Archive for the Giant Insects Category

Quick Cuts: What’s Your Favorite GIANT BUG Movie? (Part 5 of 5)

Posted in 1950s Sci-Fi Films, 2011, Giant Insects, Giant Spiders, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Quick Cuts with tags , , on July 22, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS (Part 5 of 5)

Summer is here, which means the bugs are back.  So, this time on QUICK CUTS, we’re asking, What’s your favorite giant bug movie?

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Our final answer comes from

MARK ONSPAUGH:

For me, THEM! (1954) is king… But I also love BEGINNING OF THE END (1957), a Bert I. Gordon wonder with Peter Graves (the entomologist) and Peggy Castle (the journalist). Together they find that an experiment to grow huge grain has also given a steroid boost to… grasshoppers!  Naturally the big fellahs are carnivorous, and have a creepy screech they make when attacking… One particularly grisly scene involves Frank, a deaf mute (Than Wyenn) silently screaming as he is attacked and devoured by a leviathan named Jiminy.

A “highlight” of the many low-budget effects is the use of postcards to stand in for the city of Chicago, where seemingly huge grasshoppers crawl up skyscrapers before being lured out into Lake Michigan to drown…

Also fun is THE DEADLY MANTIS (1957) from director Nathan Juran and featuring Craig Stevens (TV’s PETER GUNN) against a giant praying mantis that was frozen in the Arctic… The giant puppet mantis is actually pretty scary for the time… Until he flies – then he looks like some errant Rose Parade float with tiny, fluttering wings…  1957 was a banner year for bugs!

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Quick Cuts: Favorite GIANT BUG Movies (Part 4 of 5)

Posted in 1950s Sci-Fi Films, 2011, Giant Insects, Giant Spiders, LL Soares Reviews, Quick Cuts with tags , , , , on July 21, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS (Part 4 of 5)

Summer is here, which means the bugs are back.  So, this time on QUICK CUTS, we’re asking, What’s your favorite giant bug movie? 

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L.L. SOARES:

I am a huge fan of giant insects and spiders. I still say insects are some of the freakiest looking creatures on the planet – if you see pictures of them up close, they are so different from us they look like aliens! And while  a lot of giant bug movies have been silly, here are eight I really enjoyed (I wanted to just list five, but I didn’t want to leave any of these out).

1.      THEM!  (1954) – It looks like everyone has this one on their lists, and there’s a reason for that. THEM! Is the granddaddy of all giant bug movies – the standard that all others are going to be compared to. Even now. And it’s got impressive-looking giant ants (for the time), good acting, and a compelling story. The noise the ants make – alone – make this movie unforgettable. From the opening scene showing the aftermath of a monster ant attack, to the big finale under the streets of Los Angeles, this is a great movie. And it even has a drunken bum singing “Make me a sergeant in charge of the booze!” One of my favorite songs as a kid, thanks to multiple viewings of this movie.

2.      THE FLY (1958) – Sure the David Cronenberg remake from 1986 makes more sense from a scientific angle, and Cronenberg is one of my all-time favorite directors, but I still prefer the original version of THE FLY, even now. Sure it makes no logical sense why a man would have the giant head of a fly after a teleportation machine test goes wrong. It makes even less sense that the little fly that got into the machine would now have the tiny head of man, and be able to talk. But you’ll never be able to get this one out of your head. I still love the last scene best, where the tiny fly is trapped in a spider’s web and crying out “Help meeeee!” Vincent Price helps it by crushing it to death with a rock. Oh yeah, that’s another reason to love this one. Vincent Price is in it!

3.      THE MIST (2007) – We have no idea what kind of insects they are, because they’re from another dimension, but they are several kinds, they’re all ugly, and they want to kill you. THE MIST gets better every time I watch it, and I think it’s a modern classic, and one of the best Stephen King adaptations of all time. Directed by the great Frank Darabont and starring Thomas Jane. It has that super-depressing ending that so many people hate, but  I really dig this one.

4.      EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977) – Another great giant ant movie (you just can’t go wrong with giant ants!), although this one is kind of silly compared to THEM!. Directed by the king of giant critters, Bert I. Gordon (even his initials spell BIG), and starring Joan Collins as a sleazy con woman pulling off a real estate scam on an island where monster ants have taken over. This one is a lot of fun!

“Give us a kiss, Love!” – Joan Collins and “friend” from EMPIRE OF THE ANTS

5.    THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR (1968) – This is an unusual one. A woman pretending to be the daughter of Dr. Malinger (Robert Flemyng)  is actually a Death’s Head Moth that draws unsuspecting victims to their bloody deaths, like a moth to the flame! Often overlooked, this one is pretty cool, and I wanted to make sure to mention it here.

