The first giant killer animal roundup involves bears, ticks, mosquitos and Clint Howard. The critters have been supersized via some pretty eclectic and imaginative means.
Country: USA | Runtime: 92mins | Director: Gary Jones
Starring: Rachel Loiselle, Tim Lovelace, Steve Dixon, Ron Ashton, Gunnar Hansen
Mosquitos feast on the blood of a dead alien and immediately grow to the size of washing machines. Park Ranger Megan (Loiselle), her boyfriend Ray (Lovelace) and meteor chaser Parks (Dixon) lead the human resistance.
"Their motive seems to be to kill."
Attempts to make this a lighthearted 50s spoof do little to convince it's a good movie. It's basically Tremors gone wrong, but not wrong enough. Because of the tongue-in-cheek tone we can't laugh at the bug effects, the inappropriate score, the stereotypical characters or even the idiotic plotting. All we have is the acting, and with Gunnar Hansen doing his usually top notch job of squeezing all the fun out of that, there's very little to work with.
"Let's get busy making the world safe for Americans."
Having said that I can see why people like it. There's a certain charm and few movies get this blend of schlock and humour right, so a merely inoffensive attempt is kind of a success. There are also some great quotes and really funny imagery.
Country: USA | Runtime: 91mins | Director: William Girdler
Starring: Christopher George, Andrew Pine, Richard Jaeckel, Joan McCall, Joe Dorsey
Jaws – fish + bear.
For the first hour things tick along perfectly reasonably. The worst offences are those familiar screenplay blackholes that require us to buy into the conflict between two characters even though the writers haven't set it up. In this case it's Christopher George's Kelly, the Chief Brody stand-in, and Joe Dorsey's Kittridge, who doubles for the mayor. Anyone who's seen Jaws knows there will be tension between the two, and Kelly will be in the right, but the movie forgets to show us why.
"It's programmed... like some damn computer."
The bear is treated like a serial killer, so in spite of it apparently being in search of food we only see it murdering people and moving on, it never eats anyone. Either that's lazy writing or a clever attempt to mythologise the beast in order to make it more intimidating. I'm going with the former. As well as being a serial killer it's super-intelligent, outwitting the rangers several times, and it's also completely bulletproof, which makes it hard to kill even when the incompetents pursuing it actually find it. Unfortunately, Kelly's grand plan (to run about the forest with a gun) doesn't yield results. But luckily for all concerned the local chopper pilot has a missile launcher. He was in Viet Nam, you see, and just like all vets he has a missile launcher.
"I think he's going to continue down looking for human food."
The last half hour descends into the sort of ridiculousness we could have done with from the start. We see more of the bear (rather than just a boom mike with claws), and there's a lame attempt to engineer some sort of commentary on the role of the media in a disaster. Bizarrely one of the main characters from the first half of the movie, an apparent love interest for Kelly, is completely forgotten about, her arc left unresolved. She's probably lucky because almost everyone, except the villain, ends up dead.
Grizzly Video: Actors Attacked by Clawed Boom Mike
Joda Productions/Liberty Home Video
Country: USA | Runtime: 85mins | Director: Tony Randel
Starring: Seth Green, Rosalind Allen, Ami Dolenz, Virginya Keehne, Alfonso Ribeiro
Problem kids (ranging in age from about 18 to 35) from the inner city are taken on a rural retreat to experience nature. Unfortunately, hillbillies in the area have been feeding their weed plants steroids, and it's made the local ticks grow into football-sized monsters.
Ticks is a movie defined by its distractingly familiar cast. First up is Seth Green, who is basically giving Scott Evil his debut run out. His Tyler Burns is a troubled-but-wet teen with father issues and sleeves at least two feet longer than his arms, and he's the most 90s thing since The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Far more amusing is the next most 90s thing in the movie: Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Actor Alfonso Ribeiro is obviously, and hilariously, trying to escape stereotyping by playing the tough kid, but doesn't come close to pulling it off. Not only is he inescapably Carlton, but he's so palpably the product of a middle-class upbringing and several years of drama school that this could be the worst case of miscasting I've ever seen. Every time he flicks open his knife to threaten someone you just want to laugh, it looks like a Fresh Prince skit in which he's trying to impress Will's homies by pretending to be street, but it is apparently not played for laughs. His name is Panic (because he never does... you can't make this shit up), which should seal the deal on this being a comedy performance.
"They call me Panic because I never do."
We're also treated to the father and son casting combo of Rance and Clint Howard. Rance stretches himself by playing a kindly old sheriff, and Clint rolls out his quirky victim schtick to provide just about all the funny bits that Carlton doesn't.
It's worth noting how superficially similar this is to Mosquito, with both movies revolving around a small group of heroes who have to face off against giant insects (although ticks are technically arachnids, which someone really should have told the filmmakers) with a couple of gun-wielding criminals in an old house they end up burning to the ground.
It's equal parts amusing, entertaining and stupid, with more on offer than most of these things. But once the best characters are killed off and the focus falls on dweeby Tyler's attempts to overcome something or other, and seduce generic_teen_girl_character_v0362, it falls a bit flat. But the narrative holds together and just about sees us through to the end.