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It Sure Wasn’t Shakespeare

Spoiler Alert! I intend to give away all major plot points of the following movie, including how they escape from the monsters and who lives at the end.

As I write this (on a break at work), I find I cannot quite recall the exact title of today’s cheesy horror flick. Something about shrews. Attack of the Killer Shrews or Giant Killer Shrews. You may guess from this that it is not a particularly memorable movie, and you’d be right.

I know what else you might be thinking: Shakespeare. I suspect the makers of the movie anticipated such a thing as well, because they have one of the characters say, “As in ‘Taming of’?” Which is exactly what Steven said when I informed him which movie we’d be watching. Imagine my husband having something in common with the main guy of a cheesy horror flick (I don’t say “hero.” I would not call most of these main guys heroes.)

It seems Main Guy is captain of a boat bringing supplies to an island. According to these movies, there are a bazillion isolated, difficult to reach islands, usually peopled with mad scientists, who often have beautiful daughters.

The scientist on this island has a beautiful daughter, but he’s not particularly mad. We know, of course, what animal he is researching, and the first ones we see are small.

“It looks like a rat,” remarks Main Guy. Actually, it looks like a mouse. “Does it bite?” he asks, as he holds it in his hand.

“Only when it’s hungry,” is the answer.

I forgot to mention that Main Guy does not intend to depart that night or even unload, because of an imminent hurricane. So it’s tough luck on Beautiful Daughter, who counted on leaving the island with him. She tries to convince him to stay with them in the house, not because he is so handsome and debonair (he’s neither), but because she is afraid. He, of course, intends to spend the night on the boat. In a hurricane! What the hell?

Scientist Dad has several people working for him in capacities that are never fully explained. One at least is a pure research assistant. He spends his last minutes recording his exact symptoms as he dies of poisonous shrew bite. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First we meet Beautiful Daughter’s ex-fiance, a drunkard who left the cage door open. I don’t think we find out which of those if either factored into her breaking the engagement, but then, you know I never pay close attention to these things.

Soon we are all being terrorized by the giant shrews, which look like mice with long hair and are the size of wolves (I was going to say “dogs,” but you might say, “Chihuahuas? Great Danes?”) The close ups of the sharp teeth are scary enough. The beady eyes peeping through various orifices less so. In those shots you can pretty much tell they made use of perspective as a special effect.

The giant shrews have apparently eaten all possible food on the island and will soon begin eating each other, thus leaving the humans only one really fat shrew to deal with. It’s a good plan, except that the shrews discover the people and want to eat all of them first, quite naturally.

So the shrews start picking off the people one by one. It turns out the shrew bite is poisonous, so if you get bit you’re a goner even if you’re not dinner.

When they’re down to just four survivors — Dad, Daughter, Main Guy and Ex-Fiance — they decide to duck walk to the beach in oil drums. I’m not kidding you. Have you ever tried to duck walk any distance? I have not, but the mere thought of it hurts my thighs. They put these slits in the oil drums so they can see out, although I think that is mainly so we can have some scary shots of sharp teeth trying to break through.

So there they are, oil drums strapped together, only three of them because Ex-Fiance has decided to remain on the roof (guess what’s going to happen to him). The camera shows close ups on each face as they make their fearful way. Boy, are they good duck walkers! Their heads and shoulders don’t move at all! I know some dancers who would love to achieve that kind of isolation!

Oh, you don’t have to tell me I’m carping. Listen, I’m not method actress myself. I don’t feel I would need to actually duck walk through a jungle to convincingly look as if I might faint (did I really need to tell you Beautiful Daughter almost does?) (faint, I mean, not actually duck walk). Still, if I had been directing that scene, I would have insisted on at least a little up/down movement.

I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear that all three make it to safety. I was a little relieved they let Dad live. Many movies would have killed him off. Some even would have offed the girl. I thought Ex-Fiance’s death was rather pointless. Often that character gets to do something heroic and sacrifice himself, since he obviously isn’t going to get the girl. Or he could have done something dastardly to save himself, but it backfires and he gets his comeuppance.

But no, he just jumps off the roof, while Steven and I yelled, “What are you thinking?” I suppose he figured the shrews were distracted, and he could run faster than the other three could duck walk. But, hello! How distracted do you think the shrews are?

Here’s a shrew, trying to get at a duck walker in an oil drum and he doesn’t have a can opener (oh, I’ve been there. It was cream of mushroom soup, but a similar frustration). Now here’s this fine specimen, out of a tin can and marinaded (remember? he’s a drunkard). What would you do if you were a hungry shrew? I thought so.

Scientist Dad says in X amount of time the shrews will have eaten each other, and the menace will be over. Phew! You don’t suppose they’ll start having babies really fast first, do you, and replenish supplies? Or maybe go vegetarian till something better comes along? Learn to swim? In short, adapt in time for a sequel. Well, if anybody hears of a sequel, please let me know.

NOTE: On consulting the TV Journal, I see the title is The Killer Shrews. Leonard Maltin doesn’t list it.

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