Sunday, July 20, 2008

Animals Attacking Humans Marathon

Midnites for Maniacs, San Francisco's greatest contribution to film, hosted a


Whitney from Dear Jesus and I went to the Castro Theatre at 3:00PM. Around 3:00AM, I was finally home. As Whitney points out in her blog, MUNI is awful. Round midnight, everything shuts down.

I'm listening to Crown City Rockers. I'm exhausted. I just finished playing some Dr. Mario. Now it's time to write a blog. Here's a quick rundown on what I experienced tonight.

The first movie was called Phase IV. Killer ants. This movie sounded incredibly lame. Two scientists discover that different species of ants are working together. They bunker up in a small desert town to find out why. While they're there, the ants decide that they don't take too kindly to strangers.

The director, Saul Bass, is the most impressive film guy you've never heard of. The host, Jesse, let us in on all the details. Phase IV is the only movie Bass ever directed but he's has his hands in more classics than I can count. This guy made poster art, he made title sequences, he even made the AmericanAirlines logo. The title sequences for Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho? All Saul Bass.

Two words: Phase IV Three more: Was freakin' awesome.

It's difficult to describe the look of Phase IV because I've never seen anything comparable to Phase IV. For you 80s babies, think Microcosmos as a sci-fi thriller. We get up close and personal with the ants and it completely works. One chilling scene where an ant lines up the bodies of his fallen comrades had everybody in the theatre shivering.

Phase IV was just released on DVD. I'm trying to get my hands on a copy but it appears to be harder to find than I'd wish. If any of you get a chance to see this, don't miss the opportunity. Oh, and the girl, fii-e-ine!

Pretty basic plot: baby alligator gets flushed down the toilet, lives in the sewer, and feeds off of genetically enhanced animals that a science labs throws down there after experienting on them.

If there was ever a movie that Josh Brolin would have been perfect for, it'd be Alligator. We get Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) instead and he plays a disgrunted cop better than most.

You gotta give a movie props that scares you enough to yell out loud. I don't want to give anything away but one of the sewer scenes, Holy Moses.

You have not seen Jaws until you've seen it on the big screen. Period. Jaws blew me away. I'd seen it a few times but on the big screen...I finally understand why this terrified people so much.

The writer of the novel is now one of the leading advocates for shark protection. After Jaws was released, the number of shark slaying raised to incredible numbers. Guess the guy felt he should do something to fix it. I understand how people felt though, after last night I was ready to drain the ocean and kill all of its inhabitants.

The first 50 minutes of Day of the Animals consisted of shots of a tour group hiking intercut with nature show footage. Shot of a group hiking. Completely unreleated shot of a cougar. Shot of a grou hiking. Shot of an owl. On and on and on.

Then Leslie Neilsen wrestles a bear without his shirt on a lighting storm... right after he tried to rape a woman, actually beat up a Jewish mother, and shook the shit out of her little kid.

All the animals are affected by the depleting ozone layer and go crazy. Rats, dogs, bears, wolves, birds, snakes. They're all there. You haven't lived until you see a group of flying rats attack a police officer in his kitchen. You just haven't.

Can you believe that Piranha Part Two: The Spawning was James Cameron's first movie? The man made The Terminator, The Abyss, Aliens, and Titanic! Want the plot? The piranhas are back. They fly now. They kill people. The humans blow up their nest. The end.

Granted, I had already been at the theatre for nine hours by the time this one had started, but even if this has been the first movie, I still wouldn't have been impressed. The synopsis is a lot funnier then the movie, which takes itself extremely seriously. There was one really great scene where a piranha jumps out of a guy's dead chest (a la Alien) and attacks a morgue nurse. Excellent.

The entire event lasted 11 HOURS. But we paced ourselves, ate delicious snacks (including sugar cereal that Jesse gave us!) and worked through all of the films. It was a great events and a fun night.

In conclusion, Jaws is a must-see on the big screen. Phase IV and Alligator are worth buying on DVD. Day of the Animals was worth watching...but barely. Piranha 2: The Spawning was rough, not even really worth watching to laugh at.


Fox said...

"I'm exhausted. I just finished playing some Dr. Mario. Now it's time to write a blog."

Nice to know you've got your priorities in order! :)

Anonymous said...

Hey. I'm hosting a film blog-a-thon on my site:

If you could post a link to it on your site that would be awesome. And feel free to participate!

Ross Williams said...

Wow, that's some dedication to Animals Attack films... Jaws is obviously the best of the bunch. Day of the Animals, I loved as a kid, probably wouldn't hold up well now. Never heard of Phase IV, I'm adding it to my Netflix list now... which is full, how pathetic is that? I've known for quite a while who Saul Bass is, but didn't know he directed a film.

From my vague memory of Piranha II, I think that Cameron was working as an effects guy, when the original director was fired, so he finished the film. So he wasn't the main vision for the film, and probably didn't have much to do with the editing of it as well.

Squirm is one of my all time favorite Animal Attack films. Some great killer worm effects by a young Rick Baker.

Did you ever read my review of Food of the Gods?

elgringo said...

Ross, you kick ass.
You've seen Day of the Animals!

Don't feel bad, my Netflix queue is full too. A 500 limit? That's bullshit.

I'm taking something off my queue and putting Squirm on. Thanks!

Ross Williams said...

Yeah, why do they limit it to 500? But it does force me to trim out some stuff I know I'll never get to. You're gonna love Squirm!

Off topic, but couldn't find your email address. Seems you missed the Drew Struzan doc I posted

Ed Howard said...

Phase IV is incredible, I just watched and reviewed it myself. The way the film gets right down on the level of the ants is indeed chilling, and unusually for horror of this kind, Bass seems way more interested in the ants than the humans they're attacking. As per Bass' design background, the film is beautifully designed in every way, and evinces the same concern for geometric form that ran through his credits for Hitchcock and Preminger. This is way more than just another "animals attack" film, even if it's sometimes hampered by a clunky script.

Oh, and Lynne Frederick may be fine, but she turns in easily one of the top 5 worst performances I've ever seen here. No small feat considering how little dialogue she actually has.

elgringo said...

Oh, that's completely true. She is AWFUL when it comes to acting. Did you know she married Peter Sellers and his family all hates her and calls her a gold digger?

Ed Howard said...

Oops, just realized I linked to an image instead of my review above.

And yea, I read a bit about the Sellers thing, which is pretty ridiculous. She basically inherited his estate because he died right before divorcing her, and then screwed over his family and kids. Really weird.