Tag Misc. Animals

Night of the Lepus (1972)

Night of the Lepus (1972)

How many eyes does horror have? How many times will terror strike?

Farmer Cole Hillman has a rabbit infestation on his ranch and they’re eating away the vegetation meant for his cattle. Enlisting the help of scientist couple Roy and Gerry Bennett, Hillman insists that he doesn’t want to use poison which would ruin the natural ecological balance of the area and so an alternative solution needs to be found. Roy suggests using a hormone that interrupts the breeding cycle of the rabbits and needs a bit of time to see how the drug works. However, his daughter unwittingly frees one of the test rabbits from the lab and the hormone has unforeseen side effects on the local rabbit population, turning them into giant man-eating monsters which then attack the town and threaten Phoenix.

 

Only in the 70s could something as cuddly and innocent as a fluffy rabbit be turned into a ferocious killing machine but this was the era in which nature ran amok and everything from frogs to insects and bears was portrayed as being out to get humanity for the way in which we were treating the planet. So your enjoyment of Night of the Lepus will depend on whether you can buy into the prospect of a bunch of giant rabbits terrorising Arizona. If you can’t, you’ll spend most of the running time giggling away at the silliness of everything (to be fair, even if you can buy into it, you’ll still be in hysterics).

To be fair to Night of the Lepus, and maybe unwisely, it plays everything straight. Kicking off with a documentary-style news report about nature and the delicate ecological balance of the planet that the plague of rabbits in Australia has threatened to disrupt, the film rarely pulls any punches and never once attempts to wink at the audience and say “this is stupid and we know it.” This is doom-and-gloom from the offset however the film never truly convinces of its intentions.

The fact of the matter is that it’s inherently dull. Though the rabbit attacks are reasonably lively, the bits in between with the humans droning on about how to stop them is tedious and disengaging to the extreme. They seem to take the threat of the killer rabbits in their stride as if it’s just another plague of locusts or rats. There’s no urgency at the fact that loads of people are being killed. Even when the army gets called in at the end, you never get the feeling that anyone here is that bothered at the sight of a giant rabbit. Plus there’s the issue that the rabbits only show up about a third of the way in, meaning you’ve got to slog through some tough scenes to get there. Pacing is a real issue.

Maybe they’re all so stoic and serious because the main characters knew that they were safe from the bunnies. At no point do any of them ever really get put in danger, though if you’re a supporting actor then I’d suggest you find a better agent because few of them make it out alive. For such an obscure film, there’s a cast full of names on hand and they all treat the material deadly seriously. DeForest Kelley, forever to be known as Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy from Star Trek is on hand for what was his last non-Star Trek feature film. Janet Leigh, from Psycho, gets a pointless role but top billing and Stuart Whitman and Rory Calhoun, with hundreds of film and television appearances between them, try to keep a straight face amongst the giant rabbits they’re forced to confront.

Most of the shots of the rabbits are real, they’re just parading around on miniature sets. If you see one slow-motion shot of the rabbits charging towards the camera along the set, you’ve seen them all…and there are a lot of shots of them doing that here! I guess the film does the best job it can of portraying them as a threat but when most of them just sit around on the miniature sets, looking like they’d rather be elsewhere, then you’ve got problems. One or two close-up shots of the rabbits have them gnarling their teeth to the camera with some blood smeared across their fluffy noses but even here you’re not likely to run behind the sofa.

Like the ridiculous giant monster films of Bert I. Gordon (such as Empire of the Ants), some of the rabbits have been enlarged and superimposed upon the film so that they can appear in the same shot as the actors and look to be the same size. When the rabbits do attack, it’s clearly obvious that there’s a guy dressed in a bunny suit wrestling around on the floor with the actors. But you know what, this adds a little old school to the film. Nowadays this would be done with CGI but here you just have to suspend your disbelief at how they used to make things work. It’s no surprise to find out that producers removed all evidence of the killer rabbits in the promotional material for the film.

 

Classic bad B-movie fare from the 1970s doesn’t get any cheesier than this. Night of the Lepus is notoriously obscure but it’s a pity because there are far worse entries in the killer animal genre. Having said that, Bugs Bunny dressed up as a girl would be infinitely scarier than these fluffy fiends.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Monsterwolf (2010)

Monsterwolf (2010)

The night has fangs…

A greedy oil company expanding their operations in Louisiana come across a mysterious ancient archway construction in the middle of a new dig. Continuing their drilling, they set loose a supernatural wolf of Native American legend which proceeds to terrorise the town in a bid to stop the company from taking further action.

 

Seems like it’s been a while since I reviewed an out-and-out Sy Fy Original but here we are with Monsterwolf, a cliché-fuelled trip down memory lane. By memory lane, I mean virtually every other Sy Fy Original or other horrors with avenging Native American spirits in them. Monsterwolf doesn’t differentiate itself in the slightest, running like clockwork from beginning to end.

