As a young girl, Melissa befriends a crab that she finds in the lake near her family’s home. She decides to feed her new pet some grapes from her father’s lab, unbeknownst to her, that the fruit causes things to grow to monstrous size. As an adult, Melissa still watches over the giant crustacean but it proves to be too much once the crab goes on a rampage and destroys a town after its babies are killed.
It almost feels inappropriate for me to be the one reviewing Brett Piper’s latest stop-motion animated creature-feature, “Queen Crab”. Out of the two of us, Ronny is more of the monster movie fan as well as being a fan of Brett Piper's work. Not to mention, having a shameful love affair with Piper’s “A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell”. I guess that’s just how things go — movie reviewing can be a harsh and cruel mistress. Even though I haven’t kept up with Piper’s work, I was interested in “Queen Crab” for the sake of the stop-motion animation that was being used. To go through such a laborious work for a low-budget movie these days is shocking and I was curious as to what the outcome would be.
Before or after you watch “Queen Crab” you’re basically left with two questions: 1.) Is it a good monster movie? 2.) How does the animation style hold up in comparison to the CGI-laden monster movies getting regularly turned out these days?
To answer the first question, I think “Queen Crab” is a highly successful monster movie. If anything, for the sincerity of how the material was handled. There’s some comedy and gags throughout the movie, but at the end of the day, “Queen Crab” felt like any other monster based sci-fi/horror movie you would have seen in the ’50s or the ‘80s. There’s no intentional cheapness (for lack of a better word) — not counting what comes from the movie’s limited budget and resources — for the sake of appealing to the crowd who can only enjoy something if it’s ironic. “Queen Crab” is not trying to be a b-movie, so there’s no obnoxious pandering or winks and nudges to the viewer. It’s just an honest to goodness movie about a giant crab attacking a small town after it’s babies are killed.
Who’s the monster now, you savages?!
Now, whether or not there is enough monster action to satisfy what each particular viewer is hoping for, is hard to say. For me, I was satisfied with the slow build up of the attacks — going from limbs being torn off by giant mandible claws to mama crab facing off against tanks and fighter jets. Sure, it’s a little bit ridiculous, but it’s exactly the right amount of ridiculous and schlock.
Then there’s the whole stop-motion animation technique that’s being used. Oddly, I have seen comments about the use of CGI in the movie but, as far as I can tell, there was none to be found in “Queen Crab”. It’s all miniatures, stop-motion, and compositing techniques. For that alone, Brett Piper deserves heaps of praise because there are very few people who are willing to put in that kind of time and work into a movie. Let alone a low-budget DTV one. Piper also deserves praise because of how good it looks. Not always (there are a few questionable scenes), but overall, the animation and miniatures blend in with the movie perfectly. It’s done so well that it adds to that naturalistic old school monster movie feel that "Queen Crab" has.
Actually, it reminded me of why so many of use are adamant about things like practical effects and stop-motion animation to something like CGI. It’s not a question of one being better than the other — both are cheesy — but it gives the movie an entirely different aesthetic and a feeling that comes through. And whether or not you can appreciate that depends on what your personal preferences are.
Overall, I had a lot of fun watching “Queen Crab” and I was highly impressed with not only how good the actual animation looked, but how well it blended in with the rest of the movie. “Queen Crab” looks better than it should, and I know that sounds like a horrible back-handed compliment but I don’t mean it like that. Brett Piper has mastered his craft (or maybe his style, rather), I believe, and is able to produce a better movie than most others could with the same limited resources. “Queen Crab” is not a movie with out flaws but it’s an entertaining creature-feature flick that captures the same qualities that those older monster movies have.