Among the very diverse sub-genre’s of horror, fantasy and sci-fi, one of the most beloved are the nature gone wild films although they seem to have all but vanished from the scene nowadays. We still get the odd film but it is usually done with a comedy twist like Big Ass Spider or Eight Legged Freaks. They might be seeing a comeback though with a few films on the horizon about humans trying to survive the woods against bears. But back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s it was all about animals and insects striking back at man for our wrongdoings whether it be hordes of regular sized animals or mutated gigantic bugs. This week sees the release of not one but two double features with some of the more infamous of the nature gone amok movies.
First up is the double feature of The Food of the Gods paired with Frogs. The Food of the Gods follows Morgan and his friends on a hunting trip on a remote Canadian island when they are abruptly attacked by a mass of giant wasps. And by giant I mean the size of a large dog. While trying to find shelter from the attack the group also comes in contact with a giant chicken and discover the entire island is covered with oversized animals all looking for food. When a horde of giant rats overwhelms the entire island the group is forced to fight for their very lives or risk becoming The Food of the Gods.
This is a b-movie if there ever was one but is full of imaginative and creative effects to make the animals seem huge. If there ever was an insane party movie this would be the one. There is much to marvel at and even more to laugh at. The acting is mediocre at best and it seems like there wasn’t a whole lot of monitoring of the treatment of the animals on the film, but it is definitely an experience in animal horror.
Paired with that film is Frogs which is probably the best film of the bunch. Sam Elliott leads a pretty great cast including Ray Milland and Joan Van Ark as guests to a grumpy old millionaire’s house for his birthday party. Elliott is a freelance photographer at the event who witnesses first hand when swarms of frogs and other animals go crazy getting their revenge on the old rich bastard who poisons any animal on his property.
Frogs is surprisingly well done and a really fun movie. It certainly helps the proceedings that Sam Elliott stars in this and he is very good considering what he has to work with. It takes some getting used to Sam without his trademark mustache but he is charismatic as ever on screen all the same. The effects are creatively done and effective and the pacing and action are fast and plentiful. A really fun romp!
Our next double starts with Empire of the Ants. By far the cheesiest and worst of the films, this one finds Joan Collins as a sleazy scam artist trying to sell phony real estate deals in the Florida Everglades. But her perspective buyers have no idea the area they are looking into has been overrun by giant ants. Now they must use all their wits to survive and avoid being the ultimate picnic for the ravaging creatures.
This one really tries to convey the feel of the 50s style giant bug movies by having big physical props of the ants attacking everyone but it all comes off as super cheesy and with no story to be found and all the acting so over the top, the only thing left to do with Empire of the Ants is revel in its supreme badness. Still fun for a drunken movie night.
Lastly in our double features is a lesser known flick called Jaws of Satan. The story follows a preacher whose ancestors were cursed by druids who has come to face his destined battle with Satan himself who has taken the form of a giant Cobra.
I couldn’t help but love Jaws of Satan. Aside from the truly kick ass original poster art, the film has a low budget charm with some great snake effects and use of real snake footage. The film also happens to be the debut of child actor Christina Applegate who is quite good here. The tension is pretty much non-existent and most of the attacks are actors reacting to stock footage of snakes but somehow it worked for me. It was a heavily nostalgic trip back to Saturday and Sunday night TV movies and the joy of watching animal’s gone amok movies with glee as a kid. Jaws of Satan is not a good film, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a lot of silly fun.
Every transfer in these double features stunned me with how good they were. Most of these films had nearly non-existent budgets yet these transfers just look fabulous. For great retro movie nights with friends you simply can’t go wrong with these kick ass drive in style double features.