Let’s see: Native American burial ground – check. Something being built on/done to the land – check. Something spiritual and nasty is unleashed to take vengeance – check. Stock characters from the community to throw into the jaws of the monster every ten minutes or so – check. Lazy stereotyping of Native American culture and folklore – check. Naff CGI monster – check. Monsterwolf is the sort of film you can slap on in the background whilst you do something else, go back to it every few minutes and still know exactly what is happening.

Monsterwolf isn’t the worst of Sy Fy’s output over the years, not by a long shot. But it’s got no redeeming qualities, nothing that makes it stand out and nothing that gets your blood pumping or your spine tingling. It is by-the-book filmmaking in which everyone involved ticks a couple of boxes and then moves on to making the next one. I’m at a loss to comment on the film because only a day after watching, I’ve already forgotten most of what happened. Yadda yadda ya wolf gets released, yadda yadda ya people talk, yadda yadda ya wolf attacks someone. I don’t want to watch it again to have to pick out highlights! Even the setting famed for its beautiful bayous, Louisiana, looks rather dull and unremarkable here. The production values don’t convey any sense of place and it looks just like any other Sy Fy flick (in particular all of those filmed in Eastern Europe). I’m not sure whether it’s the type of cameras or the lenses they are use but the films all look the same.

Leonor Varela (Blade II) stars as the smoking hot lawyer drafted in by the oil company to sway the townspeople into selling. Guess what – she is a former resident who has history with certain male characters from the town to add in extra layers of back story and tragedy to proceedings! Well that’s the idea but it all ends up mechanically going through the usual forced romantic sub-plot motions with people falling back in love with each other after initial resistance to rekindling their love. After all, people facing vengeful Native American creatures are instantly drawn to like each other in the face of certain death. Its extra plot padding that doesn’t need to be present because it adds nothing to film.

Robert Picardo, he of Star Trek: Voyager fame and numerous low budget efforts like this, stars as the slimy oil executive. Picardo has a permanent frown upon his face as if he’s just messed his pants and doesn’t want anyone to know, living up to the one-dimensional caricature that he portrays here. He’s an uber-douchebag, or at least as threatening as Picardo can be. Having watched him for years as the holographic doctor, it’s impossible to take him as a villain. Serial Sy Fy offender Griff Furst doesn’t helm this one but he stars in it instead. The man behind 100 Million B.C., Swamp Shark, Lake Placid 3, Ghost Shark and Arachnoquake (see a pattern emerging) lends himself to the comic relief role. I’m not sure whether he should stick behind of or in front of the camera – maybe do us all a favour and try both for a bit!

I don’t comment enough on scores and incidental music but I feel the need to do so here. It’s almost as if there is a soundtrack playing in the background to every scene, pumping some ominous music continually through my speakers. Yeah I get that the script isn’t doing a great job at creating tension or fear and they need something cheap to substitute for it but sometimes silence is the best way to go about it. I don’t need to have some creepy tunes running through my head when a character is exploring a dark house, I’d rather it be deadly quiet so that the only thing I can hear is my heartbeat.

 

Monsterwolf isn’t one step forward or one step back for Sy Fy films, it’s just standing still. Swap out the wolf for a crocodile or snake, swap the oil company for a real estate company or gangster and role reverse the hero and heroine and you’ll have exactly the same throwaway film as Sy Fy has been pumping out for years.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Frogs (1972)

Frogs (1972)

Cold green skin against soft warm flesh…a croak…a scream.

Jason Crockett is a disabled millionaire who invites his family to his birthday celebrations on his private island in the middle of a lake. Two of his family cross paths with freelance photographer Pickett Smith who is conducting a pollution survey for an ecology magazine. Crockett hates nature and poisons and exterminates any creature that is on his property. However it seems that the poison has had an adverse effect on nature and on his birthday night, the frogs and other creatures decide to get their revenge.

 

I can see how this obscure 1972 film has certain horror fans foaming at the mouth. It’s one of those films that can either be labelled ‘so bad, it’s good’ or ‘so bad, it’s horrific.’ Opinion seems to be divided but I’m definitely in the camp of the latter. It sucks so bad that it really is a complete chore to sit through no matter how cheesy and absurd the idea of killer frogs could be. Your patience for the worst kind of trashy nonsense will be put to the ultimate test, should you dare rise to the challenge and sit and watch this.

Like any true to form slasher film (yes that’s right, slasher film – because the way the film runs, you could quite easily substitute the animals for a guy in a mask), Frogs follows a bland routine of mundane dialogue, death, mundane dialogue, death, etc. There’s not a whole lot of linking anything together, just plenty of bickering between the family members followed up by someone walking off to their death. I think the problem is that everyone in the film plays it straight. Even the script doesn’t throw in any gags. Could anyone really have taken the film this seriously when they were making it?

