Features, Lists, Arachnoquake, Axe Giant – The Wrath of Paul Bunyan, Chupacabra vs. The Alamo, High Plains Invaders, Mansquito, Mongolian Death Worms, Monster Box TV, Monsterbox.TV, Pegasus vs. Chimera, Syfy
SEVEN ABSURD MONSTER MOVIES!
Sharknado is now available from Monsterbox.TV. We have the Australian exclusive for online streaming. Wanna see it for free? We’re giving away a year subscription to Monsterbox.TV. All you have to do is sign up Monterbox.TV. You don’t have to make a purchase. Just sign up and you’ll go into the draw! If you win, you’ll be able to watch every film including new releases for an entire year! It’s that simple!
Being a lifelong lover of trash, I’m going to use it as an excuse to talk about campy monster movies. I’m going to be looking at 7 absurd science fiction films. I’m going to forego all the obvious choices such as Sharktopus, Dinoshark and Mega Shark. These guys turn up on a lot of these type of lists, including my own Top 5 Mega Sharks.– Basically I’m not going to cover any shark, snake and ‘gator related movies. I’m also going to be limiting my selections to those ones made for the Syfy Channel.
Arachnoquake was the film that kicked off the natural disaster/monster movie genre. Granted it’s not a very large genre – Sharknado, Dracano and Sharkalanche – this is mostly due to the fact that it’s really, really hard to come up with a clever title that combines both an animal and natural disaster.
I feel I need to offer some insight into how the genre came about. All of the movies on the list were made on consignment for the Syfy Channel. Every week, or so, they air an original movie. They’ve been doing this for the past 20 years, which means they’ve racked up a couple hundred of them. Most of which are either monster or natural disaster movies.
All the movies play out the same. They’re not too complex, and let’s face it, not too sci-fi. They’re more like generic action movies with a sci-fi themed killer. As you can imagine these are hardly the most creative films in the world. This is reflected in the titles: Cyclops, Ghouls, Mammoth, Manticore, Mega Snake, Ogre, Pterodactyl, Sabretooth, Sea Beast, Vipers, Yeti.
So something had to give. People just couldn’t watch the same films over and over again. Instead of changing the content of the films, they just got more absurd. A few years ago we started seeing more hybrid films, but it was mostly within the same genre. We saw films like:Sharktopus and Mega Python vs. Gatoriod, Ice Twister, Space Twister, Metal Torando, Alien Torando and Stonenado.
So the next logical choice was to merge the two together. Arachnoquake was the first to do it.
Arachnoquake is about an earthquake that releases an army of deadly albino spiders. Sadly, Arachnoquake is nothing more than a fun title. The connection between the creatures and natural disaster seems coincidental at best – There just happened to be an earthquake, which by chance released a bunch of angry albino spiders – the two aren’t connected in any meaningful way. There is just the one earthquake at the start of the film. After that, the spiders alone drive the story.
Regardless, it’s pretty entertaining for a film of this type. The film also features an aging Edward Furlong, who now seems to resemble k.d lang.
This film features Paul Bunyan as a serial killer. Your logical brain is already trying to fight the idea of turning a beloved folk character into a homicidal murder. Remember this: logic has no place within a Syfy Original film. You’ll be a lot happier if you just go with the flow.
So the movie is about of a group of juvenile delinquents who have to go out camping.. for some… court appointed thing… Basically if the teens leave the camp they’ll have to go back to jail. Thus, the reason they all stick around and get slaughtered by Paul Bunyan.
At the camp they meet Joe Estevez. Joe is the brother of Martin Sheen. He’s the guy you hire when you want Martin but only have about $300. Seriously, that’s his day rate. He isn’t a bad actor, per se but not nearly as good as his brother or his two nephews. He’s in so much stuff, he’s turned into an anti-name. That is, his name is associated with cheapness. But saying that, he’s okay in this film. He’s playing the typical, crazy, ‘Don’t go the woods’, old man.
