Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Miss the Giant Bugs

I've been sorting through some MST3K episodes lately, and it got me thinking about the Golden Age of Killer Animal Movies. Does anyone other than me miss those? Sure, they were almost without exception terrible, both in effects and in acting. Sure, they all had almost exactly the same plot (authority figures stumble onto scene of mysterious carnage, scientist tells them that it must have been caused by giant/swarming animals...but that's impossible!, scientist investigates and winds up narrowly escaping from said animals, authorities don't believe scientist until animals attack en masse, scientist comes up with technobabble solution.) But I miss them, nonetheless.

The genre's not gone, of course. Every once in a while, you'll see an "Eight-Legged Freaks" or a "Lake Placid" or a "Deep Blue Sea" pop up...but the era when every third sci-fi movie featured giant insects/gila monsters/bunny rabbits seems to be gone. Me, I blame "Star Wars". (Yes, I know, this is a common theme in fandom. Trust me, I can justify it.) When "Star Wars" came out, the standard for special effects changed. It wasn't enough to suggest the idea of giant grasshoppers attacking Chicago through the cunning use of close-up camera trickery and miniature sets. Nobody believed it, not after seeing starships dogfight over a battle station the size of a moon in detail so realistic you'd swear you were watching a documentary. Film-makers suddenly needed high-quality special effects they couldn't deliver.

With the advent of and improvements to CGI, we're hopefully beginning to see a resurgence of cheesy killer animal movies. "Piranha 3-D" doesn't have realistic-looking fish, exactly, but it has killer fish eating people. Who knows, we could get to the point where it's dirt-cheap to fill the screen with dozens of giant killer frogs that look photo-realistic! Then it's just a matter of filling the cast out with washed-up TV has-beens to get eaten, one by one. I wonder what Scott Baio's doing these days?


E. Wilson said...

Bert I. Gordon did one film that MST3K riffed that wasn't about giant things, and it was actually a fairly solid story. I can't recall the name of it, though.

Kanedoras said...

Scyfy is still pumping them out to a greater or lesser extent for their Saturday movies. Somehow, though, awful monster movies from the 1950s and 60s are endearing while awful monster movies from today are agonizing.

Jason said...

Agreed with Kanedoras. Bad CGI Monster Movies seems to be Syfy's new business model, so I think your resurgence is here - it's just not happening in theatres, it's on cable and straight-to-DVD.

j$ said...

I was just thinking the same thing the other day. Movie making technology has finally reached a point where they can take any two things from my prodigious imagination, combine them, and produce a direct-to-syfy movie tailored directly to me. It's a step in the direction of my ultimate tech fantasy of being able to custom order any kind of movie I can dream up, on-demand, and hopefully sent directly to my wet-wire brain implant. Until that day, we get gems like this: