Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #4 - Piranha (1978)

Piranha (1978)
92 minutes / Color / Rated R

The Culprit(s): A school of genetically altered piranha that can live in any type of watery environment (fresh water, salt water, cold water, hot water, flavored water, etc.), have the capacity to solve problems (there's a dam in our way? Well we'll just backtrack and find a way around it!), and they can allegedly breed like bunnies in heat!

The Plot: After two hikers trespass onto a thought-to-be-abandoned military testing facility and get eaten alive after taking a dip in a pool full of genetically altered piranha, an investigator named Maggie McKeown is put on the case. Maggie manages to team up with an alcoholic single-dad named Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman), and together they discover where the missing people ended up. Unfortunately, during their intrusion on government property, they unwittingly drain the piranha pool and set the voracious little terrors loose into the cold, fresh water of "Lost River." The piranha immediately go on a feeding frenzy, eating anyone foolish enough to water-ski, swim, scuba dive, or go fishing.

As the film reaches its climax, the test subjects of "Project: Razorteeth" attack a resort full of unlucky recreational swimmers. To stop the unending carnage, Paul and Maggie take matters into their own hands and attempt to wipe out the piranha before they reach the ocean and spawn. Their solution? Pollute the f*ck out of the river by opening up a waste pipe within a sunken sewage treatment plant! Though it appears that they were successful, the film leaves the ending open for the eventual sequel: "Piranha II: The Spawning." In the sequel (which was directed by Oscar Winning Director James Cameron!), these toothy bastards live out at sea aboard a wrecked naval vessel and can fly because they have been crossbred with California flying fish and grunions!

Why it made the list:
This Roger Corman production is yet another rip-off of the immortal "JAWS," though this film changes the formula up enough to be interesting and entertaining as hell. The first big difference between "Piranha" and the film it borrows from, is that it features a school of killer fish, rather than one big one that swallows people on a whim. To me, this is a far more horrifying scenario, because the victims are being devoured alive by an insatiable predator that won't stop eating until all that's left is a pile of bones. At least in "JAWS" the victims either get a brief respite during a shark attack (instilling in them false hope), get completely consumed before they really know what's happening, or at least get a chance to defend themselves against their lone attacker. In the case of the piranha, they surround their victim, strike repeatedly, and never let up. How can anyone even think they can stand against such a mindless voracity? Well the truth is, you can't. Once those little f*ckers get into a frenzy, you are pretty much S.O.L.

Aside from having an excellent antagonist in the film, "Piranha" boasts some pretty impressive (though sometimes hokey) effects, and has a cast of well-developed characters that you actually want to survive the onslaught of the killer fish. Dr. Robert Hoak (Kevin McCarthy!) is a prime example as he is the creator of the dreaded piranha. He messed with the piranha's genetic code in order to make a bio-weapon for the Vietnam War, but once the project was scrapped, he continued his labors. Though he is the creator of the "Razorteeth" that are swimming around Lost River and dining on innocent victims, he seems to feel no guilt as "he wasn't the one that let them out." But his cold scientific exterior is just a facade because he is the first one to dive into the piranha-infested waters in order to save a young boy that is stranded on a sinking boat. For his selfless act, Dr. Hoak gets chewed to shit and dies.

Then there's Paul Grogan's daughter Suzie who is stranded at a summer camp that demands children go into the water. Little Suzie is afraid to go in the water because she thinks something will get her. Although the kindly counselors attempt to keep her high and dry, the asshole who runs the summer camp basically calls her a gutless worm and berates poor Suzie on a frequent basis. (To quote this sumbitch: "People eat fish. Fish, do not eat people!") However, once the piranha pay a visit to the camp, Suzie bravely rows a raft out to save two stranded counselors while Captain Dickweed proves to be utterly useless.

And that leads me to another great thing about "Piranha:" it's a film that isn't afraid to put children in harm's way. Why that may lead you to believe I'm a sick individual who enjoys watching the slaughter of innocents (and you would be correct in assuming that), I think that this helps give the film an edge that allows it to keep normal viewers off balance. I applaud any horror film that kills off youngsters, mainly because it A) creates a little shock value and B) destroys any preconceived feelings of safety that viewers may have had before the film started rolling. (This is also why I love "Grizzly" and the final three films in this countdown; because they are not afraid to show or imply a small child getting eaten!)

