Killer Shrews, The (1959)

“If we were half as big as we are now, we could live twice as long on our natural resources!”

Synopsis:
A group of people on a hurricane-ridden island try to escape before they are attacked by voracious mutant shrews.

Genres:

Review:
This infamously campy, super-low-budget Mutant Monster flick (the directorial debut of special effects guru Ray Kellogg) possesses a relatively clever sci-fi premise and a few moments of atmospheric tension, but ultimately doesn’t offer quite enough laughs or thrills to mark it as a true “bad movie” classic. The ridiculously amateur-looking giant shrews (puppets in close-up, rug-covered dogs in action scenes) prevent one from feeling any credible sense of horror, instead simply provoking sniggers, rolled eyes, and yawns.

In the back of his book, Peary lists Killer Shrews as a Camp Classic, which makes sense — it’s been lampooned fairly effectively by the MST3K crew — but also as a Sleeper, which mystified me until I read Shane Burridge’s review (see below), in which he defends it as a “decent, economical piece of film-making” which “overcomes its limitations by confining its events to one set, using sound effects (the constant wind), lighting, and editing to create atmosphere.” Unfortunately, these elements weren’t enough to win me over; I enjoyed reading creative lampoons of this flick (see, for instance, the Stomp Tokyo review below) much more than actually watching it.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Occasional camp value from spectacularly ridiculous dialogue, costumes, special effects, acting, and overall situations
    Shrew

Must See?
Yes, for its status as a campy cult favorite.

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One Response to “Killer Shrews, The (1959)”

  1. Since it’s not so-bad-it’s-good, it fails to be a must.

    My main complaint about the “ridiculous” dialogue is that it isn’t ridiculous enough – not nearly as choice as, say, some of the ‘better’ Ed Wood films. Still, if you have a group gathered at home that’s in the (ahem) mood and can quip with the best, chances are whatever’s added to the script along the way will improve the viewing.

    What Mr. Burridge writes (at the link) is all well and good – and he admits to sticking his neck out – but a 69 min. movie should not be this sluggish. Sure, there’s lots of portentous music, a few surprisingly effective shots (the cameraman actually seems to have a few things on the ball; the editing near the end is rather tight), and director Kellogg manages (barely) to keep the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding escape plan from being a total howl fest. Even so, much of it’s a slow-go.

    It didn’t have the budget to be really good; more’s the pity then that it couldn’t have been reallly bad.

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