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Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

Return of the Killer Shrews (2012)

"The killer shrews are back, and only one man remembers how to stop them... or die trying!"


Fifty-three years after being attacked by killer shrews on a remote island, Captain Thorne Sherman is hired by a reality television crew to return to the island in question. The shrews are still living there and attack again in short order.


One of the cheesiest horror sci-fi horror films to come out of the 1950s, The Killer Shrews is the personification of a bad movie, an infamous Z grade schlocker which came to fame not because of it’s plot (just your generic mutant monster movie) but in how it presented its titular shrews – trained dogs, slapped with extra patches of fur and with humungous fake teeth strapped to their heads. It is even more ridiculous than it sounds. Films like this go beyond normal criticism and exist in their own little bubbles, impervious to the barrage of abuse they receive.

Sadly, Return of the Killer Shrews is even goofier than the original (not in a good way) and is not as impervious to the barrage of abuse it rightfully deserves. It tries so hard to be a cult classic like the original, but all of the self-awareness it tries to exhibit is just hollow and the humour it desperately tries to make funny is anything but. The production tries to be a comedy and massively fails in the process. While the original played it straight and worked for what it was (ending up more of an accident comedy due to the camp value), this one tries to go down the deliberate comedy route and misses it’s mark completely.

There’s little else in the story to go on and so the goofiness is all the cast have to try and maintain audience interest. There’s little tension, little suspense and little craft – the narrative ambles from one scene to another with no real build-up or cohesion. The shrews even attack during the day, throwing all semblance of excitement or fear out of the window once you get a look at them. There is a real lack of urgency about everything in the film, from the shrews who just stand around and hiss a lot of the time, to the actors milling around the island without emoting.

Given the size of the shrews and the fact they had to start attacking humans as their food supply had run out, just what have they been eating on this remote island for the past fifty years? The killer shrews look a little less like dogs this time around, only they’re now CGI dogs with longer fur and teeth. I much prefer the cheesy reality of the original monsters to these pathetic computer-generated creations, in which the effects somehow look worse than they did in 1959. These CGI shrews look embarrassing, with only a few frames of animation spread between all of their on-screen appearances. Let’s face it, the only reason the original become so infamous was because of the terrible special effects. Now the effects are just your run-of-the-mill Sy Fy / Asylum bottom-of-the-barrel leftovers which you’ll have seen in countless low budget monster movies over the past decade. There’s nothing here to make the monsters stand out and what’s worse, they look nothing like the shrews on any of the variations of the poster artwork. What’s really sad is that there are some puppet props used for close-up shots during attack scenes and, as cheesy as they look, actually work far better than the computer-generated effects. Maybe the film would have been better off slumming it with some these dodgy practical effects, something which would have captured the spirit of the original in a far better way than the CGI.

James Best starred in the original and he’s been paid enough to come back fifty-three years later which could possibly be the longest period an actor has had between portraying the same role. It’s insane to think that this was even a possibility given the time span between the two films, but Best is here. The eighty-six-year old is fairly deadpan in his delivery, either totally oblivious to what is really going on around him or too savvy to let on that he knows. Whether or not it was planned, Best reunites with his The Dukes of Hazzard co-stars John Schneider and Rick Hurst for what some people will find an amusing set-up. I, however, have no fond connection to that TV show and so this reunion is wasted upon the likes of me. Schneider has a blast in his role as the washed-up reality TV superstar and is arguably the best thing about the film – a sad indictment indeed.


Final Verdict

Return of the Killer Shrews is a woeful film which is completely devoid of anything of merit. In trying to follow the original’s footsteps in making a Z grade film, they’ve actually gone and done it, just not in the way they were probably expecting to make. Truly a mess of a film which no one deserves to have inflicted upon them.


Return of the Killer Shrews

Director(s): Steve Latshaw

Writer(s): James Best, Steve Latshaw, Pat Moran

Actor(s): John Schneider, James Best, Bruce Davison, Jennifer Lyons, Jason-Shane Scott, Sean Flynn, Rick Hurst

Duration: 84 mins


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