Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Top 10: Nature Gone Wild Part 1

For my first official Top 10 list, I figured I'd go with what's probably my favorite sub-genre, Nature Gone Wild films, in honor of Piranha 3D's recent bombing at the box office, which is unfortunate as it was a good time as long as you don't think about it too much.

When I look back upon my childhood and think about the movies I watched growing up, many of them were killer animal films. USA, TNT, and TBS had a healthy stock of animal films to choose from and would typically run them around 10 in the morning or around midnight, both falling into my favorite slots to watch movies at the time, even on school nights (I had and still have an annoying habit of avoiding as much sleep as possible). I would watch films like the adaptation of Guy N Smith's ludicrous giant crab novels and then play outside, freaking myself out with images of even the most docile creatures lurking, just waiting for me to cross their path. It's amazing what's possible in an eight year old's imagination.

This obsession would follow me into adulthood without wane, save for actually being scared by the things. The shelf containing my collection of murderous wildlife is larger than many of the other more well versed genres, such as werewolves or zombies. It's even separated into sub-sub-genres with different sections for crocodiles, alligators, ants, spiders, snakes, dogs, cats, and so on. It's a field that I can't get enough of, and I can't be alone in this. The Syfy Channel has made a veritable cottage industry out of these films for their popular Saturday night movies.

So with that, I give you the first half of the Top 10 Nature Gone Wild list of films that you should check out. I'll say right now that I disbarred Jaws, Cujo, and The Birds as everyone's heard of them. I like all of them, with two of them being a few of my favorite movies, ever, but I don't think I really need to recommend these to others at this point. If you haven't seen them by now, you will at some point with no need of any help on my part. This blog, more than anything, is about promoting movies people may not have heard about or don't receive as much attention as they should. I'm all about the new rather than treading well worn ground. Also, I have roughly 60 more of these I still have to watch, including several well-regarded titles such as The Long Weekend and Grizzly, so this thing will probably change dramatically once I get to them. And so, here you go, crazy critter flicks from #10-#6:

10. This movie makes the list just out of its sheer audacity. I mean, slugs? And in such a vicious movie no less? I can't remember the reason for these things going Dahmer on people if there even was any, it's been too long since I watched it, but I can't imagine any justifiable excuse for this:

If I saw a slug like that, I'd stay the fuck away from any gardening areas for the rest of my life. The movie rolls out one whacked idea after another. Slugs can pull people from a boat just by grabbing onto any toes they may be dipping. Wait, can slugs even go in the water? Also, apparently if you chop a slug into pieces and serve it with salad, the next day YOUR MOTHERFUCKING FACE WILL EXPLODE! Scientists never warned us about the perils of slug ingestion.

The movie is insane in what it's trying to pass off. The fact that it does so completely straight-faced adds even more lunacy to the buffet. This was directed by the same man that brought the world Pieces which is legendary even to those that haven't seen it yet, such as myself, so maybe it doesn't come as any surprise to how nonsensical this came out. Can you imagine the pitch session for this? Or the crazy bastards that bought into it? It was also based on a series of lurid books by U.K. Shaun Huston that I have to track down and see what else can be wrought from this premise. A remake perhaps...?

What a genius idea. "Hey Bob, let's make anodda giant spida movie." "I don't know, Sammy. Ain't it been done before?" "Well, let's throw 'em in da fuckin' snow then. Shit." And the rest, they say, is history.

Scientists create giant spiders for some sort of mumbo jumbo which then get loose and terrorize the morons at a local resort. Patrick Muldoon, in the role of his career, must save the various shred heads from badly rendered CGI. The movie's awful but it never fails to bring out the laughs. Just the first sight of Muldoon alone will bring on the hysterics, even more so once he opens his mouth and his pot-soaked, desperately "hip" delivery elevate this movie to a whole other level of What Were They Thinking?

The spider attacks are the main draw here with each one being hilarious in someway. The sight of snowboarders being plucked out of the air while jumping makes my hateful heart grow two sizes bigger. A scene with skiers trapped in a bus seems more complicated than it should be just out of human stupidity. And apparently, when spiders eat, they do so in a spectacularly gruesome fashion.

This is one of the few Syfy Channel movies done right, where there's no pretension of grandeur. It knows what it is and revels in its own stupidity, yet Patrick Muldoon's mastery of the theatrical arts will make you believe in the human spirit. Ha! Eat it, Peter Travers!

One of the earlier Syfy Channel creature flicks, back when it was known as the Sci-Fi Channel as though these things matter, this was surprisingly...well, awesome. Genetically altered (you'll find that a lot in this genre) fish get loose in the bayou causing all sorts of ill-mannered shenanigans.

The frankenfish themselves look great, for a Syfy Channel movie, and they're used throughout the movie which is fine. There's nothing worse than a B-movie saving it's monster for the very end, especially when there's no way it would ever come across as scary. And these fish aren't fucking around, either. They tear people in half with a ferocity matched only with the recent Piranha movie, including one glorious fly-by-night decapitation scene.

The movie's fast paced and funny, never feeling dull at stretches like other Syfy films, with even its title acknowledging what kind of movie it is. The last third of the movie is a direct take-off of the ending of Tremors, substituting the earth for water, which could be why it's so damn enjoyable. If you're willing to give yourself over to a movie entitled Frankenfish, you'll find it worth your while.

If you've seen any of the mutant animal movies from the 50's before then you'll be able to guess all of the twists in this one, even more so if you've seen Them as this rips off as much as it can from that film before it can be called plagiarism.

The reason I place this over so many others is simply because there's some great setpieces, especially if you were raised as a stop-motion nerd like me. Willis O'Brien does most of the effects here and they're enthralling to watch, even if it's not as polished as some of Harryhausen's work. The scorpions attack a train, battle Willis's leftovers from the aborted spider pit sequence from King Kong, and then the big mad mutha Black Scorpion attacks Mexico City while in the mood for a soccer match, all of which makes me feel like a kid every time I see it.

It isn't the greatest of films, but for sheer entertainment, it does its job. The scorpion scenes are as fun as the sequences in King Kong, even if you end up wishing for more of them and less of the square jaws standing around and yammering.

If you haven't actually seen this yet, you might have at least heard of it. I implore you, if you've been putting it off, go out and find it because it has to be seen to be believed. It's a concept that I find just a little more ludicrous than Slugs. In case you don't know what the aforementioned "lepus" is, we're dealing with big, giant, man-hungry, blood-thirsty, mutant, killer....RABBITS! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH-

-HHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! One morning when I was about 7 or so, my dad was regaling us at the breakfast table of a movie he had seen the night before where-in giant bunnies would proceed to jump on top of people and proceed to slap the shit out of them over and over. I knew immediately I had to see this. Fortunately, TBS, prior to becoming the reviled "superstation" as it goes by now, had its own fascination with the film and played it at least once a week. You just had to find the right timing and one day, I got lucky, and the image of murderous, roaring jackrabbits running rampant over Main Street were forever burned into my head.

If you ever wanted to see Dr. McCoy scowl constantly for an hour and a half or scenes of what are supposed to be ominous rabbits who are really just sitting there patiently, then you need this movie. I can't imagine how anyone would willingly pour money into something like this. It's become almost legendary as a bad movie joke but I don't think very many people have actually sat down and watched it. You don't want to be one of those people, do you? You won't be disappointed. Movies like this are the meaning of life.

That's the end of this part, which probably has the more outlandish of the ten films. The top half are definitely more quality than these, even if they don't have the same level of absurdity. So if you aren't a fan of crazy premises you might enjoy the next five more. Hope to see you soon.

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