Wednesday, September 10, 2008

FGFC: The Food of the Gods

Wow is it really that time again? It seems like it was just a month ago that the last Final Girl Film Club pick was due... You know the drill, Stacie over at Final Girl picks a flick, for us to watch and then we talk. You know, no big whoop.

As is tradition I scoff at the traditional Monday due date. You can't tie me down with your rules man! Rules never stopped me from eating a full meal and then hopping right in the swimming pool did they? The never stopped me from watching too much TV and sitting too close either. And they certainly didn't prevent me from feeding my Mogwai after midnight whenever I damn well pleased... OK I admit that last one may have been a mistake, but the rest of them all lead to a good time!

This month the movie choice is “Food of the Gods.” A movie from 1976 which not only has animals running amok, but giant animals running amok. Going in that is about all I knew, and frankly that is all I really needed to know. Seriously if giant animals on a rampage doesn't put your ass in a seat you really should be asking yourself who took your soul and is it possible to get it back*.

The Basics

Football player, Morgan (Marjoe Gortner), his teammate and friend Davis (Chuck Courtney), and Brian (Jon Cypher) their PR Man decide to spend their upcoming days off getting a little RnR hunting on “The Island.”

So while hunting a stag, well apparently Morgan was just chasing a stag, but Davis wants some venison. While the others yield to the wild animal and let it run off Davis takes even more chase deeper into the woods. For all the effort that he put into the chase he is rewarded with the opportunity to give a giant angry wasp a piggyback ride! The wasp, clearly offended by Davis' reaction, decides that its stingin' time! Bye bye Davis.

Morgan leaves Brian with their only mostly dead friend and goes off to find a phone for some help. He winds up at a farm, when nobody answers to his knock goes looking in the barn, what he finds there is not a farmer. Instead he finds a giant rooster and some super sized chickens. As “Family Guy” teaches us when confronted with a giant rooster ya gotta throw down! A well placed shot with a pitchfork and Morgan is saved from a beaky death.

After his barely surviving the rooster incident Morgan gives the house another whack and this time he finds Mrs. Skinner (Ida Lupino) at the door. After yelling at him and threatening him with a shotgun and informing him that there are no phones on the island save for at the ferry she asks him for a favor. She wants to see if something is what she thinks it is and since Mr. Skinner isn't home yet she can't ask him.

Sure enough Morgan agrees that the holes in the wall are from rats. This vexes the poor lady, she is afraid that they have gotten into the special food, the food that the lord sent them. Frankly if it were me and I had some kind of strange food that made baby animals grow gigantic and go all meat eater on me I'd probably have that food sealed up pretty tight and secure. Not ol' Mrs. S. she rolls with the jar out on the table and the lid off. She's a rebel that one!

On the ferry back home Mr. Skinner (John McLiam) wonders if anything strange was up while he was gone. Upon hearing of Davis' death he asks if the friends said anything about seeing any kind of “big anything.” Clearly he knows of Mrs. Skinner's sloppy handling of the foodstuffs.

While investigating a crash in the kitchen Mrs. Skinner's arm is attacked by some giant maggots. Had he been around Bear Grylls would have been in heaven, those suckers would have kept him in energy for a month.

While driving home Mr. Skinner gets a flat. Before he can get it fixed he is attacked by a pack giant rats. What ensues is the first of what will be many completely awesome rats attacking a miniature structure shots. By attacking I pretty much mean crawling all over... but still!

The next day we see douchy businessman Jack (Ralph Meeker) and his assistant Lorna (Pamela Franklin) driving towards the farm. Along the way they pass a Winnebago containing the pregnant Rita (Belinda Balaski) and her man, who is definitely not her husband Thomas (Tom Stovall). Rita seeing Douchy Jack driving by runs up to flag him down since the Winnebago is broken down but Douchy Jack, being a douche, opts not to stop.

Since Mr. Skinner isn't back yet Mrs. Skinner is reluctant to show DJ and Lorna the secret ingredient that makes the animals big. But Jack douchily finds a way to convince her. As it turns out the secret ingredient that the lord sent is some kind of goo spouting out of the ground. Yep thats right, if you want your animals to grow up big and strong you gotta feed them God Goo!

