The Killer Shrews

Discussion in 'Reader Reviews' started by dwatts, Jul 24, 2006.

  1. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    This is the full text of my review for The Killer Shrews, some of you can see the full review with screen captures at: www.twelvepaws.co.uk

    Contains spoilers.

    You know the trouble with Shrews? They're not frightening. You can't make them frightening either. Shrews don't do anything, people don't recognize them as potentially dangerous, and if you make them giant, they still look silly, not scary. Which forces you down the mutant route. The shrews in this film can't just be giants, can't just be killers, they're going to have to be mutants. In other words, sure they're shrews, but they also look a lot like dogs..... dogs with big plastic fangs..... dogs with attitude.... hungry hungry dogs... hungry hungry dogs playing shrews dressed as sheep, dirty sheep.

    And so you have it. This is a film about dogs, vicious dogs, playing, don't you know, killer Shrew Dogs. What you do is get a shrew, mess with its genes in the quest for longer life, and you get.... well, a dog. That's going to be a hungry shrew/dog hybrid creature though, so get plenty of food in. Food? Doh!

    Even when The Killer Shrews is self mocking it can't quite erase the ridiculousness of the basic premise, and the execution. This is B movie material, but if there had been C movies, it might have fit in that category better.

    This film is basically your standard siege. Think Night of the Living Dead, think Assault of Precinct 13. We get people, misguided scientists, love interest, crazy assistants - stick them in a remote place (an island), stick them in a building surrounded by dense undergrowth (to hide the killer Shrews Dogs), and battle it out. Sadly, the building they're in is made of Stucco. Make that WET stucco, as they are at pains to tell us. Stucco, it turns out, isn't a good choice for building construction, killer Shrews Dogs eat through stucco with a passion resembling a dog digging for a bone.... oh, hang on a minute....

    The plot then is this - couple sailors take a delivery of goods to an island. They intend to deliver and leave, but since a hurricane is coming in, they're forced to stay the night. When they arrive on the island they are met on the beach by a guy with a gun, the head scientist, and the scientists beautiful daughter. They ask the sailor to take the daughter off the island, but since the storm is coming, they'll have to wait until morning. Furtive glances, worried frowns, and a mad dash back to laboratory.

    The storm comes and wets the stucco. The killer Shrews Dogs, which have earlier escaped, have eaten all the possible food on the island, and the siege begins. The token black man is eaten after climbing a twig in order to escape the rampaging killer Shrew Dogs. The killer Shrew Dogs gradually get into the lab, killing a few people along the way, and then we have the climatic slow crawl to the beach - in sawn off oil drums.... welded together.... like something the Marx Brothers might have done..... like this: <insert picture>

    Yup, the humans are inside those drums. But fear not, the bottoms are cut out, so they can use their feet to crawl to safety - to the sea. Yep, they're going to walk into the sea in oil drums, oil drums with the bottom cut off, because as we all know, oil drums float - oil drums with the bottom cut off...

    Mind you, it might be a failed climax, but it's no sillier than the rest of the film. On the other hand, this film was never going to anything other than silly. You see, the very idea as conceived was plain silly, there was no saving it. Still, the acting is quite earnest, and even the dogs try to play convincing parts, hunkering down in Shrew like ways.

    Monster movies all pretty much follow the same formula. They were the original special effects extravaganza, where the FX triumphed over clichéd story lines with little variation. The Killer Shrews doesn't break the mould, but it tries its best to meet expectation. Trouble is, it's too cheap, with nothing unique other than its killer Shrew Dogs.

    Still, the makeup for the killer Shrew Dogs is quite good, when they're using models. Once they have to move, and they draft in the dog actors, it's another matter, but in one scene they manage to shoot one of the killer Shrew Dogs in the head, and the blood stain on the floor is a bit much. You also get a modicum of gore as a killer Shrew Dog bites into a leg. Valiant attempts then. Misguided, but valiant.

    I'm pretty sure you won't care about any of the characters, although one has to applaud the woman for dressing as though she's going on a night out, rather than being laid siege to by killer Shrew Dogs. She also dumps one fiancé for the sea-faring captain, which adds unnecessary angst when you think about it - what need for a new lover when killer Shrew Dogs are biting at your boots?

    Saddled with lacklustre transfers, since this is a public domain title, you'll note the version I watched was recorded from TV (woo hoo for the Horror zone!). I seriously doubt this one is likely to get the Special Edition widescreen anamorphic DTS commentary laden version, erm, ever. So just grab what you can.

    The Killer Shrews is silly, daft, and laughable. Which is the very reason to watch it. It won't cause nightmares, since killer Shrew Dogs have never been reported on the mainland and to be honest, are a bit more dog than killer shrew. And the FX are bad. And the acting is bad. And the dialog is bad. And the climax is bad. And the sets are left over from the bric-a-brac of a hurricane passing through. Oh, so many ways. But it's sure fun at times.

    If you're a fan of B films, of the dregs of the monster movie revolution, or if you're the kind of person who simply must see every killer Shrew Dog movie out there, then its irresistible. Until Criterion wake up and find themselves stuck with a multi-movie deal including this title you're going to have to put up with public domain debacles, but it's worth a little of your time to see shrews, transformed to dogs, transformed into bigger shrews, transformed into killer Shrew Dogs. After all, you can't say that about many movies.
     
  2. rxfiend

    rxfiend Joe Six-Pack

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    I love the Killer Shrews!! Anyone know which dvd is the best to get? I have a Diamond double feature disc which is alright, but would love something with better V/A quality.
     
  3. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    I'd like to know the best version as well. Few sites seem to watch to review these low budget wonders.
     
  4. Shokk

    Shokk Lord Of The Thighs

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    Very good review,Dwatts.From what i have heard the Catcom release w/The Crawling Eye is the best from an a/v standpoint.Though all the versions seem to be missing part or all of the intro voice over.
     

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