By Robert Freese
Ants (1977, Direct Source)
Dir. Robert Scheerer
“The picnic is ruined.”
A construction dig unearths a horde of flesh-munching ants near a lakeside resort.
Robert Foxworth tries to figure out the mystery with his girlfriend Lynda Day
George. Eating everything in sight, the ants trap a handful of survivors in the
resort while Brian Dennehy tries to save them. Sluggishly paced but still worth your
time if you enjoy ‘70s bug-amuck flicks. Susanne Somers shows up in a bikini.
Overall, it’s dumb fun but not the least bit scary.
Arachnia (2003, MTI Home Video)
Dir. Brett Piper
“10 Fangs, 8 Legs, 2 Claws, 1 Bad Attitude.”
On their way to a dig in Arizona, Professor Mugford and his crew of paleontology
students get caught in a meteor shower and are forced to crash land their plane
near a farmhouse where spiders, mutated by the meteors, grow to giant size and
attack. Like all of Piper’s films, Arachnia is brimming with laughs, scares and his
marvelous stop motion creatures. (Piper is one of the last guys truly making B-
movies the way they should be made.) The cast is terrific and includes Rob
Monkiewicz, Irene Joseph, and Dan Merriman. In my humble opinion, it is one of
Piper’s best. (He also did the wildly entertaining bugs and strippers flick Bite Me!
(2004), available on DVD from Shock-O-Rama Cinema.)
Bug (1975, Paramount)
Dir. Jeannot Szwarc
“Fiery, Hungry and Unstoppable. Pray they don’t invade your house!”
An earthquake shakes up a small rural community but also unearths a breed of
cockroach that can start fires easier than a Zippo lighter. Entomologist Bradford
Dillman studies the subterranean freaks of nature hoping to find a way to kill them.
The bugs cause much mayhem. The most harrowing scene is when a bug attacks
an unsuspecting woman on the telephone. In a very bizarre, nightmarish
sequence, the mutating insectoids communicate with Dillman by lining their bodies
up on the wall and spelling out words. (“WE LIVE”) This movie was positively
chilling when I first saw it on TV as a kid. As an adult, I still think it is pretty creepy.
William Castle produced. The gimmick for this flick was a one million dollar
insurance policy taken out on the star of the film, Hercules the Cockroach. (Initially,
Castle planned to install what amounted to mini windshield wipers under theater
seats. During the scare scenes, the projectionist would activate the wipers that
would brush across the backs of the patrons’ legs. The theater owners vetoed that
idea immediately.) The climax is pretty cool. Observant viewers will recognize the
Brady Bunch kitchen, a standing set at Paramount (where it was filmed), during one
attack scene. It is based on the book The Hephaestus Plague by Thomas Page.
Give it a try if you’ve never seen it before. It might just freak you out a bit.
Earth vs. the Spider (1958, Lions Gate)
Dir. Bert I. Gordon
“Bullets won’t kill it! Flames can’t hurt it! Nothing can stop it!”
An outsized tarantula runs rampant through small town America circa 1958. Kids that show no more smarts than
the meatheads in the Friday the 13th flicks constantly put themselves in peril. Once the authorities think they
have killed the giant spider, they store it over in the high school’s gymnasium until it can be shipped off. A rock
band practicing for “The Big Dance” in the gym awakens the spider, which then goes on a full blown rampage.
For some odd reason, the spider shrieks and screams when it attacks. This is classic ‘50s giant monster drive-
in movie fun. Some of Gordon’s special effects are quite effective while others are painfully goofy. Flick is on a
double feature disc with Gordon’s War of the Colossal Beast (1958). It was sort of loosely remade for cable in
2001 with Dan Aykroyd. My recommendation is to stick with the original.
Empire of the Ants (1977, MGM)
Dir. Bert I. Gordon
“It’s no picnic!”
Toxic waste transforms ants into giant mutants on an island being developed as resort property. Real estate
witch Joan Collins put on the schmooze to a number of possible buyers who are just attending for the free food
and booze. Old sea salt Robert Lansing leads the survivors to safety after the first ant attack. When they get
back to the nearby coastal town, they find that all the residents have been brainwashed by the ants and are now
working as slaves. This trippy freakshow is enjoyable for all the wrong reasons. Again, Gordon’s effects are hit
and miss, but the guy obviously loves what he’s doing and it shows. It was released on a double feature DVD
with Tentacles (1977). It’s just fun to watch Joan Collins attacked by giant ants.
