I was pleasantly thrilled to see people respond so enthusiastically to this week's Big Picture feature, Night of The Lepus - surely the Citizen Kane of giant killer rabbit movies. So I figured it might be a fun diversion to offer you a glimpse at a few more movies that tried to make monsters out of less-than-fearsome animals.
This is probably the most infamous feature on the list, a 1950s drive-in classic made infamous as a public-domain mainstay and by a feature showing on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
As pitches go, "giant shrews" isn't quite so awful - shrews are vicious critters for their size, and their ravenous dietary needs makes the idea of enlarged ones suitably unnerving. But the execution, with non-actors barely hitting their marks and the title monsters played by dogs with bath mats draped over their backs, renders it a walking (skittering?) joke.
Incredibly (or maybe not, in this day and age) a fifty years later sequel - featuring original star James Best, no less! - actually went into a production over a year ago. It has yet to be released.
Another MST3K alumnus, Squirm is probably the best movie on this particular list - a decent attempt at an icky gore flick in which downed power lines (somehow) drive common earthworms into frenzy for (live) human flesh. That some of the worm-ridden victims end up something like half-zombies is a novel touch, but for the most part the reason folks still talk about this one is that Special FX legend Rick Baker did some of his early work here.
For what it's worth, the oddly long-careered yet infrequently-credited director Jeff Lieberman actually made a genuinely nifty movie three decades later called Satan's Little Helper, about a disturbed young boy tagging along with a serial killer whom he's mistaken for the demonic main character of his favorite videogame.
A perennial entry on the "should've spent more on the monster" list, the monster here is a pollution-mutated mama bear, which actually sounds suitably scary until you actually see the rubber-suited embarassment they used to simulate it. Incredibly, John Frankenheimer - late of the original Manchurian Candidate - was in charge of this.
Otherwise, the movie isn't bad, though its boilerplate 70s eco-horror plot (EPA investigators discovering mutants caused by logging industry malfeasance, a Native American tribe that believes the mutant is an incarnation of a vengeful Forest Spirit, the whole deal) is embarrassingly dated. It's also a strange hybrid of pre and post slasher-era horror movies, with proactive professionals making up one half of the victim pool while hapless campers wander in to provide more cannon fodder.