And yet we learned nothing from all those environmentally aware, cautionary slices of cinema. When I was a kid, there was what was called “the 4:30 movie”—a daily movie was shown every day after school, and each week had a theme, like all the Planet of the Apes movies or the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations starring Vincent Price. The first film in this bunch I’m blogging about was one of the movies shown on “nature strikes back” week.
Frogs is a classic in my world, but it’s also basically Hitchcock’s The Birds with a bunch of different animals, mostly reptiles and amphibians. While it is in no way a masterpiece like The Birds, the constant close-ups of the various critters and the swampy environment make the film unnerving. It also features intense kills by the likes of snakes, leeches, spiders, frogs, lizard, and an alligator, along with plenty of body reveals.
Ray Milland plays a crabby millionaire that invites his family to his island for his birthday. Joan Van Ark invites Sam Elliott, a photographer doing a layout on pollution, to the party. He has no mustache, which left me totally confused and feeling empty inside.
Anyway, Milland thinks man is the king of all creatures and Elliott thinks we’re destroying the planet and the animals are striking back, so the two spend a lot of time verbally sparring.
Then the bodies start turning up, and finally the survivors decide it’s time to escape the island. You’ve seen it all before, but this is one of the early ones.
THE LONG WEEKEND (1978)
I sure am glad I didn’t blind buy this one when it was released on Blu-ray. It’s a nature strikes back movie, but it’s barely a horror movie. I will give it this—it creates a sense of impending doom, and has a sort of a The Hills Have Eyes feel to it. If only there were some crazy cannibals, things could have been great.
Instead, a couple with a contentious relationship goes camping. This is a) a film about respecting the planet, and b) kind of an anti-abortion film, again circling around the idea of fucking with the natural order of things.
So what happens? The couple hunts, litters, uses bug spray, etc., and the animals of the woods get revenge. The couple is attacked by an eagle, a rodent, bats, and other critters, so why they never just pack up and get the fuck out of there is beyond me. Why I didn’t just stop the movie before it ended is also beyond me.
Now it’s time for two from the post-Jaws era of the late 1970s.
Hey! It’s hospital security guard Mr. Garrett from Halloween 2!
Barracuda starts off fine, with the predictable fish POV underwater and a gory opening attack. The kills in general are pretty good, building up slowly as various people dive underwater before we get a jump scare as the Barracuda attacks.
And quite frankly, that’s the best this film has to offer. The kill scenes are mostly in the first act, with the second half of the film weighed down by lots of dialogue…kind of like the second half of Jaws. YAWN. Let’s face it, Jaws is simply no Jaws 2.
Anyway, the plot focuses on a dude investigating the possibility of government experiments that are causing barracuda to attack people.
Naturally he’s right. And naturally the government tracks him down. The film even ends with a gun fight…and no barracuda.
UP FROM THE DEPTHS (1979)
A few glimpses of a freaky looking giant fish with razor sharp teeth is the only money shot in this awful attempt to cash in on the Jaws craze. And those glimpses are brief because there obviously wasn’t a ton of money dedicated to special effects in this silly creature feature (yet I still thought the monster was awesome).
It’s as typical as these movies get. A variety of different, random people go in the water for one reason or another, there’s monster POV approaching them, they splash with their arms so we know they’re being attacked, and then we’re bombarded by close-up shots of bloody, bubbling water.
The best part is the mandatory “get out of the water” panic sequence. If I’m not mistaken, I think this film actually pokes fun at the absurdity of such scenes. Everyone is screaming as they run away from the beach, and one couple has a little exchange in which they’re like, “Why are we still running? Fish can’t walk!”
If only the film had then cut to the giant fish walking onto land, this could have become a lot of fun.