Along with an all-star b-movie cast (Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, and Keenan Wynn!) and a wonderfully eerie score by Pino Donaggio, this is a movie that deservedly belongs in the upper echelons of killer animal cinema!

Why YOU should watch it: Well for starters, it's directed by Joe Dante, who approaches this film with just the right amounts of horror and humor. (Not familiar with Joe Dante? Well he has also directed "The Howling," "Gremlins," and an often overlooked flick that I love called, "The Explorers!" If you haven't seen any of the film's I've just mentioned, you best crawl out of your friggin' cave and check them out!) "Piranha" also features early effects work by Phil Tippett (and Rob Bottin!), an excellent score by the aforementioned Pino Donaggio, and a fairly sizeable body count. And you can't help but love the weird sound effects the piranha make underwater when they attack their victims. "Piranha" is a fun flick that has aged better than you'd expect, and I can't recommend it enough!

Is it worthy of a remake? Well Roger Corman's New World Pictures remade "Piranha" in 1995. While not nearly as good as the original, this remake is, at the very least, watchable. And guess what? "Piranha" is getting remade again, by Alexandre Aja (writer/director of "High Tension" and "Mirrors") and it's going to be in 3D! This time around, the killer fish are prehistoric piranha that were released from an underground lake by an earthquake. It sounds like it will be an awful lot of fun, and I can't wait to see it, especially if the 3D effects are as good as they were in "My Bloody Valentine 3D!"

The countdown continues tomorrow with my third favorite killer animal flick. It is yet another rip-off of "JAWS" and features one of the most memorable "child deaths" in film history! Check back tomorrow night; see you later 'alligator.'

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #5 - Grizzly (1976)

Grizzly (1976)
a.k.a. Killer Grizzly
91 minutes / Color / Not Rated

The Culprit(s): An eighteen-foot tall bruin that has acquired a taste for human flesh!

The Plot: After two female hikers are killed and eaten at a state park, by what is believed to be an amazingly large Grizzly Bear, park ranger Michael Kelly takes the case and attempts to track down the rogue bear. However, he and his fellow rangers aren't nearly enough to stop the hungry grizzly's killing spree, so they enlist the aid of an insane naturalist named Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel, who also starred in William Girdler's "Day of the Animals"), who tries to get into his quarry's head by dressing in bearskins and communing with nature. Along with a helicopter pilot named Don Stober, Ranger Mike's chances of finding and putting down the rogue bear seem to improve. Unfortunately for the bear-hunting trio, their prey is smarter than they are, and the bear continues to be one step ahead of its hunters, even up to the final moments of the film. By the time the climax rolls around, Arthur and Don are dead and its up to Mike to kill the rampaging grizzly or become its next feast. When his trusty scoped rifle fails to put the bear down, he opens the door to a nearby helicopter and pulls out..... a bazooka?! Yup! He pulls out a friggin' bazooka, and sends Not-So-Gentle Ben to the Jellystone Park in the sky.

Why it made the list: William Girdler was a visionary director, and I can only imagine what other cinematic oddities he could've cranked out, had he not died tragically in a helicopter crash in 1978. "Grizzly" is an almost unapologetic rip-off of "JAWS," that derives so much from Spielberg's classic film, that you wonder how it escaped a lawsuit from Universal. The only real change is the location (i.e. dry land instead of the ocean) and the type of animal that's eating people (i.e. a big grizzly, instead of a big shark). Everything else is pretty much blatantly stolen from "JAWS," including: the use of point of view shots when the bear stalks and/or attacks its victims, the inclusion of a trio of heroes that are hunting the film's menace, the "beaches (or in this case, state park's campgrounds) need to stay open" plot point, and finally, the complete destruction of the film's antagonist via an explosion. Hell, even the bear's them music sounds similar to John Williams' immortal "JAWS" theme.

