Friday, September 3, 2010

Top 10: Nature Gone Wild Part 2

'Elloo! As Mrs. Doubtfire would say. I won't keep you in suspense with another long-winded introduction, since I already did that last time. Here's the top five entries for your reading displeasure.

Never fuck with the Weller. When one big honkin' rat makes life a living hell for Robocop, Alex Murphy becomes obsessed with its complete and total destruction.

Weller's going about his business, enjoying his new life, when he takes care of a nest of rats he comes across in his town home. When momma rat finds out what happened to her babies, she sets out on a mission of vengeance against Weller. It's surprisingly a decent psychological thriller before the balls-out finale. Weller starts the film as your typical 80's businessman yuppie, but through momma rat's interference, he starts to mentally regress to a more primal state until he finally goes apeshit, destroying every inch of his house in the process.

It's a bit of a slow burn through most of the movie, building the tension between Weller and the rat, until the epically deranged showdown where Weller does his best impersonation of Bob Villa on crank. Still, Weller makes every scene he's in engrossing, including an unintentionally hilarious business dinner where he goes off on a tangent about the nation's rat epidemic. His obsession with all things rat deepens until you completely buy his turn for the psychotic at the end. You come for the mutant rat, you stay for the Weller.

I'm sure enough people have seen this one, but I didn't feel right not placing this somewhere on here as it fits with the tone of the others so well. This is a great example of how sometimes a big Hollywood budget can lend itself to a movie in ways the small scrapper films can't have. It never takes itself seriously which enables it to have the over the top set pieces that make the movie memorable. It doesn't hurt that the entire cast is in on it as well.

Basically, a couple of bumblefuck sheriffs and a couple of specialists are on the hunt for a giant crocodile that's been eating the locals. And Betty White tells someone to suck her cock at one point. That's about it, but what it lacks in plot it makes up for in fun. Goofy characters and a sense of humor makes this one stand out from the myriad of killer croc/alligator movies that populate the earth.

It's really hard to pass up a movie with Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt, Brendon Gleeson, and a foul-mouthed Betty White when they're all hamming it up. Plus, you get set-pieces such as a croc eating a cow or taking down a helicopter. The big-budget enables this to have decent effects (for the time) and have its monster gon on the rampage in a way that the Syfy flicks just can't. It seems to have found a second life on home video, which the Syfy Channel sequels can attest to, but if you haven't gotten around to checking it out, there's no better time.

Another movie tasked with turning the cuddly into ferocious, this one tops Lepus if not in outlandishness than at least blood thirstiness. While in Lepus, the most they showed was the victims getting slapped around by giant rabbit puppets, here, the sheep will tear you apart in a blink of an eye, with parts of the movie becoming a bloodbath.

Thanks to genetic testing, the genre's old friend, one farm's flock is turned into man-eating, woolly monsters. Not only that, but if some unfortunate individual is bitten by the lovable freaks and survive, they'll end up turning into a weresheep, something that I'm pretty sure is a first for cinema. It culminates in an outdoors board meeting being turned into an all-you-can-bleet sheep buffet as business men are torn asunder.

The movie realizes how preposterous it is and never once tries for anything but laughs, making the film fun as hell to sit through. From baby sheep eating a hippy to a wave of murderous lambs covering the hillside like a battle from Lord of the Rings, it's constantly hilarious. One scene involving a sheep driving a truck had both my wife and I laughing out loud. It's one that kind of flew under the radar for mainstream audiences but hopefully more people will be filling to track it down. It's an unheralded B-movie masterpiece.

Another movie with more of a higher profile than others on the list, but I don't think it's as recognized as it should be. Coming from a time before horror remakes were the only thing we get anymore, it has a unique tone that sets it out from other horror films from the last ten years, both in execution and just for the sheer cajones of casting Crispin Glover as the main character in a Hollywood film.

Willard is a repressed, lonely schmuck put upon by his mother, his scheming boss, and just about anyone else on the planet. He becomes friends with the rats in his basement, Ben in particular, and learns that these vermin will do his bidding if he wishes. Glover is manic but subtle enough that he comes across as a seriously unhinged person which society has thrown away and is the highlight of the movie, with the rats coming secondary.

The movie around him serves almost as a character itself, with every location feeling grimy and dank, to the point that it would feel right at home in a 1940's noir. It also carries a demented sense of humor that plays out through the tone and performances. It almost feels like a Tim Burton movie if he hadn't been so busy remaking other crap into mediocrity. I can't say if it's better than the original since I only have fuzzy memories of watching it early in the morning when I was five, and thanks to various outlets pretty much depleting the DVD market, it doesn't look like it'll be coming out anytime soon. It's on Youtube apparently but unless it's something I've seen before, I can't stand watching a movie on the computer. I do know that the remake bombed spectacularly at the box office and has been a bargain bin staple for years. It deserves to be discovered and enjoyed.

At one point, I would have thought most people would have seen this by now, with its constant airing on TBS, but from trolling about on various forums, it seems not as many may have caught this as I would have thought. Besides how damn good the movie actually is, it's also here out of sheer respect for it. This movie pretty much created the template for hundreds, if not thousands, of giant insect movies to wholesale lift from. One of them was even on this list earlier.

Irradiated ants grow to gigantic proportions in the desert and, despite army interference, make their way to the sewers of Los Angeles. The plot may sound familiar if you've dabbled in the genre even a little, but you have to understand, this fucker set the bar. You can spot scene after scene that was lifted into other films later, some of a completely different sort of movie altogether, such as Aliens. There's humor, adventure, scares; everything you could want in a movie involving giant ants.

When this was originally released, it played upon the public's recent awareness to nuclear radiation, much as Gojira had the same year, which I'm sure had a startling effect on an audience not used to such stories. By the time I watched it, nuclear mutation was old hat even to a seven year old. However, that doesn't mean it didn't scare the hell out of me as a child. The ant puppets worked exactly as they should have on a kid with the finale in L.A's storm drains had me as tense as a nun at a screening of Cannibal Holocaust. In fact, this left such an impression upon me, that six years later during a trip to Universal Studios, the tour bus driver pointed the storm drains as we went by and I flipped the fuck out, imagining giant ants rising from its sides to smash and devour gridlocked passerby's. I may be biased as my childhood memories place this above many others, but I still believe it holds up as a wonderful film that I think someone from any age would love. There were killer animal films before, and there were others afterward, but this is the quintessential example of the genre.

And there you go. What I consider the top ten killer animal flicks for you to check out. I think all ten of them fit a certain tone that would go fit well if you were to watch them together. Hopefully there's a few you might feel like checking out and giving them a shot. I think I've already decided what will be the next Top 10 feature but I'll get to that in a bit as there's a few other things I need to get to first. See you next time, and if you go into the woods, watch the fuck out! Crickets are about due for their own man-eating rampage by now.

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