s not one of us, shoot it.” With the help of the scientists who created Subject 20, the research station staff, and the lab assistants, Colby sets out to do just that. Colby is sort of a bland, dumb hero, but the eccentricities of the scientists and the horniness of the assistants livens things up a little.
The characters we join on their journey to Titan are employees of NTI. There are too many of them, and they are so bland that I can’t bring myself to care about any of them. There’s the possibly psychic one, the one who reads, the one who fathered Ferris Bueller, the security officer who doesn’t speak. I didn’t find any of them worth spending time with. Eventually Klaus Kinski shows up to try to elevate things with a creepy, lively performance as a guy who seems to have been driven a little nutty by a close encounter. It works when he’s on the screen, but he can’t save the movie from the dullness of the rest of the people on Titan.
Subject 20 is constantly changing form and growing larger throughout the film. When it first comes out of its cocoon, it looks like a little piece of The Blob. Or a plate of liver. It’s mostly kept off screen when it’s moving around the research station air vents, but near the end it becomes a multi-legged, tentacled beast with a head that was clearly directly inspired by the ALIEN Xenomorph. It looks so goofy, I love it. I’m just left wishing we could see the creature move around and do more than it does, but that was not in the budget.
The alien in this film is kept hidden for most of the running time, with its parasite zombies handling the majority of the dirty work. When you do get a good look at it, it does look a lot like an ALIEN Xenomorph, just not as cool. It’s like they started off with a Xenomorph replica and then tweaked it just enough to keep it from being identical. Make the head even longer, have teeth jutting out of its mouth. It’s a lackluster beast that looks alternately silly and awkward. It’s better executed than Subject 20, but not as fun.
ALIEN only gave us that famous moment where Sigourney Weaver is in her underwear. This movie goes much further – the viewer is shown a whole lot of actresses Dawn Dunlap and June Chadwick, as the women on Xarbia just can’t seem to keep their clothes on. Chadwick’s character seduces Mike Colby during his first night at the research station, leading to a lengthy sex scene. After the death of her boyfriend, Dunlap’s character relaxes in the sauna, wearing nothing but sunglasses… and almost seduces Colby when he stops by. After the women get blood on them, they shower together while discussing how to deal with the monster problem. This movie operates on a level of exploitation movie genius that few can even hope to reach.
CREATURE teases the fan of gratuitous nudity early on with a moment in which a female member of the NTI crew has a premonition that she’s not going to survive this mission and asks a fellow crew member to “make love to me.” This ridiculous moment leads into a sex scene that was shockingly tastefully shot, which is to say there is no nipple on display. Later, a character starts to strip down… and gets interrupted. The teasing finally stops when a female crew member controlled by a parasite lures a man away from the others, disrobes, and uses her nudity to keep him enrapt so she can kill him. It’s a memorable moment, but this one moment can’t compete with all the moments of gratuitous nudity that FORBIDDEN WORLD has.
Subject 20 is good at reducing a human being into a gooey, bloody mess, but unfortunately we don’t get to see it do very much to these people before they’re melting down. When the monster attacks someone, it will usually just grab them and pull them off screen, or the attack will be presented in a series of quick cuts that don’t show much. We do get a form of Subject 20 attaching itself to a person’s face, and a tentacle impalement. There are gory, gross sights in this film, but the kills are lacking.
CREATURE starts out with simple deaths presented through images like helmets filling with blood and blood splashing on windows, but then it steps up its game with things like the nude parasite attack, melting skin, the sight of the alien chewing a woman’s head off, and a parasite zombie getting the flesh clawed off its face. That zombie then receives a headshot that blows its melon to pieces. There are some moments of violence and gore in here that are worthy of cheers.
CREATURE pulled off the win in a couple categories, but it wasn’t enough to beat FORBIDDEN WORLD in this Face-Off. While CREATURE is definitely more of a carbon copy of ALIEN than FORBIDDEN WORLD is, FORBIDDEN WORLD is a much more entertaining movie. It moves at a better pace, is more interesting, has a more appealing tone and style, and a cool score. CREATURE only has some neat kills.

Do you agree that FORBIDDEN WORLD is the better film, or would you have given the win to CREATURE? What’s your favorite ALIEN rip-off / cash-in? And will you be watching LIFE? Leave a comment below to let us know. If you have suggestions for Face-Off articles, you can contact me at [email protected].

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.