Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day of the Animals

Since Skeeter was so damned unsatisfying, I felt I owed it to myself to close out the week with a different, better animals attack film, and made the questionable choice of choosing this film by director William Girdler, whose filmography is, shall we say, a tad sketchy. While I will fight anyone who tries to claim The Manitou is anything but incredible, the other three films of his that I had seen, Three on a Meathook, Asylum of Satan, and Grizzly, were all dreadfully bad. Still, hope springs eternal.

Honestly, while it’s no great shakes, it’s really not half bad. We get an opening text crawl about flourocarbons being released into the atmosphere by aerosol sprays and how they’re destroying the ozone layer, and how we don’t know what effect the increasing amount of solar radiation will have on our world. This is one possible outcome! Of course, with our modern science, we know that holes in the ozone layer means an increased risk of cancer, but I suppose it’s totally plausible that back in the 70s people honestly believed losing the ozone might mean animals all turn vicious and team up to attack humans. After all, virtually everything we did to the environment in the 70s, from pesticides to toxic dumping to poisoning frogs, led people to assume that the end result would be an animal uprising against man, so why wouldn’t aerosol cans do the same?

Anyway, the bulk of our film follows a group of people going on a nature hike up a mountain, and are subsequently attacked by numerous animals, while we get frequent cuts back to a neighboring town, where we learn that solar radiation is at dangerous levels and everyone needs to be evacuated to below five thousand feet, because we’re now suddenly under martial law. You see, people? Everyone calls the Tea Partiers a bunch of crazy people, and yet the government could do something like declare martial law just like that! Anyway, the hikers get the warning to evacuate downhill, but after several more attacks, they come to the point in all of these films where man is revealed to be the real villain, as an egotistical advertising executive (played with gusto by Leslie Neilsen, five years before becoming a legend as Lt. Frank Drebin) decides they’ll be more easily spotted if they instead head for the peak and try to flag down a helicopter, taking along half of the hikers, who he later tries to rape and/or kill. Because hey, why not?

This film is admittedly a pretty flawed one. While the animal attacks come pretty frequently, the film is normally pretty tedious when it’s just the humans on screen, with Neilsen being the only actor in the entire film that makes you care about him one way or the other. The ending is pretty lame too, just king of sitting there with no proper climax (though I guess there really couldn’t be an appropriate one with a movie like this). However, unlike Skeeter, we actually get animal attacks that don’t just look like immovable rubber Halloween bugs flying around on strings: the people here get it from wolves, dogs, rattlesnakes (who have the foresight to stake out an abandoned car so they can kill whoever tries to use it), a mountain lion, and eagles (who kill a woman in the funniest horrible special effect I have seen in a long time). It’s not something I can give an unreserved recommendation to, but I am hardly the only person who enjoys movies like this, so you should hopefully already know by now whether or not this material speaks to you.

Rating: **

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