The Giant Spider Invasion (1975, Retromedia)
Dir. Bill Rebane
Meteorites the size of softballs rain down on a small Wisconsin town. Space spiders hatch from the rocks and
grow to humungous size. The authorities call in the military to stop the spider menace. Not scary but damn
entertaining. I mean, any giant spider movie featuring Alan Hale (Skipper from Gilligan’s Island) is cool by me.
The film’s highlight is the giant spider at the end, which was built onto a VW Bug and driven around in circles,
menacing the cast. (I was told it recently sold on Ebay.) This is pretty outrageous stuff, but if you’re familiar with
Rebane’s special kind of weird cinema you’ll sort of know what you’re in for. Several DVD copies of this movie
are available. The disc from Retromedia comes with a mini reprint copy of the four page comic book that was
passed out at theaters to promote the flick. One of the versions available is in one of the Mystery Science
Theater 3000 box sets, and it’s a hoot. Enjoyable in a brain-dead sort of way.
Kingdom of the Spiders (1977, Goodtimes)
Dir. John “Bud” Cardos
“A living, crawling hell on earth!”
Spiders in Verde Valley, Arizona react badly to all the insecticides man has used to scorch the earth and go on
an all-you-can-eat feeding frenzy when their natural food supply is diminished. Big Bill Shatner plays a devil-
may-care veterinarian who tends to drink tallboys all day and spends his nights chasing sexy entomologist
Tiffany Bolling. Before they can escape out of town, a handful of survivors are trapped in a hotel and the
spiders lay siege. The twist ending is kind of cool but kind of hokey at the same time. Absolutely the most
frightening spider-attack movie ever made. Director Cardos takes every opportunity to pour buckets of live
spiders on his actors. (You can imagine him saying, “Bill, your motivation is to not get your ass bit. Pour!”) I still
cringe and my skin still crawls when I watch this one. The Goodtimes disc is full screen and sans any extra
features, yet it calls itself a 25th Anniversary Edition. I hope another company snatches this flick up and re-
releases a special edition with a widescreen presentation and copious extras. Until that day comes, this version
is still scary as hell.
Leeches (2003, Platinum)
Dir. David DeCoteau.
“They will BLEED you dry…”
The swim team at Lakecrest College is heading toward a winning season until steroid enhanced leeches show
up and start putting the suck on unsuspecting swimmers. The leech critters grow to giant size and are pretty
disgusting. DeCoteau keeps this one moving with many, many attack scenes. It was scripted by Fangoria
Magazine’s Michael Gingold. I really like this flick, which DeCoteau dedicated to Doris Wishman. Unfortunately, I
have been unable to find a widescreen copy of it on disc. (When I reviewed it for VideoScope Magazine years
ago, I watched a VHS copy which was in 2.35:1 widescreen and the picture looked amazing. The only discs I can
locate are Pan and Scan, which is a shame.) I recommend this disgusting, barf-o-rama, leeches on the loose
The Nest (1988, New Concorde)
Dir. Terence H. Winkless
“Roaches have never tasted flesh…until now.”
Research on North Port Island results in a stampede of mutated cockroaches that devour flesh and transmute
their partially eaten victims into gross-out humanoid cockroach critters. Franc Luz is the island’s sheriff who is
up to that little red tag on the pocket of his Levi’s jeans in dead, eaten bodies and gory cockroach attacks.
Canadian actress Lisa Langlois is the love interest. Terri Treas is the weirdo INTEC scientist who gets turned on
by cockroach bites. The mayor of North Port is played by Robert Lansing, who survived his encounter with the
Empire of the Ants but doesn’t fare as well here. This one is ten times more stomach churning than the killer
cockroach episode of Creepshow (1982). Produced by drive-in movie king Roger Corman. Great special
effects, great performances…it’s got scares and laughs. Based on the okay novel of the same name by Eli
Cantor. If it were made today it would all be CG and nothing would look real. Not to be missed.
Mosquito (1995, Image)
Dir. Gary Jones
“Millions of years of evolution have just become mankind’s worst nightmare.”
Mutated mosquitoes hopped up on the blood of a dead, crash landed alien grow to giant proportions and attack
the hell out of everyone in a nearby campsite. Meanwhile, a group of bank robbers lead by Gunnar Hansen get
mixed up in the melee and help some survivors fend off the offending blood suckers. Delivering true B-movie
thrills, director Jones fills the screen with gory bug attacks every few minutes so you don’t get distracted by lack
of plot. This is a classic example of what a filmmaker on a low budget can do with ingenuity and imagination. An
excellent scare-show that should sate your craving for watching rampaging insects attack. (aka Blood Fever
Skeeter (1993, Image)
Dir. Clark Brandon
“Earth is the final breeding ground.”