6.    THE DEADLY MANTIS  (1957) – Aside from the ants from THEM!, THE DEADLY MANTIS is probably the most formidable of the giant bugs. You actually believe this one could do some real damage. Besides, I just think praying mantises are pretty cool.

7.   THE BLACK SCORPION (1957) – Everyone mention giant spiders, but they often overlook this other cool arachnid – the giant SCORPION. In this one, giant scorpions attack New Mexico!

8.   TARANTULA  (1955) – Mad scientist Leo G. Carroll turns into a hideous freak during a lab accident. A giant tarantula he was experimenting on escapes from that same lab and won’t stop growing. Starring B-movie royalty – the great John Agar as Dr. Matt Hastings! And featuring a cameo at the end by a young Clint Eastwood as a fighter pilot who drops a load of napalm on the giant spider.

-END-

Quick Cuts: Favorite GIANT BUG Movies (Part 3 of 5)

Posted in 2011, Giant Insects, Giant Spiders, Michael Arruda Reviews, Quick Cuts with tags , , on July 21, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS (Part 3 of 5)

Summer is here, which means the bugs are back.  So, this time on QUICK CUTS, we’re asking, What’s your favorite giant bug movie? 

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MICHAEL ARRUDA:

Favorite Giant Bug movies:

1. THEM! (1954)

One of the more chilling horror movies ever made, period!  Who can forget the high-pitched ant sounds?  The thrilling sequence in the sewers under Los Angeles?  This movie works so well because director Gordon Douglas crafts many suspenseful scenes where you don’t even see the giant ants (a la Spielberg 21 years later in JAWS).  Terrific acting by the two leads, James Whitmore and James Arness (who both just recently passed away) and great support from Edmund Gwenn.  Giant ants don’t look that bad either.  And of course most memorable because one of the few horror films from the 1950s where the hero— gulp!— dies.  Yikes!  Still scary even today.

2. TARANTULA (1955)

The giant tarantula is actually quite menacing.  Still gives me chills.

3. THE DEADLY MANTIS (1957)

I love the scene with the bus in the fog.

4. EIGHT-LEGGED FREAKS (2002)

Dewey— er, David Arquette- takes on giant spiders.

5. KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977)

Technically not a giant spider movie, as it’s about a bunch of little spiders, this one’s got William Shatner in the lead.  Nuff said!  Captain Kirk should have made more horror movies, because the one’s he’s in are all very good.

—END—

Quick Cuts: Favorite GIANT BUG Movies (Part 2 of 5)

Posted in 1950s Sci-Fi Films, 1970s Movies, 2011, B-Movies, Campy Movies, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Giant Insects, Quick Cuts with tags , , , , , on July 14, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS (Part 2 of 5)

Summer is here, which means the bugs are back.  So, this time on QUICK CUTS, we’re asking, What’s your favorite giant bug movie? 

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Since the last one was kind of short, here’s another one!

COLLEEN WANGLUND:

I am generally freaked out by bugs, and movies with giant rampaging bugs REALLY freak me out.  Some of my favorites include

EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977)

THE FLY (1958)

THEM! (1954)

STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997)

KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977)

They’ve all made my skin crawl at one time or another.

—END—

It’s no picnic when the giant ants come out, in THEM!

(More GIANT BUG answers coming next week!)

Quick Cuts: Favorite GIANT BUG Movies! (1 of 5)

Posted in 1950s Sci-Fi Films, 1970s Movies, 2011, Daniel Keohane Reviews, Giant Insects, Giant Monsters, Quick Cuts with tags , , , , on July 14, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS (1 of 5)

Summer is here, which means the bugs are back.  So, this time on QUICK CUTS, we’re asking, What’s your favorite giant bug movie? 

****

DANIEL KEOHANE:

THEM! (1954) is my all-time favorite. I still remember watching it for the first time on Channel 56 (Boston) and thinking, WOW, this was actually GREAT. Well-acted and great effects for the time.

And I have a special affinity for KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977), not because it was a great movie (it was not), but we watched it incessantly as teens over the summer of ’78 or ’79 on cable and thinking about it now reminds me of hot summer days wasting time. And Shatner’s death scene (though he survives it, you just assume he’s simply dying very… slowly…) is by far the best ever filmed in Hollywood. Best… ever….

—END—

THE BEAST WITHIN!