In this version of the legend, Paul Bunyan was born a giant but with a mind of a child. He didn’t become a psychopathic killer until a group of loggers, during a famine, shot and ate Babe: the Blue Ox. It strange how the film didn’t make Bunyan’s plight sympathic. The loggers, while seeming like jerks, shot and kill Blue because of the famine. I don’t blame them.
Bunyan is also played by a guy in a rubber suit. By the looks of the CGI that was a very good idea. Saying that, the suit doesn’t make Bunyan any more believable, but it does give him a certain cartoon feeling that makes him fun to watch.
So it’s pretty much a slasher film, minus the gore, with a gimmicky killer. The high point would have to be where Bunyan kills Dan Haggety. Haggety is best remembered for playing Grizzly Adams in The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams – Well played movie, well played. This film has enough intentional and unintentional humour to keep you entertained.
Sometimes it feels that these films throw a bunch of stuff against a wall just to see what sticks. They’ve come up with a lot of weird combinations over the years. How about Patrick Swayze (playing his character from Point Break), Bill Oddie, Michael Clarke Duncan and Val Kilmer in a kid friendly dragon movie – Winner! Or how about Barry Bostwick as Captain Ahab fighting a super charged Mody Dick – Pure Gold! High Plains Invaders gives us Spike from Buffy, as a cowboy, fighting aliens. – WTF?!!
Despite all conventional logic or taste this strange combination wins out. Even stranger, it was made a whole two years before Cowboys &. Aliens. And three years before The History Channel also decided to double Romania for the old west for their cowboy epic Hatfields & McCoys. As being original, or ahead of the curve isn’t The Syfy Channel’s strong suit I’m going to chalk this one down to being a coincidence.
Bruce Campell used to call himself ‘The King of the Sc-fi Channel’. This was due to him being in a handful of fun , pulpy sci-fi films. However, Corin Nemec is the rightful owner of that title as he’s appeared in more Syfy films than anyone on the face of the earth – Sea Beast, Mansquito, SS Doomtrooper, Dragon Wasps, Raging Sharks, Sand Sharks, Jurassic Attack and the upcoming Dracano.- Granted, Nemec’s films feel like they’re less about having fun, and more about payinge rent.
A convicted murderder, whom Corin Nemec arrested, escapes, but not before he is affected by radiation that turns him into the Mansquito! On the surface this film seems like The Fly but with a mosquito. Thankfully this movie understands that it is Mansquito and not The Fly. This means we see a lot of the monster. This has little to do with the needs of the plot and more to do with the needs of the Syfy Channel. Syfy has two rules in regards to monsters.
- You need to show it up front.
- Then often.
I’m not kidding. I’ll digress for a moment and go over their other rules.
- No more than 30% of the film can be shot at night. I think this is to keep the budget down.
- They don’t like dogs in their films. Once again I think this has to do with budget.
- They hate scenes of people walking down hallways. In particular ‘walk and talk’ scenes when one character is explaining the plot to another. It’s odd how they don’t like this cliché, yet openingly embrace others.
They also cite Dog Soliders, a film they didn’t produce, as exactly the type of they film want. Oddly the movie has a scene of a werewolf walking down a corridor at night. Maybe three wrongs make a right, I don’t know.
Where was I? Mansquito…. Ummm. yes. The Mansquito itself is a man in a rubber suit, which is rare for films like these.
The emotional core of the film revolves around Nemec’s girlfriend. She gets exposed to the radiation as well, but her transformation takes much longer. To make matters worse the Mansquito is looking to mate with Nemec’s girlfriend. Ewww…..
Also companies that produce Syfy original have a habit of finding cheap countries to film in. They exploit the economy until it’s no longer financially viable to film there, then move on to the next one. Ten years ago production companies were flocking to Romania, then Bulgaria and now Canada. This was shot in Bulgaria. Shooting in a Baltic state has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. It’s really, really, really easy to blow up whatever you want. Gypsies are great at doing stuff like that for cheap. But if you want a realistic American police car or street… well then you’re in trouble.
