Arrow Video recently released Juan Piquer Simon ‘s Slugs on Blu-ray and the oozy 1988 shocker has never looked better. As a film that lives or dies by the quality of its visual creature and gore FX, it remains a top notch curio of the era and has stirred in me an interest in revisiting more in the garden variety, killer pests sub-genre.
From worms to bees, filmmakers have certainly loved playing on our fears of the dangerous creepy crawlers that live just outside our door.
These are only a few of my favorites.
When millions of worms are driven from the earth and mutated by electricity, they begin to wreak havoc on the peaceful people of Fly Creek. Such is the premise for Jeff Lieberman’s Squirm, a notorious gross-out from the drive-in era. The film has remained extremely popular over the years, so much so that Scream Factory recently released a Collector’s Edition of the film which seems bananas.
Quick side note: Lieberman would go on to write and direct the LSD panic movie Blue Sunshine the following year, easily one of the most bizarre films of the era.
After Tremors, the 90’s got slammed with creature features hoping to cash in that film’s success. While some, like del Toro’s Mimic, took a serious approach, most aimed to replicate the fun, comedic flavour of Ron Underwood’s instant classic. Enter Mosquito, Gary Jone’s fun and gruesome bug movie whose influence can still be felt today with recent films like Infestation or Stung.
The craziest thing about Mosquito is that it’s a bit of a genre bender in that it’s alien blood that mutates the pests. last year, Synapse released the film as a 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray.
From Them! to Empire of the Ants, Phase IV and many others, Hollywood has had an odd fascination with ants as predatory monsters. The most bizarre is probably the 1977 TV movie It Happened at Lakewood Manor (later re-titled Ants!) starring Suzanne Somers, Lynda Day George and Robert Foxworth. In the film, an army of poisonous ants traps a group of people in an old fashioned hotel.
The best news? The entire film is currently available for free on YouTube.
The craziest thing about Jeannot Szwarc’s Bug – and what helped it make this list over other mutant cockroach flicks – is that the cockroaches in the film have the ability to start fires. Fires! Hair goes up in smoke! Trucks explode! All from an invading army of roaches from the center of the earth.
Perhaps from the success of Bug, Swarc would famously go on to helm one of the most anticipated sequels at the time, Jaws 2. He is still a busy director of television, working regularly on shows like Supernatural.
The Swarm (1978)
There are a TON of killer bee movies and all of them are objectively bad. In fact a quick perusal of IMDB will reveal none of them, including this Irwin Allen production starring Michael Caine, breaks a 5/10 rating.
The Swarm is about a cloud of African killer bees that sweeps across America, laying waste to the land. Before Roland Emmerich picked up the honors, Irvin Allen was the king of disaster movies churning out classics like The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure among others. Here he adapts from the book by Arthur Herzog III (real name) which was a hit at the time, capitalizing on the panic of the more aggressive”Africanized bees” which were being cross-bred and introduced into various regions around the world.
Another slimy 90’s outing, Ticks comes from director Tony Randel who, only a few years earlier, had earned his stripes with the no holds barred Hellraiser 2.
Once again, Ticks follows on the heels of Tremors so it has a lighter tone, even though it is unrelentingly gruesome. One of the film’s claims to fame is it stars a decidedly young Seth Green.
Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
Before Franck Marshall’s Arachnophobia became the go-to spider shocker, Kingdom of the Spiders had the honor of being considered the best. Yes, it’s a B-movie, but it’s actually pretty great (especially if you’re scared of spiders).
In the film is about a veterinarian, played by William Shatner, who is sent to investigate a rash of farm animal deaths in a rural community. It soon becomes apparent that millions of tarantulas are swarming the desert town and humans are their next target. Like many of the 70s nature shock films, Kingdom of the Spiders was influenced by the success of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and reflected the concerns regarding the destruction of the environment at the time.