Though there had been a number of B-movies about mutant animals coming after humans it was Jaws and its phenomenal box office success that reinvigorated the genre with inevitably varying success. So whilst there have been decent shark movies over the past few years The Shallows ( read about the making of the film HERE), 47 Metres Down (reviewed HERE) and The Meg film makers looked to other apex predators that included grizzly bears, snakes, spiders, alligators and of course Jimmy Saville. But the barrel was very quickly scraped thin and producers turned to animals that had never been on anyone’s radar as being potentially dangerous. So we’re taking a look at some of the most bizarre…..
Bearing in mind that Jaws had been released only the year before its bizarre that any filmmaker would think that the next animal to strike terror into cinema audiences would be…… worms and yet we have Squirm. With the film implying that what we were about to see was true which surely should have had audiences replying, ‘Is it, bollocks!’ the film had an electricity pylon crashing into the ground prompting the worms to pop out of the earth with fangs and an ability to shriek. By the end of the film piles of worms were building up to become a moving carpet for victims to fall into and be devoured and yes, it is as ludicrous as it sounds.
So having been beaten to using Worms a decade earlier in Squirm Spanish director turned to the next best, slugs. The film was based on British horror writer Shaun Hustons’s novel of the same name where killer slugs go on the rampage in a rural community. ‘Go on the rampage’ might be overdoing it a bit as even Stephen Hawking could outrun a slug and he’s been dead for years. It is almost deliriously daft with slugs biting people and in one especially daft scene (and there’s a lot of competition in the film for that title) is the pensioner who finds one in his glove and unable to take it off ends up using an axe to chop his hand off shortly before his house explodes. Yes, it really is that daft. Throw in plenty of utterly gratuitous nudity and truly terrible acting and this has B movie writ large across it.
This was Australian music video directors Russel Mulcahy’s first feature film about a gigantic murderous boar in the outback. So this had a B-movie appeal to it and there were lashings of fake blood thrown around with a giant boar puppet going in for the kills some of which were pretty graphic meaning that several scenes of her gore were edited out. Nonetheless this is probably one of those Saturday night films that’s enjoyably bad and is enhanced with lots of beer and a pizza.
So this was an adaptation of a Stephen King novel which film makers were now clamouring to option the rights to anything he wrote after the critical success of Carrie, The Shining and Salem’s Lot. Now in fairness dogs can be unnerving especially if it is a banned breed but here it was a St Bernard’s that becomes rabid after being bitten by a bat. You can see why King would take up the challenge of turning what is regarded as a loveable family dog into a marauding menace and here the film confines a mother and her son in a car as the snarling dog tries to get at them. It’s a decent enough premise but the dog increasingly becomes covered in drool and goo and rather than looking rabid merely looks as though it’s got a heavy cold. (read our disc review of the film HERE)
Jaws opened the flood gates for any potentially dangerous sea dwelling creature to get their own film so whilst Orca Killer Whale was an obvious choice for this type of film, an octopus was not. Tentacles or Tenetacoli was an Italian production shot in California by director Ovidio G Assononitis who had form as a producer of low rent independent films and this was no different. So if Jaws had problem with its model shark, tentacles didn’t even bother resorting instead to stock footage of actual octopus .In fairness a model octopus they had built for the production didn’t work and swiftly sank so the climactic scene would feature an already dead octopus bought from a local market, But the biggest surprise of Tentacles is its cast which included legendary director John Huston, Shelly Winters, Claude Aikins, Bo Hopkins and most extraordinary of all, Henry Fonda clearly all of whom needed the work. This really was a true B-move…the B being for Bollocks
So the 1970’s would see an era of great directors come to the fore with Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Coppola’s The Godfather, Ridley Scott’s Alien, Spielberg’s Jaws and so on but not before Frogs was released. Set on an island estate where the victims to be were celebrating a birthday it played a bit like a cable TV channel’s. ‘When Holidays go Wrong!’ as the inhabitants find the killer frogs attacking. The title is something of a misnomer because it’s not just frogs but birds, crabs, snakes and geckos who also pile in and all of it is terrible. Audiences had a wide choice of dotty deaths to choose as the worst – Is it the actor who forgets which leg is trapped in the mud. Is it the hilariously bad alligator wrestling? Or is the woman who walks into a vine and appears to choke. Despite starring ray Milland and Sam Elliott, Frogs is deliriously dreadful made obvious by its unintentionally comic poster
Empire of the Ants (1977)
Now this is very much is a throwback to the classic giant creature features of the 1950’s notably Them ! (1954) where ants grow to huge proportions due to radiation, Here though the ants are giant right from the start and the film follows a con artist played by Joan Collins who makes fake real estate deals for land that is overrun by the insects albeit having been made that way by, of course, radioactive waste. The story has pedigree having been based on a book by H G Wells but this film version has the appeal of Joan Collins who by her own admission found her career reduced to the occasional TV show so here was a lead role in a film where she could get back on the big screen. There’s something enjoyably kitsch seeing the iconic well groomed actress brainwashed by ant pheromones blown into her face and worshipping a queen ant.