However, unlike "JAWS," this film plays more like a cheap slasher film, since the bear stalks its victims, then lashes out with its deadly claw when they least suspect it. (Ummm... how would a one ton bear that's more than twice as tall as an NBA player sneak up on someone? The mind boggles!) The scenes where people are attacked and/or killed are pretty clumsy, and end up eliciting laughs instead of screams. But there are two kills in the film that actually pull off the horrific element fairly well. The first features the mauling of a small, bunny-loving boy, who ends up getting bear-hugged (quite literally I assure you). He loses a leg, then gets to watch the murderous bear kill his mother. This scene is definitely handled clumsily, but it is so damned ballsy, that you just sort of forgive it. The second scene I'd like to mention features a woman getting yanked out of her tent in the middle of the night and brutalized by the uber-violent grizzly. Her husband looks on in horror and screams as she is lifted into the air and violently shaken back and forth by her unseen assailant.

But these are pretty much the only truly serious moments in this fun but flawed exploitation flick / rip-off. The rest is so darned ridiculous and cheesy, that you can easily forget you just saw a women get ravaged by a bear.... or that a small boy was physically and mentally disfigured for life, after Winnie the Pooh's bloodthirsty cousin paid a visit to his house.....

Why YOU should watch it: Rather than guilt you into seeing this movie because its director died while trying to bring yet another entertaining film to the American public, I'll just rattle off a few highlights that make this a surefire must see film. First of all, you get to see people get attacked by an oversized (and totally unconvincing) bear claw. This bear is a definite righty, and uses his dominant claw to drag his victims to their offscreen demises, including an attractive blonde ranger who just had to strip down and bathe in a waterfall. Then there's the various scenes of bear-on-human brutality throughout the film that range from being delightfully absurd, to genuinely chilling. I think my favorite kill in the film is when Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel) is attacked by the bear. Arthur is knocked out of the saddle after his horse is beheaded by the grizzly, then gets mauled and buried in a shallow grave to serve as a snack for later. Arthur eventually wakes up and digs himself out of the ground, but before he can thank God for being alive, that pesky bear shows up to finish the job. (Doh!)

And to top it all off, the bear is blown away with a f*ckin' bazooka! What other movie has ever been gutsy enough to have the lead character pull out an anti-tank weapon and kill a (formerly) endangered species?! No wonder this was the highest grossing independent film of all time.... until John Carpenter's "Halloween" came around that is.

Is it worthy of a remake? I think this one could stand a remake, as most recent attempts to make killer bear movies have been utter failures. ("Grizzly Rage," I'm looking in your direction.) If someone in Hollywood does get the ball rolling for a "Grizzly" remake, then I think they should strictly make it a serious and straightforward horror flick. I don't mind if they make it a little tongue-in-cheek, but I think they should completely shy away from making it a campy throwback to the ecological horror flicks of the 70's... that is, unless Quentin Tarantino and/or Robert Rodriguez got involved.....

The countdown to number one continues tomorrow with a classic Roger Corman produced knockoff of "Jaws." Don't miss it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #6 - The Birds (1963)

The Birds (1963)
120 minutes / Color / Rated PG-13

The Culprit(s): Hundreds, nay thousands, of birds hailing form a variety of species, including seagulls and crows.

The Plot: Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) is a spoiled little rich girl who takes a shining to a fellow named Mitch Brenner and drives out to Bodega Bay, California (home of "The Fog!") to pay him a surprise visit. But Melanie should have just stayed home because mere moments after her arrival, she is dive-bombed by a seagull. Though she only receives a superficial wound, the gull attack is quite a shock, and as it turns out, is just a small preview of coming attractions. As the days tick by, the bird attacks increase, with each new attack proving to be more vicious than the last. The birds swoop down and ruin a young girl's birthday party, then they invade a guy's house and peck out his eyes (which sadly occurs offscreen), then they go kamikaze on a school full of children, and finally, they carry out a daring air strike on the town itself, resulting in lots of broken windows and the fiery destruction of a gas station. As the plague of birds continues to build, Melanie, Mitch, and his family barricade themselves into their seaside home in a desperate fight for survival.