The revelation is broken up swiftly by the return of our friends the wasps. Boy if they thought that Davis had a bad reaction to the whole piggy back thing wait until they meet the douche.

Jack actually surprised me a little bit here, in a very uncharacteristic move he grabs a shovel and heads out to get rid of the wasps. He doesn't do too well on his own. Luckily Brian and Morgan, having decided to return to the island and rid it of the wasp menace, pull up just in time to lock and load and help Douchy Jack save the day. Well not day, but minute or so. I think Jack would have had better luck had the wasps not been utilizing some kind of cloaking technology making them semi transparent.

After dark, once the wasps would have returned home, Morgan and Brian head nest to take care of things. They do so with fire and explosives. Solid, transparent or opaque not a single wasp could have survived that beautiful explosion!

While Lorna gets trapped in the rat tunnels requiring rescue our Winnebago bound friends are running into some rat trouble of their own. Morgan and Brian save Lorna of course, and Tom and Rita escape their now rat covered vehicle on foot. I can't stress enough how much I love the rats swarming miniature vehicles shots, pure awesome!

Douchy Jack wants get the hell out of there, he does offer to take anyone that wants to go with him. Of course as Morgan points out there is a chance that the rats could still get them, even in the car. Arguments and threats ensue and it is decided that Morgan and Brian will take a trip in the jeep to see how bad the rat problem is. Brian isn't thrilled at this.

While the boys are out checking on the rat problem Douchy Jack is busy filling up every container possible with the God Goo. Lorna on the other hand is concerned about Rita who is sick and possibly having a miscarriage.

Morgan discovers a fence stretches all the way around the property, even through the water. He believes that the rats are too heavy to swim and will just sink to the bottom of the water. Brian, being the thinker, points out that the fence is kind of puny and won't hold the rats back long. Morgan thinks differently, the fence will work wonders! ...if it is electrified.

One little generator and a ground later and Morgan's shocking fence dreams become a reality. Luckily the plan worked and the rats retreat from the electric fence. Down at the water the theory turns out to be correct. Them rats is sinkers! Well at least the half of the pack that showed up to the water is, the other half are back at the generator site apparently knocking a tree down to break the thing.

Upon discovery of the busted generator Morgan does what any sane man wouldn't do. He hops out of the jeep and attempts to move a tree to possibly fix? The generator. Sadly this is just the opening our friends the R.O.U.S.s (Rodents of Unusual Size) were looking for and they go on the strike. Morgan escapes the ordeal with just a bit up arm, Brian isn't quite so lucky. He'll be spending the rest of the flick standing next to Davis.

When Morgan pulls up Douchy Jack is trying to convince Thomas to get Rita into the car so that they can all leave. Jack makes a douchlike comment to Morgan about the missing Brian which results in a confrontation and then leads Morgan to go on a God Goo dumping spree. This is just the distraction the rats needed and they charge the house. Everyone who hasn't been a giant douche throughout the whole ordeal makes it back into the safety of the house. Jack on the other hand gets et.

During the attacks they discover the white rat that is apparently the leader. The shotgun shells aren't going to last forever, something has to be done. Morgan's plan is to make pipe bombs out of the black powder from the shells, and fire bombs out of pretty much every other flammable item in the house.

Once finished creating his weapons Morgan tricks convinces Thomas to help him take the fight to the rats. They shoot their way to the jeep, head to the dam, which Mrs. Skinner conveniently mentioned to Morgan at some point, and set the pipe bombs to blow the dam out and flood the island.

While the guys are out setting the bombs the rats are still at the house swarming (more fantastic mini work!). One rat finds it's way into the kitchen only to be attacked by a butcher knife wielding Mrs. Skinner. Her knife fighting skills are met with mixed results... By mixed results I mean that she dies from the bite wounds at the same time that the rat she was attacking died from her knife wounds.

