Movie Review: Return of the Killer Shrews


Return of the Killer Shrews (2012)
Directed by Steve Latshaw
Starring James Best, John Schneider, Bruce Davison, Jennifer Lyons, Jason Shane Scott, Rick Hurst, Sean Flynn

It is a well known fact that I am not the biggest fan of newer low budget films. They tend not to be too creative in using their small budget. But over the last couple of years, I have seen a few movies that were really giving me hope for these types of films. Titles like Dead Weight, Found, The Invoking (formally known as Sader Ridge), and the more recent Resolution, really have shown me that there are still talented people out there that are concerned about a good story, quality acting, and using the money they have to the fullest extent, turning out really decent movies. And when the money is not there, creative imagination comes into play to make the most of it.


Of course, all of that progress forward in my hopes and beliefs just got knocked back about 3 decades after I watched the recent Return of the Killer Shrews. James Best, best known for playing Rosco P. Coltrane in The Dukes of Hazards, plays once again Captain Thorne Sherman who returns to the island that he barely escaped from some 50 year years ago, one that was infested with man-eating giant killer shrews in the original 1959 film, The Killer Shrews. He’s still a little nervous about going back too, but money is money and he’s been hired to bring a couple of people that are involved with a reality TV show that will be filming on the island. The movie opens with a new version of what happened to Sherman’s shipmate in the original film. Not sure why they re-filmed that sequence other than to maybe show the audience that Best was Captain Sherman from the first one? Who knows. But it does show off one of the new shrews right away, which we’ll get to in a minute. It doesn’t take long before the members of the TV show, both cast and crew, start getting picked off one by one by the cartoon shrews. But who is this mysterious character hiding off in the bushes?


This film was obviously done just as a joke and too have a good time. That is the only way I can understand how they thought some things here were passable for a movie. The acting is so-so at best, some of which just being so silly that it is just annoying, like stereotypical characters that are not funny, just irritating and downright stupid. Haven’t we come along far enough in movies where we don’t have someone playing a director as an ego-driven, untalented hack that thinks he is a god? Oh…I get it…that’s because that is the way a lot of Hollywood directors are like…Okay…yeah, now it’s really funny. No, actually it’s not. Former Duke boy John Schneider plays the lead in this reality show, named Johnny Reno, and does an okay job in his role….though not sure if he’s really acting or not. But in either case, his character is something we’ve seen many times before in these types of films and is just bothersome to watch. Even with all the silly in-jokes they put in there.


Bruce Davison shows up, making me realize that he would appear in any movie made if he was paid. But maybe he did this out of some person reasons, mainly being able to meet up with Dean Torrence, formally of the surfer singing duo Jan & Dean from the ‘50s. Now Davison played him in a TV movie in the late ‘70s about the famous duo. Torrence did some original music for this film…for some reason. Davison is actually playing a character from the first film, that has apparently stayed on the island all of these years. Not sure how these creatures stayed alive all these years since they supposedly have to eat 10 times their body weight every day or they starve to death. It was a line of dialogue from the first movie that is re-used in the new one as well. So if that is the case, how are they still alive and hadn’t starved to death? Oh wait…there I go thinking again. This is suppose to just be fun entertainment.


One sequence when the first member of the reality crew gets killed, when the shrew jumps up on the tree branch, doesn’t look that bad. But for the rest of the film, they look like cartoons. I still don’t see how a filmmaker, whether it is a producer, director, or anybody involved with a movie, can take one look at these CGI creatures, especially when they’re attacking someone, and say “yeah…this looks great.” This movie features some of the worse CGI effects that I have seen in quite some time. The effects would have looked better had they used a $10 hand puppet from a Spirit’s Halloween store. On the special features on the disc, they show the special effects guys working on one of the beasties, which looked pretty decent. There are a few scenes in the movie where a real puppet is used which is WAY more effective than any of the CGI creatures. But again, apparently I am looking at this too seriously and since the film is meant to be a comedy or horror parody, least according to Fred Olen Ray on the audio commentary. I happen to think that a film, no matter what kind or the budget, should be entertaining. Comedy, horror, or whatever you want to call it, to me this is just a bad film.


But here’s the thing, I am a fan of the original film. Some might call it cheesy, mainly because the title characters are dogs wearing some sort of a bad rug, as well as using some puppets with very large teeth for close ups. But what we see in the original is a lot more effective and impressive than what is in this sequel. Even the noises the shrews make in the original can be pretty scary. It is a great little monster movie. But how sad is it when the monster effects from a 1959 film look a lot better, and are more effective, then a movie made today? Maybe I haven’t seen enough of these modern low budget films so maybe this low production value and not taking it seriously is a common thing. But if it is, then that is the reason I won’t be watching them anytime soon. I know there are some talented people out there that are still making decent films with little or no money. Just not here.

On the audio commentary, Fred Olen Ray makes the comment that “Anybody with an internet connection can be a critic.” Well guess what, Fred? Anybody with a camera can apparently be a movie director too.

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