Why it made the list: One has to wonder how Alfred Hitchcock suddenly decided to make a film about birds revolting against humanity, especially when you consider that the bulk of his films were mysteries and thrillers. Then again, "The Birds" falls into both of those categories. It is a mystery because no one knows why all the birds in Southern California are joining forces to peck the shit out of people (my theory is that they are in Bodega Bay solely to nest in Tippi Hedren's hair), and, "The Birds" is also a thriller because it thrusts characters we can actually care about, into a deadly and fairly unbelievable scenario. (Essentially, the only choice these people have is to either find a solution to the avian invasion, or just hope to survive nature's sudden onslaught.)

"The Birds" featured groundbreaking special effects, and was actually pretty violent and graphic for its time. Aside from a few people with stage blood on their hands and faces, we get glimpses of birds crashing into windows, and a pretty shocking scene where Lydia Brenner (Mitch's mom; played by Jessica Tandy) discovers the eyeless corpse of a neighbor. It is also interesting to note that "The Birds" does not have a soundtrack, which makes it a real cinematic oddity. I guess this was done to help make the proceedings seem even more realistic, but even if that wasn't the case, it kind of works in the film's favor. In a world where movies rely on loud musical cues to help elicit scares from audiences, its nice to look back on a film that didn't have to resort to that.

Why YOU should watch it: This movie is a classic and, aside from "Psycho," is probably Hitchcock's most memorable film. I could blather on about how good the movie is on a technical level, or how it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, but really, all you need to know about "The Birds" is that it delivers the goods. The scenes where the film's antagonists fly in and attack fleeing woman and children are nothing short of amazing. What I love about this movie is that each bird attack attempts to one-up the one that came before it, and it almost gets to a point where you almost expect to see flocks of birds having "dogfights" with military airplanes. (Sadly this never happens, but you can imagine how cool it would've been.)

Also, there's that nifty corpse with the empty eye-sockets that Jessica Tandy discovers, and there's a wonderful moment in the film where an old know-it-all wench gets her comeuppance. Said old crone is a self-proclaimed bird expert and tells everyone in a diner that birds don't attack people and they most certainly do not coordinate their attacks with other bird species. (As the saying goes "birds of a feather flock together.") Imagine this old bitch's surprise when a legion of seagulls rains down destruction upon the town moments after she delivers her speech.

Is it worthy of a remake?
Well someone in Hollywood thinks so, and according to the Hollywood Reporter, that someone is Michael Bay. And why not? His production company, Platinum Dunes, has been behind the recent slew of horror movie remakes which include "Friday the 13th," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," and eventually, "A Nightmare on Elm St." Charlize Theron will allegedly star in this modern retelling of the Hitchcock's classic film, and it is set to come out sometime in 2010.

I can easily tell you now that a remake of "The Birds" will suck horrifically. While the effects used in the original aren't up to today's standards, Hitchcock at least used a lot of live birds in his film. The actors and actresses had something tangible (and very much alive) to react to, and in this modern age of CGI effects "wizardry" you know that the film makers aren't going to bother with any practical effects or trained animals if they can help it. Hopefully the proposed remake of "The Birds" will just quietly die and be laid to rest with the proposed remake of John Carpenter's "The Thing."

Hey, I just read elsewhere that there is a sequel to "The Birds." Is that worth watching? F*ck no! "The Birds II: Land's End" was a made for TV atrocity that came out in 1994. How bad is it? Well, director Rick Rosenthal, who is best known for directing "Halloween II," applied for an Alan Smithee credit because "The Birds II" was total ass.

Well we're halfway there gang! Just five more flicks to go before this list is done with, and I assure you I have been saving the best films for last. Check back tomorrow for number five on the countdown, which is aptly referred to by many as "Jaws with Claws."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #7 - Orca (1977)

ORCA (1977)
a.k.a. Orca: The Killer Whale
92 minutes / Color / Rated PG

The Culprit(s): One vengeful and insanely intelligent killer whale.

