Tom Doty Times Columnist
December 20, 2013
A reality show picks the wrong island to film its first episode in this tongue-in-cheek sequel to 1959’s “The Killer Shrews.”
The original film was a low-budget affair that stranded the captain of a small boat, Sherman, on an island with mad scientists, hot lab assistants, and the titular rodents. This time, out you get Sherman once again piloting his craft to that same location, only now he is stuck with the crew of a low-budget reality show built around middle-aged Safari bo-hunk, Johnny Reno.
The shrews don’t wait long to start picking off the cast, but they nibble around the edges first and only eat people who are low on the pecking order, like the aging intern. Sherman winds up staying longer than he hoped when the shrews gobble up the producer who was holding his cash payment.
The players here are a little slow, but they eventually figure out that they are being systematically slaughtered. They even realize a mysterious figure may be involved and that he appears to be a Pied Piper of sorts, only this guy plays his pipe to make the rodents attack and he has no intention of drowning them.
The cast winds up hiding out at the lab from the first movie. There they are regaled with the plot from that flick, as related by Sherman. Flashbacks from the original film enhance the sequence and make you realize a lot of love went into this project, though not much money, in an effort to duplicate the look of the 1959 version.
It all comes down to a mad dash for the boat with a herd of galloping rodents giving pursuit. Fun stuff .
This totally works thanks to a lot of humor. The film manages to have its cake and eat it, too, by updating the premise and making fun of low-budget flicks along the way. This is a horror fan’s delight, with enough in jokes to assure you that these guys did their homework.
It helps that the film stars James Best (“Dukes of Hazzard”) who co-wrote the screenplay and reprises his role as Sherman. He is a generous writer and gives the best gags to fellow actor Bruce Davison. It is perfect stunt casting, too, as Davison got his start leading an army of rats in the 1970s cult flick “Willard.”
The special effects are pretty lousy, though, and they prove that CGI has nothing on the old ways. The original flick used dogs in rodent suits and the clumsy critters were actually convincing (in the long shots). There is also a nice turn here by John Schneider as Reno. He is hilarious as the self-centered lunkhead and it is a reunion of sorts for him, too, as he co-starred on “Dukes.”
All in all, this is a fun time-waster and a real bargain. The disc is super cheap and includes the original feature as well as a slew of “Making of..” featurettes.
2013, not rated.
“That’s our director. Don’t make direct eye contact.”
“How do you save a dead guy?”
“I think we’re gonna need a bigger goat.”