They do a good job of making it look like North America. Unless you knew what to look for you wouldn’t be able to tell it was shot in Bulgaria.
The film was conceived by Ray Cannella, Manager of Program Acquisition for the Syfy Channel. Cannella felt that he could make a better film than those they were buying from independent producers, and he was right. While not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, it does get the job done.
Nu Images Films followed this up with the equally ridiculous Sharkman.
The Cliche-O-Tron 3000 must have been working overtime when it churned out this – for lack of a better word – script. Erik Estrada plays the great, great, great grandson of Juan Seguin, who was a Mexican-American hero of the Alamo. He’s also your stock standard, burnt out cop, who has a dead wife and an estranged children. He’s a lone wolf who gets partnered with a feisty, independent, female cop. He thinks they’re after a murderous drug cartel, while she know it’s really a pack of Chupacabras.
The Chupacabras are underwhelming to say the least: they’re little, cgi, hairless doberman pinschers. I think The Killer Shrews might be slightly more scary. Subtlety doesn’t work well in films like this, heck, subtlety doesn’t work at all. It has no place here. We only want dumb, obvious and totally ridiculous things in these films.
It might be a good time to talk about the casting. These films often dig up old relices of yesteryear, who are looking to make a little extra pocket money.
Their inclusion is often as just as appealing as the monster itself. Over the years there have been some doozies, such as, Greg Brady and Danny Partridge hunting Bigfoot, Tiffany and Dibbie Gibson fighting giant reptiles and Lance Henriksen fighting… well pretty much everything.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the movie plays heavily on Estrada’s CHiPs’ persona. In fact the high point of the film involves him ‘riding’ around on a stationary bike, while a badly cgi background fails to create the illusion of movement.
The final act involves our heroes fighting the Chupacabras at the Alamo. The Alamo itself isn’t central to the plot. It’s not like the Chupacabras are fighting them there out of patriotism.
This might have been the movie that created the natural disaster/animal attack genre. You know when you’re making a film about killer worms, Mongolian Death Worms or otherwise, you’re officially out of ideas. The worms act like snakes, and roar like lions. However you want to dress them up it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still worms.
In the movie’s defence, the Mongolian Death Worm is a cryptic animal. According to Mongolian locals the worms are upto 2 to 5 feet long, can spew acid, kill at a distance by means of an electronic discharge and corrode anything they touch. In the movie, they’re basically the creatures from Tremors, with the exception of having toxic skin and being able to create a biological electric field.
What about the film itself?
While digging for gold, a Mongolian mining company accidentally wakes and releases deadly Mongolian death worms. It’s up to a mercenary for hire (Sean Patrick Flanery), and a bleeding heart nurse (Victoria Pratt) to stop them. The film isn’t the worst thing I’ve seen, but saying that, the best thing about it is the title.
The Syfy Channel loves a good death match. There is something so simple and intriguing about the title Something vs. Something Else. They’ve had a lot of obvious match ups such as Boa vs. Python, Komodoa vs. Cobra, Dinocroc vs. Supergator and the upcoming Shaktopus vs. Pteracuda and Shaktopus vs. Mermantula. I love these films, and I’m constantly playing out hypothetical death matches in my mind. I’ve honestly never thought about pitting a Pegasus against a Chimera. Partly I had no idea what a Chimera was, that, and the fact that Pegasus aren’t the most kick arse creature around. But who would win! Questions like these keep me up at night.
I’m not going to bother you with the plot of the film, because who cares?!! This film has a PEGASUS FIGHTING A CHIMERA!!!! So let’s cut to the chase.
I wasn’t sure how good the final fight would be, let’s face it, Pegasus’ don’t seem like they would be good fighters but I was pleasantly surprised. The fight seemed, dare I say it, believable and logical. Granted the fight is short, but it also exceeded my expectations. It was something beyond my wildest imagination, and isn’t that what all these films are about.