Once again toxic waste proves to be doing mankind no favors when it results in giant, mutated mosquitoes that
put the suck on a bunch of bickering, loud mouth types who you really don’t mind see die. Lots of gross, goopy
effects of skeeter sacs and such, but most of the characters are so unlikable and annoying you hardly care.
The cast includes Charles Napier, Michael J. Pollard and George “Buck” Flower. It really pales in comparison to
Mosquito, which was made on a fraction of this flick’s budget.
Slugs (1987, Anchor Bay)
Dir. Juan Piquer Simon
“They Slime! They Ooze! They Kill!”
Okay, all bets are off. If you’re stupid enough to stand in one place long enough to be devoured by flesh eating
slugs, you are possibly one of the stupidest human beings on planet earth. I say, take off your helmet, Scooter,
it ain’t doin’ you no good anyhow. Amazingly, this film does have an impressive list of open mouth breathers who
get themselves into enough bizarre situations to be consumed by hordes of the titular beasties. Oddly enough,
if you’re in the right mood, this film is damn fun and delivers the gore when you just want to see people torn
apart. (Splatter highlights include a naked girl wiggling in a pool of the loathsome beasts and one guy who, at a
fancy restaurant, has his eyeball explode in a gusher of blood, gore and baby slugs!) Simon directs with his
brain in a jar somewhere but ultimately delivers everything you would expect from a horror movie entitled Slugs.
Disorienting moments abound with inappropriate soundtrack cues culled from the Amazon Women on the Moon
(1987) soundtrack. It was based on Shaun Hutson’s novel of the same name. (He’s never been too fond of it.)
Mock me if you wish, but I loves this turd-ball of a creature attack flick.
Spiders (2000, Trimark)
Dir. Gary Jones
“The future of the human race hangs by a thread!”
Spider experimentation conducted on the Space Shuttle results in giant arachnids when the Shuttle crashes on
earth. News hound Lana Parrilla follows military authorities from the crash site to a secret base where she
discovers the spider experiments. Giant spiders are soon running loose and Jones, who knows how to direct
these giant insect pics, does not skimp on the gore or mayhem. This was one of a quartet of sci-fi/horror
beastie amuck films released to cable TV in 2000 by Nu Image. Parrilla is great as the persistent news sleuth. A
pretty good sequel followed in 2001 (Spiders II: Breeding Ground), which was directed by action auteur Sam
Firstenberg. Give it a watch; you won’t be wasting your time.
Squirm (1976, MGM)
Dir. Jeff Lieberman
“The night is crawling with killers.”
After a violent rain storm knocks down a number of power lines, electrified earthworms come out at night and
attack the residents of a small Georgia town. Big-city-boy-from-up-north Don Scardino is visiting his southern
gal pal Patricia Pearcy just as the worm assault begins. After finding proof that worms are eating people, they
try to convince the town’s cracker sheriff but he goes into full on butthole mode and brushes them off. One
highlight is “Worm Face,” the unlucky bastard who has half a dozen giant worms burrow beneath his face while
he’s trying to pull them loose. (A young Rick Baker supplied the effects.) Flick is filled with director Lieberman’s
wild sense of humor. It’s a little slow moving in parts, but there is some great chemistry between Scardino and
Pearcy and the worm apocalypse climax is pretty disgusting. This one was a fair hit for AIP back in the drive-in
Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo (1977, Direct Source)
Dir. Stuart Hagmann
“Terror has 8 legs.”
Tom Atkins and Howard Hesseman play two gigolo coffee exporters who crash land a plane full of coffee beans
and deadly spiders into a California orange growing town. The spiders invade the orchards and then the nearby
orange plant. Because the plant bosses refuse to “Close the plant” due to prospective buyers coming for a visit,
a number of people are trapped inside the plant. A plan is devised to freeze the spiders with the sound of
buzzing wasps played over a ‘70s HiFi stereo system. Made for TV, this flick is totally entertaining and does
produce a number of chills and thrills. It’s no Kingdom of the Spiders, but it gets the job done and receives high
marks in my book for, again, dumping real spiders on the cast and then telling them to act. Check it out.