Proving how inconvenient it really is to have a pregnant woman with you in the middle of a giant animal attack Rita actually gives birth to a healthy baby boy in the middle of all of the action. Man is that kid going to have an awesome story that none of his friends will believe.

As the water from the dam reaches the house Morgan rushes in the door and orders everybody upstairs to avoid the water (and probably the angry drowning rats as well).

After a scuffle with a couple of roof clinging rats everything appears to be over. Then the white rat leader leaps out from behind the roof and Morgan realizes that he just busted the last of his caps. No problem, being the man's man that he is Morgan is able to wield the gun as a club and bludgeons the rat until there is no more problem.

What is the recipe for a good cleanup? Take one large pile of soaking wet giant rat bodies, add in the apparent last jar of God Goo, throw in some leftover gasoline, toss in a match and watch your trouble just go up in flames.

As the movie ends we see two jars marked FoTG being washed away all the way down to a place where cows are grazing, cows who are then milked, milk that is then sent to schools, schools where children drink the milk!

Uh oh...

*Animal rampages involving giant spiders are the exception to the rule. Sometimes you can avoid those and still have a soul... Spiders is scary.


First off I have to admit that out of the impressive number of movies that I have seen in my day my experience with the “animals run amok” genre is disappointingly low. I've seen a few, but nothing of not that comes directly to mind. But I do love the idea of them, and I shall be watching more. The question begs, was “Food of the Gods” a good place to start? Well lets see.

So yeah the acting for the most part was what you would expect from this kind of fair, lots of over the top, a little stiff, and one dead on portrayal of a douche, well maybe not dead on but I certainly enjoyed Ralph Meeker's run as Jack (could you tell?). So you won't find me complaining too much on that aspect.

The plot delivered everything it really needed to. It was simply a device to allow some sweet giant animal attacking action wasn't it? Did it work? You bet. Now I know that this is based on a story by H.G. Wells, and I haven't read that so I don't know how close a translation it is, but I would suspect that some stuff was dropped, and some was changed. Obviously the story had a deeper message, the movie tried to keep it at least a bit in the pre and post narratives with Morgan, and of course the action. But it did seem a little tacked on or forced with the narrations to me.

Ah now we get to the real good stuff, the attacks. They started out a little silly with Davis being attacked by nothing and then giving a piggy back ride, though the swollen effect made up for that and later on with the rats they entered the realm of campy and excellent. The giant stuffed rats themselves weren't that realistic looking, but what they lacked in quality they made up for in quantity. I sound like I'm kidding but it actually worked for me, with all the movement and business of the scenes combined with the surprisingly decent looking injuries it just worked. Now the stuff that I took entirely too much joy from are the rats climbing on miniature set pieces scenes. Those were just so deliciously camp that I just couldn't get enough of them.

I also enjoyed that The rats make feline noises.

If I had any criticism I guess it would have to be the pace. It seemed a bit clunky, there were times when I was really lost in the moment and having a great time, then it was like a brick wall of boring stuff trying to drive the story on, the extra cut in of Rita and Tom arguing over marriage comes to mind. That could have easily been a part of a scene that ended in them running from the vehicle instead of a tension breaking cutaway. Little nit picks like that is all I've got.

Oh yeah and the stupid freeze framing during the opening credits, yeah that annoyed the hell out of me. I thought the Netflix stream I was watching it on was wigging out. Don't do that!

Overall I would say I had a good enough time with the movie. It was worth the netflix stream, I wouldn't purchase it and there are aspects of it that make me hesitant to recommend it to others (See disclosure below). But the parts of it that were good were good enough to keep me interested in the genre so I'm glad that I stuck with it.

Full disclosure

When I was writing my thoughts and the recap I had made the decision to try to gloss over or ignore the obvious trauma to the real rats that took place. As I post this I realize that it is kind of irresponsible. The obvious animal abuse was extremely troubling to me, it certainly wasn't entertaining to watch. It was sad and a really poor choice to make when filming. Though over all I did enjoy the movie it was a tough hurdle to climb and it did wreck the rewatchability.

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