Bert I. Gordon
Marjoe Gortner - Morgan
Pamela Franklin - Lorna Scott
Ralph Meeker - Jack Bensington
Jon Cypher - Brian
Ida Lupino - Mrs. Skinner
John McLiam - Mr. Skinner
Belinda Balaski - Rita
Tom Stovall - Thomas
Chuck Courtney - Davis
Genre - Science Fiction/Horror/Cult
Running Time - 88 Minutes
Score - 2 Howls Outta 4
I had a very bad dream last night. Bare with me - this one may frighten and it's not for the weak of heart.
It started with me walking through some dark woods where I encountered a white substance that looked like pudding bubbling from the earth. I thought nothing of it at first, until I noticed that the wildlife around this substance had all evolved into giant creatures. I mean, giant wasps, giant rats, giant everything! Before they could attack me, I ran away hoping to find a safe spot to hide. I noticed two fleshed colored trees, so I decided to climb one. I thought I was okay, but then I saw above me giant mice creatures dangling from hairy vines to grab me and eat me alive! I quickly climbed back down and ran away from these trees, looking up in horror to see that they were trees at all. They were a pair of giant legs belonging to a giant woman carrying a giant dog in her giant purse. Oh my God...I was looking up at a giant Paris Hilton! And before her crabs could do harm to me, I woke up in a pool of my own sweat. It was only a dream. Just a bad dream.
But what if your worst nightmare could come true? What if there is a white substance that, if ingested, could make all life grow to monsterous levels? Can you imagine a giant Amy Winehouse snorting all of us into her mucus-infested nose just so she could get high? Or a giant Heidi and Spencer doing absolutely nothing like they do at normal size? God, just thinking about it adds a few more white hairs to my scalp! If real life was like H.G. Well's THE FOOD OF THE GODS, it could happen.
Some doofy looking football player named Morgan (Marjoe Gortner) and his buddies head up to some woods to kill deer while on horseback. Ever heard of guns, idiots? Anyway, one of the buddies ends up encountering a set of giant plastic wasps and is stung to death. Looking for help, Morgan walks around the woods before stepping onto the Skinner farm. He encounters giant chickens who want to peck him to death, but manages to survive. He meets Mrs. Skinner (Ida Lupino), who claims that she and her husband (John McLiam) have discovered some mysterious white goop [claimed to be The Food of the Gods] on their property, that was fed to their livestock and turned them into giant and dangerous creatures.
Word of this gets out, as some greedy businessman named Jack Besington (Ralph Meeker) and his scientist assistant Lorna Scott (Pamela Franklin) head out to this film to bottle up this substance and sell it. But Jack's plans are ruined when giant rats invade the property, attacking all the innocent bystanders nearby. Can Morgan and his new allies stop the rat population from taking over the Earth? Well if they were spayed and neutered, they wouldn't be having this problem, now would they?
When it comes to "nature-runs-amok" films, there are two ways these films can go. They can go on the JAWS route and be actually really fantastic, or they can go on to the FROGS route and just be so horrific that you hope someone cancels the Animal Planet channel for good. THE FOOD OF THE GODS is pretty much in between these two films, fortunately, being more fun and watchable than FROGS wishes it could ever be - yet doesn't quite become a classic like JAWS. AIP Productions creates an average B-movie that's actually filmed quite well but the concept is a lot better than the execution for the most part.
The story is pretty much the usual "nature is pissed at humanity so it's getting revenge on them with dangerous animals" schtick mixed with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD [the characters all bicker inside a house while giant rats try to enter]. Mrs. Skinner claims the white substance that makes these animals grow to giant size is "The Food of the Gods", yet we're never really told if that's the case. Hell, it's never really implied either if Mrs. Skinner is right about her theory. It's just a glob of crap that happens to be evolving random nearby animals without an ounce of explanation of how it got there. I'm not sure if H.G. Wells ever explained what this substance really is in his story, but I found the lack of an explanation for a film that doesn't deserve a franchise to explain the story in a later installment to be pretty frustrating. Especially when only a select few creatures actually grew large while everyone else remained normal size. Why were wasps, chickens, maggots, and rats attracted to this stuff? Where were the giant bears or dogs or something? Makes no sense really. I'm sure it was all a social commentary for something, but you could never guess by watching this film.
The characters are also not that interesting really, except for greedy Jack. Jack was obviously a metaphor for the evil of consumerism and selfish corporations looking to make the biggest buck at the cost of their buyers. But at least he had a personality I could bite my teeth into. The other characters were just stereotypical as hell.
