6WH: Week 2 - When Animals Attack

The killer animal sub-genre is a pretty goofy one, though some classics have emerged, notably the likes of Jaws and The Birds. But then, not everyone is Steven Spielberg or Alfred Hitchcock and most efforts come off less successfully. Let's see if any of these filmmakers can step up:
  • The Chickening (short)
  • Cannibal Cows (Robot Chicken)
  • Night Of The Lepus (trailer)
  • Cujo - A rabid St. Bernard dog goes on a killing spree. A bit thin, but horror movies have been built around less. Of course, there is more to it than that, what with a marriage's troubles and whatnot, but this is all basically an excuse to trap a mother and asthmatic child in a car in what is actually a decent set piece. It is mildly harrowing, I guess, but it all feels a little silly. Again, not particularly unusual for horror movies and this sort of goofiness often makes a movie more entertaining, but I found myself generally unengaged by the film. The craft is done well enough. Good performances from Dee Wallace and it's always fun to see character actors like Ed Lauter and Jerry Hardin. Jan de Bont has a keen eye and does a good job with the photography.
    Good doggie
    Adapted from a Stephen King novel of the same name, I can't help but think that this is an object lesson in a concept working better on the page than the screen. Cujo eventually becomes menacing enough (once he gets smeared with blood and gore), but King's choice of a St. Bernard, while a clever and ironic idea in a book, really saddled the film with something untenable. The filmmakers do their best and I wasn't bored by the movie, but it never clicked for me. I understand this movie has a devoted cult following and I can see why, but it just didn't work for me. **
  • Jaws (trailer)
  • Land Shark: Jaws II (SNL)
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XI: Night of the Dolphin
  • Roar - This movie really amps up the batshit insanity quotient of this year's marathon. I guess there's a plot: a doctor in Africa who allows dozens of lions and tigers and assorted animals to roam freely at his palatial estate. When his family arrives and he is unable to meet them, they are in for a surprise. The tagline of this film gets at its brilliance: "No animals were harmed in the making of this film. 70 cast and crew members were." The movie is basically improvised around several dozen untrained (and very rowdy) lions, tigers, cheetahs, even the elephants get a couple good rampages in. It was so uncontrollable they decided to give the cats actual writing credits on the movie. Made over the course of 10 years and apparently meant as a lesson in the need for conservation and preservation, it has roughly the opposite effect. It's not supposed to be a horror movie, but it kinda is... all the moreso because you can tell these actors are actually getting mauled by giant cats. It reminded me of Grizzly Man, though Roar has a less tragic ending (on the other hand, look at the number of reported injuries from the set of this movie).
    Happy family portrait
    It's almost comical how easily the family goes from being terrified to being in love with the big cats. I mean, the whole thing is comical, but that part especially. There's no real acting to speak of here, though I suppose genuine terror shows up on the stars faces and there are some biggish names here like Tippi Hedren (famous for being in The Birds, another animals attack movie) and a very young Melanie Griffith. The film looks gorgeous, lots of great, almost documentary-like nature vistas, and would you look at that, Jan de Bont was the DP on this one too (he apparently got run over by some lions and had to have facial reconstructive surgery... and was back filming a week later). There's so much bonkers stuff in this movie that it's just impossible to look away. Great. Insane, but great. ***
  • Black Sheep (trailer)
  • Curiosity Killed Us All (Robot Chicken)
  • Phenomena (trailer)
  • Monkey Shines - George A. Romero is best known for his pioneering zombie movies, but I've actually been very impressed with his other, non-zombie efforts. Martin is a surprising and affecting take on vampires and Creepshow is arguably the best anthology horror film of all time. Monkey Shines is the tale of a man having difficulty adjusting to his new paralyzed state and becoming codependent with an experimental helper monkey that has psychic powers and murderous intent.
    Killer monkey
    I won't pretend like this is some sort of untold classic or something, but I found it shockingly engaging and a whole lot of fun. Where Cujo's silliness fell flat, Monkey Shines' silliness just soars. It is unintentionally hilarious at times, genuinely interesting at others, and surprisingly entertaining if you're willing to go with it. Again, not exactly fine cinema, but it's a lot of fun. It doesn't quite stick the landing at the end of the film, but I was still pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. **1/2
A fun week, for sure. Stay tuned for kids getting lost in the woods and some Tobe Hooper...