Posted in 2011, 80s Horror, Giant Insects, Monsters, Nick Cato Reviews, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , , , on February 24, 2011 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES: Humanoid from the Deep Woods
By Nick Cato

1982’s creature feature THE BEAST WITHIN was a genius of movie marketing.  By taking a typical 50’s monster movie plot, adding updated 70’s/early 80s monster-rape mayhem (ala XTRO and HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP), and packaging it with one of the best TV ad campaigns seen since the golden days of exploitation cinema, this effective, low-budget shocker gave theater-goers everything they were promised…except for a coherent plot.

For about a month before THE BEAST WITHIN‘s Feb. 15th, 1982 opening weekend (YIKES! that’s almost 30 years ago!), MGM ran a relentless television ad campaign that featured a slow zoom-out of the theater poster (see above), with a man’s voice saying something like, “The producers of this film DARE you to sit through the last 30 minutes of THE BEAST WITHIN without covering your eyes, screaming, or running from your seat!.  They DARE you!”  Ka-CHINGK!  That was the sound of every horror fans around the United States being reeled in, and of course yours truly was in attendance Friday night at the (of course, now defunct) Rae Twin Cinema, a slim but lengthy duplex that was located adjacent to an OTB.  The excitement waiting in line to see this was kind of amazing for a low-budget horror film: people bopped around (whether due to the cold or from being psyched by the TV ad, is anyone’s guess) as old men cut through the line to lay cash down next door on the ponies.

I stared at THE BEAST WITHIN‘s poster, which reminded me of a few favorites from the 70s, such as CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE (1976) and THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK (1972).  I wasn’t too surprised when the film began and I discovered it took place in Mississippi: despite the TV commercial having no scenes from the film, the poster just gave it that vibe.  (Okay, who am I kidding?  The pre-coverage in Fangoria magazine had spilled a few beans).

Part of the genius of DARING an audience to make it through the last 30 minutes of a film is the producers now had the freedom to give us a crappy, boring first 60.  But thankfully—and despite a slow scene or two—THE BEAST WITHIN turned out to be an effective little monster movie, beginning in the 1950s when some poor newlywed woman is raped on a dirt road by a bug-eyed creature, and of course the rest of the film dealing with her son who is the creature’s offspring.  While his parents didn’t understand this yet, the audience pretty much had it figured out from the get-go.

It doesn’t take long for 17 year-old Michael (played nicely by Paul Clemens, who starred in a few other genre outings) to start showing signs that something wasn’t right in his life.  He begins having violent outbursts, local townspeople are found dead, all leading up to one fantastic metamorphosis-sequence courtesy of underrated FX whiz Thomas Burman, who worked on the great 1977 version of THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, 1978’s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, 1979’s mutant-bear epic, PROPHECY, and, more famously, had a hand in THE GOONIES (1985).  Here, I dare say he even gave the Oscar-winning werewolf-transformation sequence in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON a run for its money…

THE BEAST WITHIN turns out to be some kind of Cicada-insect creature, and while it’s not even remotely explained why or how this thing exists, I always found this missing information added to the film’s overall creepiness (I remember at the time a lot of people left the theater complaining about it).  The plot is infested (full pun intended) with this and other plot holes, but people who come to a monster movie with a gimmick marketing campaign really shouldn’t be looking for logic.  They should come looking for fun—and the last 30 minutes of this delivers the goods: The BEAST is on the loose in a small town as a few rednecks take refuge in a police station (my favorite scene has one older man—who decides it’d be safer to lock himself in the jail’s small holding pen—has his head ripped off when the BEAST slams his insectoid-hands through the only non-barred side of the cage and pops his noggin’ like a dandelion!).  All sorts of carnage ensues, including (SPOILER ALERT!!) Michael/BEAST impregnating some poor lass to keep the bug-line going, shortly before his mother blows his head off via shotgun for a dark and satisfying finale.

I’m not sure how well this one holds up on cable or DVD (I’ve only seen it once that opening night, way back when), but for a bunch of high school freshman, it worked like a charm and spewed us out of the theater with wicked grins on our popcorn-buttered faces.  I think I’ll re-watch this the next time it airs on the IFC channel, which it does quite often…

© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato

The Beast in mid-transformation....YOWCH!

INFESTATION!

Posted in 2010, Apocalyptic Films, Campy Movies, Giant Insects, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monsters, Pickin' the Carcass with tags , , , , , on November 24, 2010 by knifefighter

PICKIN’ THE CARCASS:  INFESTATION (2009)
By Michael Arruda

Welcome to another edition of PICKIN’ THE CARCASS, that column where we snack on movie leftovers, looking for goodies left inside the DVD bin.

Tonight we check out INFESTATION (2009), a tale of mutant bugs gone wild, now available on DVD.