The Plot: Captain Nolan (Richard Harris) is out on a routine whaling expedition, when he and his crew come across a pod of killer whales. (Which are actually a species of dolphin if you can believe it.) Nolan fires his harpoon gun at a big male, but ultimately misses his prize. The harpoon only takes a chunk out of the fin of Nolan's target, and instead, deeply embeds itself into the flesh of the killer whale's mate. Nolan's crew reels in their catch and hoists the dying animal out of the sea. It is here that the film strikes viewers with one of the most disturbing images ever seen in a PG-rated film: Mrs. Orca's vagina(?) horrifically spits out the fetus of her unborn child! A very rattled Nolan quickly washes the fetus overboard, drops the dying whale into the sea and heads back to port. Unbeknownst to Nolan, the husband of the pregnant killer whale he just butchered has followed him, and soon a game of cat and mouse begins. The vengeful cetacean injures and kills Nolan's crew-mates, ingeniously sets off a gas line explosion on the shore, causes thousands of dollars in property damage, and eventually coaxes the maligned sea captain out into open waters. The angry orca leads Nolan up into the icy waters of the Arctic, where they eventually have their final showdown.

Why it made the list: This was one of the first "Jaws" rip-offs, and even goes as far as to have a killer whale completely decimate a Great White Shark early on in the film. (Probably at the request of producer, Dino de Laurentiis.) But categorizing "Orca" as a mere rip-off isn't totally fair, as the only real similarity is that both films feature an aquatic menace. Truthfully, "Orca" is more like "Death Wish" than "Jaws," as it focuses heavily on the titular creature's attempts to avenge the death of its spouse and unborn child. (Sadly, the killer whale does not utilize a sock full of quarters in its revenge spree.)

What makes this film even more interesting though, is that Nolan, who is supposed to be the villain, suffers just as much as the creature he has wronged. At first he is totally disgusted by what he's done (and seen), and he actually feels guilty! However, as the film goes on, his guilt and sorrow turn to hatred after the killer whale claims the lives (and limbs) of the people that are closest to him. While this scenario is kind of cheesy, it does make for some compelling cinema, and you may even find yourself cheering on Nolan or the whale as the film's climax approaches.

Why YOU should watch it:
Well for starters, you get to see the only(?) on-screen killer whale abortion in cinematic history. (While it doesn't look as convincing as it probably did in the 70's, it is still a pretty f*cked up scene that should elicit shocked gasps from unsuspecting viewers.) The effects in the film are overall, pretty decent, the cast is talented, and the soundtrack (scored by Ennio Morricone, one of the greatest composers of all time) is beautiful! And, as an added bonus, you get to see a killer whale bite off Bo Derek's leg!

Is it worthy of a remake?
Hmm... that is a tricky question to answer here. Up to this point, all of the film's I've had on the list were, for the most part, low-budget exploitation flicks with environmental themes. This film is an entirely different beast altogether as it had a good-sized budget, an all-star cast, and music by Ennio Morricone. I think, that for the first time, I'm going to say "no, this movie should not be remade." It is far from being an immortal classic (like "JAWS"), but "Orca" has a pretty good cult following, and isn’t too shabby a movie. Then again, a remake of "Orca" can only make the original look all the better....

The countdown to my all-time favorite killer animal flick continues tomorrow with number six... unless I suddenly come down with the "bird flu." (Yes, that was a hint, and yes, I agree that it wasn't very subtle or witty.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #8 - Day of the Animals (1977)

Day of the Animals (1977)
a.k.a. Something Is Out There
97 minutes / Color / Not Rated

The Culprit(s): Every type of animal imaginable, including wolves, dogs, rats, snakes, hawks, owls, mountain lions, and bears! Oh my!

The Plot: A hole opens up in the ozone layer around Earth and turns every animal living at high altitudes into a vicious, mindless killer that is hellbent on the destruction of humanity! And wouldn't you know it, just as this happens, a group of hikers decides to climb up a mountain and take in the beauty of Mother Nature. As soon as the group of city slickers is well-stranded up in the great outdoors, everything with paws, claws, and wings begins stalking and terrorizing the mixed crew of (former) nature lovers. After the group is whittled down by several animal attacks, the survivors decide to retreat back to civilization. However, one of the beleaguered hikers, Paul Jenson (Leslie Nielsen!), is slowly going as crazy as the local fauna. He manages to talk half of the group into going with him to "safety," and eventually evolves from an irritating asshole, into a full blown psycho who suddenly decides that he can beat a bear in a wrestling match. In the end, a little girl is the lone survivor of the unlucky group, and she is rescued by soldiers donning haz-mat suits made of aluminum foil. As for that pesky hole in the ozone, it magically patched itself up overnight. And all of the crazy killer animals? They all conveniently keeled over and died after the ozone phenomenon ended.