The frogs don’t actually do anything during the film except appear every two or three minutes after a scene of dialogue. There’s plenty of stock footage of them croaking and leading the charge but not a lot else. Actually there’s plenty of stock footage here generally – snakes, spiders, crocodiles and lizards all get their moments to shine and most of their shining is done by stock footage. The way they each kill off their victims is about as cheesy as you can get. The spiders cocoon an injured handyman in the forest and bear in mind that these are only small tarantulas, not giant monsters. The lizards are even smarter as they knock off bottles of poison in the greenhouse and fumigate another of the rich people with their own weapons. Bear in mind that the bottles do actually say poison on them so why anyone would keep them on the top shelf of a creaky wooden fixture is beyond me. These people are either unlucky or terribly stupid (and that’s not just because they decided to star in this). Another schmuck is fed to the crocodiles. But the manner in which these scenes are filmed is just appalling and I could not even comprehend trying to leave my brain in check to watch someone killed in these ways. It’s just utterly stupid.

The positive, and I repeat the positive, is that the cinematography is great. This isolated mansion looks just that and the surrounding swamps and forests drip with slime – you can almost smell how foul they are. You do get the sense that this bunch of characters are in the middle of nowhere and miles away from help. Oh yeah and the film stars a very young Sam Elliott, who would eventually find fame in the movies portraying grumpy Texans.

 

Frogs is one of the direst films I’ve ever seen. Even the money shots of people being attacked by animals are so ridiculously concocted that it’s hard to take seriously.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Slugs (1988)

Slugs (1988)

They ooze. They slime. They kill.

People are mysteriously dying in a rural community and no one knows what the cause is. Health inspector Mike Brady has a possible theory that the townspeople are being killed off by mutated slugs but the idea is scoffed at by the mayor. With the help of a scientist and a sanitation officer, Mike decides to take action himself before any more people are killed off.

 

Yes the idea is as ridiculous as it sounds but don’t blame me, blame Shaun Hutson for writing the book. I first remember my dad reading me a passage from Slugs when I was younger, about a character that bites into a slug without knowing and swallows it, little realising the danger he has subjected himself to. Needless to say as a young child, anything sounds cool when said in the right way. As an adult who has taken it upon himself to watch every single monster flick ever made, it’s going to take a lot more to impress. And impress Slugs does not.

If the thought of killer rats or centipedes bordered on the insane, then what is to stop the idea of killer slugs sending someone postal with the hysteria? Killer slugs for crying out loud! Those slow, plant-munching globules of slime that inhabit gardens are hardly the stuff of nightmares and, after watching this, you’re more likely to start prodding them with sticks in the garden than run away in terror.

Slugs runs like your basic monster flick. You know the type – the Jaws template monster flick. I’ve recapped it so many times in the past few weeks that I’m sick of it so swot up on one of my other monster flicks to get the feel of it, if you don’t know it off by heart already. However the film does the unthinkable and instead of having the police chief or local ranger/warden the hero, it makes a health inspector and a sanitation officer the heroes of the piece. So there is hope for window cleaners and bin men to save the planet yet. These two characters have to be the most boring men on the planet and not just because of their obviously-feeble jobs. The actors playing them just can’t convey emotion at all, belting out their lines like robots impersonating humans. The unintentionally bad dialogue doesn’t do anyone any favours but the acting is one of the low points of the film. Given that there’s a hell of a lot of talking, it’s going to grate on you pretty quickly. Needless to say the resumes of Michael Garfield and Philip MacHale didn’t see too many additions after their starring roles here.

Thankfully, something that isn’t so low is the gore and the body count. Surprisingly for small creatures, these slugs can’t half do some serious damage. A man eats a slug in a sandwich, only to literally blow up later on in a restaurant as the slugs eat him from the inside. A young couple taking a break from a quick romp (which provides the film’s token T&A) find their bedroom floor covered in slugs – even more unfortunate for the chick that slips over on them and is promptly covered in slugs. And, in the film’s cheesiest scene, a gardener puts on a glove to find a slug has squirmed inside. However the slug takes a firm bite of his hand and no matter how hard he tries to hit the slug on the bench or tries to cut it off with garden clippers, he can’t do it. So he cuts his own hand off, knocking a shelf of chemicals over himself in the process and blowing himself and his greenhouse up at the end. I guess if it’s your time to go, best to do it in a bit of style!

 

Slugs does about all it can manage to do with the ridiculous premise of killer slugs. A fair dollop of gore and some great make-up effects are served but you have to sit through some awful dialogue and robotic performances to get to them.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