INFESTATION gets off to a fast start as we quickly meet a slacker named Cooper (Chris Marquette) who’s about to be fired from his job.  In fact, Cooper’s boss is in the process of firing him when they both hear a high pitched sound that is so painful they lose consciousness.

Cooper wakes up to find himself wrapped inside a strange web-like substance.  As he breaks out of the web, he is promptly attacked by a giant bug that resembles an oversized cockroach, about the size of a large dog.  Cooper successfully fights off the giant bug and then wakes up his boss, also encased in a large web.  In fact, everyone in the city is unconscious and wrapped in webs.

Cooper’s boss remembers that her daughter had been waiting outside the office building in her car to pick her up for a lunch date, and so they venture outside to search for her.  They find her inside her car, and as they unwrap her, a giant flying insect swoops down and carries Cooper’s screaming boss away.

These are the two basic threats in INFESTATION, giant crawling roach bugs, and giant flying bugs that whisk people away into the sky.

Cooper and his boss’ daughter, Sara (Brooke Nevin) wake up several of the people around them, and in standard post-apocalyptic horror movie fashion, they band together and try to make sense of it all.  They also devise a plan of action, which refreshingly enough makes sense.

Cooper suggests they make their way to his father’s house because his father, a retired military man, is a fanatic who stockpiles weapons and ammunition in his house, materials they could use against the giant bugs.  Sara wants to head towards the monstrous nest they see in the distance because she believes that’s where the flying insects are taking their prisoners.  She hopes to find her mother alive there.

Along the way, they make another grisly discovery, that the people who have been stung by the insects turn into human/insect hybrids, and these hybrids are just as deadly as the insects.

The ante is upped when Sara is also whisked away by a flying insect, and Cooper must turn to his fanatic dad (Ray Wise) for help.

INFESTATION isn’t going to win any awards for best horror movie of the year, but it is a fun movie that has a lot going for it.

Writer/director Kyle Rankin does a very good job with the material.  The story is lively, the characters well-written, and the action scenes well-done.

The film does suffer at times from a case of the “goofies” as it gravitates towards the silly.  I guess Rankin thought a story about giant bugs was too goofy to be taken seriously, which is too bad because I would have preferred INFESTATION had it been made as a straight horror movie.  But, for the most part, the humor doesn’t go overboard.

There’s no explanation given as to why there are giant bugs all over the place, but unlike the recent movie SKYLINE (2010) where I felt suffocated by the lack of pacing, here the pacing is quick, slick, and energetic, so much so you don’t care that no explanation is given because you’re having too much fun watching the movie.

The characters make decisions that make sense in the face of catastrophe, and their explanations of what they’re doing and why are exceedingly clear.  Their common sense is refreshing.  I also totally bought their drive to get to the nest to save their loved ones, as opposed to “why in the world would they be going there?”

I found Chris Marquette annoying as Cooper at first, but his performance grew on me as the movie went along, and by the end of the movie, I was rooting for him to succeed.  Even better than Marquette was Brooke Nevin as Sara.  Nevin delivered a believable, three-dimensional performance, a strong heroine legitimately concerned about her missing mother.  I also bought her relationship with Cooper. She’s turned off by him at first, but as the story goes along, she warms up to him.  Nevin delivers the best performance in the movie.

The rest of the cast is also very good.  There’s not a weak link among them.  Even Ray Wise as Cooper’s dad Ethan hits the mark in what could have been a strictly clichéd character, a retired military officer turned weapons fanatic.  Instead, Wise brings Ethan to life as a sympathetic character who you actually like by the end of the movie.  Of course, part of the credit for this belongs to writer Kyle Rankin for fleshing out these characters so well.

The special effects are adequate.  The CGI effects are pretty good, and there’s also some use of giant models in some scenes where people are wrestling with the bugs. These models do look fake, but the quick camerawork enables Rankin to get away with this.  It’s a quick glimpse and then back to CGI.  Somehow, it works.  And unlike the recent movie MONSTERS (2010) where the monsters for the most part forgot to show up, there are plenty of giant insects here.  You won’t be disappointed.

There are also some well placed gruesome scenes in this one.  Director Rankin doesn’t hold back on the gore.  The human/insect hybrids are actually pretty scary, and I found them more frightening than the giant insects.

INFESTATION is a lot of fun.  It reminded me a lot of the classic TREMORS (1990), though not as good, and more recently EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS (2002).  It doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet it doesn’t allow its humor to get in the way of its horror tale.  It strikes a good balance.

It does have a weak ending.  I’m just not a fan of open-ended conclusions.  It’s like ending a novel with a question.  Very lame.

All in all, though, INFESTATION is a film worth checking out, especially if you like fast-paced giant bug movies.

I highly recommend it.

—END—

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda