Richard J. Leskosky | Movie monsters lurk in unlikely places | Cinema-television
In the previous columns dealing mostly with low budget sci-fi and horror movies, you know that bugs, snakes, plants, sharks, and goblins are all there to catch you (aliens and robots, well, that goes without saying).
So you might be wondering what more filmmakers might think you should be worried about. The answer is pretty much everything.
Of course, some animals you know would cause problems if they got bigger or mutated in some other way. Shrews are mouse-sized predators, but if they grew to the size of a dog (specifically, the size of a coonhound in a shrew costume) you would have “The Killer Shrews” (1959).
“Attack of the Giant Leeches” (1959), “Gila’s Giant Monster” (1959) and its 2012 remake, “Gila,” assure you that neither a swamp nor the desert is a safe place to go out.
Even if an increase in size is not a threat, simply multiplying creatures with a high “yuck” factor can cause problems, as in “Frogs” (1972) or “Slugs” (1988). The worms in “Squirm” (1976) are normal in size but electrified, and in “The Worm Eaters” (1977), an outcast worm lover slips red tide-contaminated worms into the food of his tormentors, causing them to eat. transforms into giants worms (and its slaves).
Tardigrades are microscopic creatures that can survive in just about any environment and are cute enough that people call them “water bears” or “moss piglets”. But toss them into space in a Russian probe and subject them to cosmic rays, and you end up with giant, not at all cute, shape-changing tardigrades in “Harbinger Down” (2015).
Cute mammals become less cute when someone starts tampering with their genes or hormones. In “Night of the Lepus” (1972), this produces carnivorous wolf-sized rabbits as well as a title that attempts to attract viewers by obscuring the fact that monsters are just big rabbits.
The following year, 1973, the title of another horror film, “Godmonster of Indian Flats”, also obscured the true nature of its monster. (Spoiler alert – he’s a big mutant sheep, although racial prejudice turns out to be more of a threat to some of the characters than the oversized sheep ogre.)
This century, however, cute mammals turned into monsters tend to appear in horror movies seasoned with intentional comedy. The 2006 “Black Sheep” (from New Zealand and not to be confused with the comedy Without Sheep by Chris Farley and David Spade from 1996) features mutated carnivorous sheep, and their bite can turn people into sheep (sheep?) .
“Krackoon” (2010) and its 2013 sequel, “Bloodmarsh Krackoon” contain cocaine.
Addicted raccoons terrorizing the Bronx.
And then, of course, there’s “Llamageddon” from 2015 featuring an alien killer llama with laser eyes and the tagline “A Woolly Terror of Space!” (And, yes, “woolly” is the spelling you usually see, but it’s a very low budget movie, so leaving out a letter on the poster might have saved you a few pennies. )
But plants and animals aren’t the only things after you. What about all those malicious objects? This trend started in the 1950s with a few quirky, albeit decent, sci-fi movies.
In Hammer Film Productions’ “X The Unknown” (1956) (best known for their versions of Frankenstein and Dracula), a radioactive mud ball, possibly a creature from when the Earth’s surface was molten, appears near Glasgow to burn his victims with radiation. (Yes, another headline that leaves you wondering what the monster could be until you’ve bought your ticket.)
The following year, the title threats in “The Monolith Monsters” were literally rocks. Meteor fragments when exposed to water reach several floors, then fall, shatter and start the cycle again. Too bad if someone stumbles upon you. And they also cause the people who touch them to petrify themselves. Fortunately, salt water turns them off.
In recent years, cars, trucks, and other motor vehicles have become driverless predators, either due to technology malfunction or some sort of demonic possession.
“Killdozer” may have started this trend in 1974 with a homicidal bulldozer. Since then, “The Car” (1977), “Christine” (1983), “Maximum Overdrive” (1986), “Trucks” (1997), “Super Hybrid” (2011) and “The Car: Road to Revenge” (2019 ) populated highways with self-propelled predators. And you’ll probably see more of these movies as real driverless cars hit the market.
But none of these, not even the three spawned by the Stephen King stories, can match the tarmac chaos of “Rubber” of 2010, where a discarded tire gains psychic powers and sets off on a murderous rampage. He even attacks an audience watching his actions in the film – just one of the film’s many claims to breaking the Fourth Wall.
Another mode of transportation that goes awry and one might think would be easy to avoid is the evil elevator in the 1983 Dutch film “The Lift”; his familiarity and mundane appearance, however, effectively camouflages his danger. But psychic tires and exterminating elevators still don’t reach the highest level of unexpected threats.
“CarousHELL” (2016) has a unicorn figure on a merry-go-round that circles the bend and comes off to slaughter victims in several unlikely ways, including with laser eyes.
In “Killer Pinata” (2015), shot in Chicago, a possessed pinata takes revenge on humanity for mistreating her papier-mâché peers.
And in “Amityville Vibrator” (2020), well, that title says enough.
And if you haven’t yet lost your appetite for horror or crazy food, consider these foodie gorefests.
“Inhumanwich” (2016) tells the story of how an accident in space turns an astronaut into a sensitive meatball that eats everyone in its path. (Looks like a job for Hamburglar’s or Popeye’s burger-eating buddy, Wimpy!)
Finally, the 1999 Greek sci-fi comedy “Attack on the Giant Moussaka” has an alien transporter dysfunction, merging an ET with a moussaka (the Greek dish of eggplant and lamb), which then reaches a huge size and rampage across Athens. This probably holds the record for the world’s tastiest threat.