Why it made the list:
Growing up, this was probably the only nature revenge flick that I missed out on, and I filled a huge void in my life by finally buying and watching "Day of the Animals." This is a taut little thriller that features some impressive moments where man and beast interact, and although it contains some truly awful dialogue, I think that it just adds to the film's charm. This is easily one of my favorite William Girdler flicks, and it is a crying shame that he made so few films before his tragic death in 1978. (Rest in peace Bill; you will be missed, but your films will live on forever.)

Why YOU should watch it:
Where else can you see Leslie Nielsen (star of "The Naked Gun" trilogy) go batshit insane, kill a guy, attempt to rape a weeping woman, then battle an enraged bear?! If that doesn't sell you on this movie, I don't know what will. (Watch Leslie Nielsen degenerate into a madman in the Youtube clip below. To see him battle the bear, skip ahead to the two-minute mark.)

Is it worthy of a remake?
Hell yeah, though I doubt that modern audiences will buy the "hole in the ozone layer makes animals go crazy" plot point. On the downside, if this does get remade, it will most likely feature fake-looking CGI animals terrorizing a group of horny teenagers who completely lack common sense. Hmm... maybe this one shouldn't be remade after all....

Murder, revenge, and a disturbing abortion at sea are just some of the highlights of the next film on the countdown. Check back tomorrow to see what "mystery" movie is occupying the number seven spot on my killer animal flick list!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #9 - Frogs (1972) and Food of the Gods (1976)

Because I just couldn't make up my mind, I ended up with a two way tie for the 9th spot on my top ten killer animals list. Here are two insane films from the psychedelic 70's!

Frogs (1972)
90 minutes / Color / Rated PG

The Culprit(s): Frogs, Snakes, Tarantulas, Snapping Turtles, Lizards, Alligators, etc.

The Plot: A physically disabled old bastard named Jason Crockett (Ray Milland) is holding himself a little birthday party at his swampy island estate. Though it is an all family affair, the party is crashed by a young freelance photojournalist named Sam Pickett (a young Sam Elliott!), who has been photographing the heavily polluted swamp. Apparently old man Crockett hates every living thing in the bog and has done all he can to have every bug, reptile, and amphibian eliminated from his property. But it is not nice to f*ck with Mother Nature, and soon, everything in the nearby swamp is lending a hand in the battle against humanity. In the end, Sam Pickett and a few others make a hasty retreat away from the Crockett mansion, leaving the nature-hating cripple to his own fate.

Why it made the list:
More than anything, nostalgia was the lead factor in my choosing this film for this list. "Frogs" is not very good or exciting, but it is fun to see the parade of critters that lash out at the offending humans. This cheesy exploitation flick is pretty much the "Last House on the Left" of the nature strikes back genre. It has a gritty feel, and features some of the most intelligent animals I've ever seen, including ambushing arachnids and lizards that engage in chemical warfare. While it is very dated and seriously flawed, I can't help but love it.

Why YOU should watch it: Because you will see a crippled man being covered from head to toe in big ugly frogs at the film's insane climax. Also it's kind of cool to see actors reacting to actual animals, rather than unconvincing ones that have been rendered with CGI. Plus, this film is proof that Sam Elliott was actually young once. Why is that a big deal? Because it now gives you the advantage against a fellow film nerd that swears that Sam Elliott is an immortal.

Is it worthy of a remake?
Not really, but I wouldn't mind seeing a new and improved version of this flick, especially if the frogs from the title actually attacked and devoured people!

Food of the Gods (1976)
88 minutes / Color / Rated PG

The Culprit(s):
Giant rats, giant wasps, giant worms, and giant chickens!

The Plot: A gent named Morgan and his friends are spending some time hunting up in the Canadian wilderness, when suddenly they are accosted by giant wasps! They flee to a nearby farm that is owned by a crazy old woman name Mrs. Skinner. According to this shit-kicking wench, the wasps grew to their abnormal size after eating "the food of the gods," which turns out to be a strange white viscous fluid that suddenly began coming up out of the ground. But the wasps (which are later wiped out in a daring raid on their nest) aren't the only pests that got into the super-grow jizzum. Some worms snacked on it, then later snacked on Mrs. Skinner's hands before she took a knife to them. A rooster had a bit, turned into a huge cock (sorry, I couldn't help myself), and was later killed by Morgan with a pitchfork. But the worst plague of giant critters arrives later, in the form of an army of giant rats! The giant rodents go on a rampage, eating everyone in their path, until Morgan and friends devise a plan to get rid of the overgrown vermin.

Why it made the list: Again, nostalgia played a role here, since I love the films made by the late and great Bert I. Gordon. (a.k.a The "Notorious B.I.G.") This guy had a strange obsession with making movies about giant things, and gave us such classic sci-fi fare as "The Amazing Colossal Man," "The Beginning of the End," "Attack of the Puppet People," and "Village of the Giants." Bert's "The Food of the Gods" was based on the H.G. Wells tale, and features some fairly impressive effects. In particular, the giant rats look pretty good during their closeups, mainly because mechanical rat heads were utilized.

Why YOU should watch it: Because this film is a classic in its own right and showcases some nifty old school special effects. Before the dawning of CGI, film makers had to rely on various forms of practical special effects. If a film called for a massive battle between two armies, then a casting call for thousands of film extras would go out. And if a movie needed giant killer animals, then folks like Bert I. Gordon would fall back on forced perspective shooting and/or the creation of life-sized mock-ups of the animals needed for the film. Plus, it's always awesome seeing someone battle for their life against a stuntman in a rat costume, especially after you have a few brews in you.

Is it worthy of a remake? Well H.G. Wells "War of the Worlds" and "The Time Machine" were remade, so why not just go ahead and redo this one too? Since it is not hailed as a classic by critics or the general public, no one will be up in arms if the "Food of the Gods" gets remade. Heck, it can't be any worse than the hilariously cheesy 1989 sequel, "Gnaw: Food of the Gods Part II" which also featured giant rats, as well as a giant, foul-mouthed child!

Check back tomorrow (especially if you're a William Girdler fan) to find find out what killer animal flick made it to the number eight spot.

Vault Master's TOP TEN KILLER ANIMAL FILMS: #10 - Prophecy (1979)

Prophecy (1979)
a.k.a. Prophecy: The Monster Movie
102 minutes / Color / Rated R

The Culprit(s): Mutated Wildlife; most notably "Katadin," a fig-bucking mutant grizzly bear with a foul temper.

The Plot: Dr. Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth) is an inner-city doctor who is investigating claims that a logging company is polluting the environment, somewhere up in Maine. His continued testing and research eventually reveals that the loggers are using methyl-mercury, a harmful substance (and mutagen!) that can result in severe medical problems, deformed babies, giant tadpoles, enormous trout, killer raccoons, and giant mutant grizzly bears! Once he obtains proof (in the form of two sickly mutant bear cubs), Dr. Verne, his wife (Talia Shire!), and their Native American allies (Armand Assante and Victoria Racimo!) prepare to blow the lid off the logging firm's dirty secret. But a monkey-wrench is thrown into the works by the cubs' vengeful mother, Katadin, and soon, Doc Verne and company find themselves in a desperate fight for survival against a deadly freak of nature.

Why it made the list: I'm sure many of you are surprised that this eco-thriller made it to my list, and I can't blame you. Director John Frankenheimer took a very serious approach with this film, and that resulted in some extensively boring scenes and many unintentional laughs. (Frankenheimer most definitely should have made this a tongue-in-cheek affair.) Still, despite the ludicrous plot and lethargic pace, this cautionary tale does provide us with some much needed mutant bear-on-man action. The real show-stopper here, is the "exploding sleeping bag scene." It is easily the best kill in the film and is, in my opinion, one of the greatest deaths ever captured on celluloid!

What's that? You say you're not familiar with this historic cinematic moment? Then check it out for yourself below!

Why YOU should watch it: Because it has a mutant f*cking bear as well as the aforementioned "exploding sleeping bag" scene. Sure there are other highlights (e.g. Talia Shire getting mauled by a slimy mutant puppet; an Armand Assante stunt-double doing a cannonball through a window; an insane raccoon that gets tossed into a fireplace), but nothing will ever top that sleeping bag scene. Never.

Is it worthy of a remake?
Hell yes! If someone like James "Slither" Gunn got his paws (no pun intended) on the rights to this film and wanted to redo it, he would have my blessing. I really think it could work if the film makers (and script writers) had a sense of humor about the proceedings. My only stipulation for the (highly unlikely, but not impossible) remake of "Prophecy," is that they keep the sleeping bag scene, but this time around, make sure there's some gore to go with the explosion of feathers!

Stay tuned for number nine on my "Top Ten Killer Animal Film" list, which ended up as a tie between two "nature strikes back" flicks from the 70's!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rejoice for new material is coming to the Vault!

Sorry for the distinct lack of new stuff at the Vault everyone. I just hit high and low points when it comes to the site, and unfortunately, there's been a lot of low points lately. I just can't seem to stay in a groove for too long. In any case, I do have new stuff on the way, and you'll be seeing it pop up bit by bit over the next couple of weeks.

Here are the main things I want to get done before March ends:
  • I really need to update the LINKS PAGE at the Vault. There are a lot of new sites that have popped up in recent months that deserve a spot in the link archives, and there are equally more sites that have died off or have just stopped updating. To remedy this, I need to spend an afternoon or evening just picking through the links page and getting it back up to par.
  • I have a new article in the works which chronicles my top ten favorite "killer animal films." I have a sincere love for these types of films, which make up a good chunk of the "Nature Strikes Back / Nature Run Amok" sub-genre. Check the site soon to read this article and find out what films made the cut.
  • March is "MARS MADNESS MONTH" for any and all b-movie reviewers, and I plan on getting THREE new reviews completed before March 31st. I plan on tackling Tobe Hooper's fairly decent remake of "Invaders From Mars," a CGI kaiju short entitled "Negadon: Monster from Mars," and I plan on doing a brand new capsule review for the Schwarzenegger classic, "Total Recall."
Along with all of this stuff, I will be making a few minor changes around the site (some you may notice, and most others you probably won't), and will hopefully find the strength to start The B-Movie Film Vault Genre Watch once again.

So hang in there a bit longer b-movie fans and you will be rewarded. Blog ya later!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The complete lack of updates continues!

I won't bore you with details, but things haven't been going my way lately, especially in regards to my financial situation. (I'm beginning to wonder if my fate is to leave behind a legacy of debt when I die 80 years from now. Yes, I said 80 years. I plan on being a thorn in the side of humanity far longer than I have any right to. Mwahahahaha!)

So, while I get some stuff sorted out, you can expect a continued silence from the Vault. (If you're thinking that I should probably retire at this point, I couldn't agree with you more. But the fact remains that I'm a stubborn fool, that really wants to keep the site going.) So cross your fingers, throw up a few prayers to the Almighty (or various gods if you're polytheistic), and just wish me a bit of luck. If you do this, and if the planets become perfectly aligned, then maybe, just maybe, you'll see some new stuff at the Vault.

In the meantime, keep on fighting the good fight and share your love of b-films with your friends, family, co-workers, and/or fellow classmates.

Stay tuned for some actual updates in the near future.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


My apologies everyone; I was on an unexpected sabbatical for most of February. Between spending most of my recent four day weekend with my best friend in the whole wide world, I've also become an avid gamer once again. My bad.

I will be getting back to work on the Vault soon, with plans to review several films that take place, or have something to do with Mars. I have two reviews scheduled thus far, (the fun remake of "Invaders from Mars" and the CGI kaiju flick "Negadon: Monster from Mars") but one or two more may pop up, as this is an all month event! So stay tuned b-movie fans, the site will be be much more active in the following weeks!

Blog ya later!