The Jessica Journals:

April 17, 2008: When Animals Attack

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Tapestry Of Power

I'm beginning to suspect that I am not the right sort of person to be watching the Generally-Harmless-Animals-Suddenly-Turn-On-Mankind-And-Wreak-Bloody-Vengence genre of movies. If my recent experience watching several of these movies is any indication, my ability to suspend my disbelief seems to abandon me when I view these types of films.

Take for example Kingdom of the Spiders, the 1977 cult classic starring William Shatner.

The Shat portrays Robert "Rack" Hanson a veterinarian in a small, Arizona town who is investigating the sudden and mysterious death of a local rancher's prize calf. With the help of entomologist and hot babe Diane Ashley he discovers that the calf was taken down by a colony of aggressive and uncommonly poisonous tarantulas.

Apparently, the rampant use of pesticides has destroyed the tarantulas natural food supply (i.e. insects and small rodents), and in order to survive the normally solitary creatures have banded together into one massive colony and have started working together to take down cats, dogs, and eventually horses and cows as food.

But by the time Rack and Diane figure this out and try to destroy the fuzzy little buggers, it is too late, for the tarantulas have moved on to the sweet succulence of human flesh.

And here's where my inability to suspend my disbelief really becomes an issue. Let's be honest here, their dealing with an infestation of tarantulas. Not giant tarantulas. Not jumping tarantulas. Not super-high-speed tarantulas. Just tarantulas. They might be fuzzy, black, kind of gross-looking, eight legged spiders...but they're still just spiders.

They crawl along the ground at a fairly slow pace, and, at most, they're a couple inches in diameter and can be easily squashed beneath a booted foot, so it's a little unbelievable when person after person is taken down by these admittedly ugly but still pint-sized nemeses.

I find myself reaching similar conclusions about these people as I did of the characters in Frogs...some of these individuals do everything they can to make their deaths at the spindly legs of bloodthirsty arachnids possible.

Take for example Walter Colby....

This is a picture of him shortly before he suffers a horrible, spidery doom....

Based on this picture, it seems to me there are only two logical possibilities.

Suspension of disbelief or no, there is simply no possible way you can have a big, black tarantula crawling on your shoulder and not be aware of it. A blind person could see it. It's simply that obvious.

I really don't understand how hard it could be to deal with this spider infestation. Just put on some boots and some long pants. Put a rubber band or tie some string around the bottom of your pants so the little buggers can't crawl up your legs, then go out there and have a stomping good time. It's really as easy at that.

But, alas, most of the characters choose instead to panic and fall down so that they are more accessible to the spiders, and the film ends with Rack and a small band of survivors staring out the window of the house they have holed up in only to discover that the entire town--every building, every car, every structure of any sort--has been encased in a massive cocoon of spider webs.

Yes, the tarantulas have triumphed.

Elsewhere in Arizona, DeForest Kelley is busy battling horrendous animal upstarts of his own in the form of normally docile creatures that have swollen to many times their typical size and begun to feast on the flesh of man.

I refer, of course, to the giant caterpillar that has affixed itself to De's upper lip.

I joke. I'm really talking about the giant, genetically mutated bunnies that are running rampant and slaughtering all who stand in their path.

My family's pet rabbit, King Rex Velveteen, recently passed into the great beyond, and I felt I ought to memorialize him by watching an appropriate movie. However, in all honesty, I did not expect Night of the Lepus to be as entertaining as it was. The whole idea of giant, rampaging, blood-thirsty bunnies equals pure awzumness, and I held little hope that the movie could live up to its amazing premise. Thankfully, I was wrong, and Rex's memory was suitably honored.

Night of the Lepus is a cult classic, and I feel as if I'm jumping on the bandwagon a little late with this review, but I'm sure the internet will not suffer from yet one more person blogging about the killer bunny movie.

Somewhere in the southwest (I believe in Arizona due to the fact that they mention Phoenix), rancher Cole Hillman's land is being overrun by rabbits. He wants to find a more environmentally friendly way of destroying the pests than by the use of poison, and since he is a large benefactor of the local college, Elgin Clark, the college president with the above mentioned mustache, offers to get two of the college's zoologists to work on the problem.

Now, here is where my suspension of disbelief first begins to abandon me. De refers to the zoologists as a "young couple", but, at the time the movie was released, Stuart Whitman was forty-four years old and Janet Leigh was forty-five years old and, quite honestly, looked like a woman in her fifties who had had some work done.

At any rate, the...couple throw themselves into figuring out a way to thin the rabbit population without causing any collateral damage to the other small animals. In an effort to create a disease that will affect only the bunnies, they manipulate the genes of one of their test rabbits which does not actually result in a disease, but instead causes the fuzzy little fellow to grow beyond the normal size of a member of the family Leporidae.

Stuart and Janet have, however, made the unfortunate decision to cause said genetic mutations in a bunny that happens to be their young daughter's favorite. She quickly proceeds to "rescue" it, and then accidentally releases it into the wild where it immediately begins mating with the other rabbits and building up an army of rabbits of ever increasing size.

Eventually, according to a character in the film, they become the size of wolves...but only if by "wolves" you mean "bears", and, in need of food, they turn on the human population and begin to kill men and feast on their flesh.

This again is where my suspension of disbelief abandons me. Leaving aside the fact that rabbits are as herbivorous as herbivores can be, they are ostensibly attacking people because they need sustenance; however, throughout the course of the film, they routinely kill people and then simply leave their bloody corpses mostly intact and out in the open where the authorities can find them, identify them, and be confused about how they died.

I am left asking two questions.

I realize that, considering the movie is about giant killer bunnies, I really shouldn't expect much if any logic, and yet, foolishly, I do.

At any rate, Stuart, Janet, De, and the rancher eventually discover the giant, mutated bunnies holed up in a (mostly) abandoned mine and decide to take care of them by dynamiting the place. Needless to say, that doesn't work, and the bunnies then go on a giant, killing rampage through the town.

Stuart eventually gets the brilliant idea to destroy their cute, fuzzy, menacing foes by electrifying a section of train railing and then herding the horde of bunnies onto the track.

In a scene I would recommend no one who has epilepsy or is prone to seizures should watch, they implement Stuart's plan, which leads to the moment I personally found to be the funniest of the entire film--that in which the townspeople are left staring at a gigantic pile of dead, smoldering, electrocuted bunnies. Can you say hasenpfeffer?

What can one say of this film? It's a movie about giant, killer bunnies. I can't stress that point too much. They're giant, killer bunnies, people! I think the movie was meant to be frightening or at least intense, but...they're giant killer bunnies. Even when they're rampaging through a town, their fuzzy faces covered in blood, they're just sooo cute. They're adorable. They're bunnies. I just want to pet and caress and nuzzle them--the little cutie pies, mummy loves you yes she does ohmylittlesweethearts.

So, what have we learned from these two movies?



Copyright 2008 Jessica Menn