Morgan was the weird looking hero, who was as bland as they come. I dunno why anyone would think we should root for this guy? Was it because of his curly hair? The fact that he could play football in empty stadiums? Maybe it's because he's such a fuckin' control freak? Or maybe it's because he got his best friend, Brian (Jon Cypher), killed just so he could look like he had big balls? This dude was dull as hell and an idiot as well. Still, you gotta laugh at his McGuyver, or McGruber, schemes to kill the giant animals. Electrocution, drowning, firearms, dynamite, homemade bombs - this doofus does it all! What the fuck ever.
The scientist broad Lorna was no better. All she did was bitch, looked scared or confused [I was never really sure], and flirted with Morgan the moment she saw him even though there was nothing about this guy that would lead me to believe that ANY woman would be interested in him on first sight. The two characters had no chemistry with each other anyway. I mean, they barely had a conversation with each other. They were trapped in a pit infested by giant rodents for maybe 5 minutes tops. All of a sudden, Lorna prepositions Morgan into sleeping with her before they die. Not only is she a buzzkill for hope, but she's a slutty buzzkill as well. And don't get me started on that uncomfortable kiss the two had with each other. Now I know where Michael Jackson got the idea from when he kissed Lisa Marie Presley at the MTV Video Music Awards years ago. She's not the worst character I've ever seen on film but she didn't do anything that would necessarily make me give a fuck about her.
Mrs. Skinner was your usual Bible-thumping outsider who believed that the substance was God's way of punishing man for destroying the environment, although how she gathered that information is beyond me. At least she wasn't annoying, which was a plus.
And then we have Thomas and Rita, who are a pregnant couple who just happened to be at the scene at the wrong time. They didn't really add anything to the overall storytelling progress of the film, only being used as some sign of smart screenwriting on the writer's part. Didn't work. You see, Rita got pregnant before marriage and Thomas wanted to make an honest woman out of her before the birth of their child. However, Rita refuses to get married. There are moments where the subject is brought up about premarital marriage and pregnancy, but nothing is ever done with it to make it seem like a social commentary that we would see as important. At least it led to a really funny birth scene where Lorna delivered Rita's baby, who happened to be missing an umbilical cord. I guess there wasn't enough in the budget for that. And what nine-month-pregnant woman camps out with barely any food, water, or emergency personnel with their boyfriend?
The amount of blood in this B-movie wasn't so bad. It was funny to watch plastic or animated wasps sting people or fake rat heads chomping on victims. That chicken pecking scene with Morgan was probably the funniest though. I've never seen a faker chicken in my life. He was probably one of Big Bird's relatives. Poor guy. But at least we see the attacks on screen and the blood of the victims as well. And unlike FROGS, the animals actually DO something! We understand they're a threat here. Plus a lot of rats got shot in this film. I'm not sure if real rats were injured during this film or they were just blood pellets, but watching a rat spurt out blood and flip backwards due to the impact of a shotgun wouldn't make PETA very happy, I don't think. Cheaply done but at least the effort was there. Much appreciated, AIP.
The direction of Bert I. Gordon, who directed cult classics such as EARTH VS. THE SPIDER and VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS, wasn't so bad here for a low budget film. The editing was very nicely done, especially during scenes where humans would react to animals attacking model-size props to make them look larger than they really are. The "giant" rats on the trailer and on the roof of the farmhouse during the finale were actually shot and edited really well. There were also close ups of the rats as they moved [using the same shots really] to make them look huge. Of course it was funny because you knew exactly what you were looking at, but Gordon tried to make it seem as if it was real, so kudos for that. There was also decent suspense and tension as well. However, the pacing was off every once in a while due to filler scenes that added nothing to the movie but its running time. Especially those long takes where Morgan had to travel from the city to the woods and we would literally have 5 minutes of some bridge lower so Morgan could drive across it. Not really necessary. Plus the animated wasps and the water that pretty much flooded everything at the end were really badly shot and used, making you laugh at how silly it is. Still Gordon did a decent job with the visuals.
The acting was on the bad side mostly, but it wasn't the worst thespian work I've ever witnessed. I would never want to see Marjoe Gortner ever act again though, because as the male lead and hero of the film, Gortner pretty much ruined the character with his horrible delivery. He tried to act tough and macho and just came off looking like an ass. And his voiceover work was horrible as well. Couldn't AIP have picked a better actor who actually had charisma and presence? This dude plain sucked! Pamela Franklin was good at seducing men she hardly knew and acting like a deer in headlights. I dunno how much that pays but I want that job. Ida Lupino was okay as the Bible-thumping owner of the house that was the scene of the crimes in the film. She was probably the best actor in the film because at least she was kind of convincing. Same goes to Ralph Meeker, who played the asshole corporate scum to a tee. I liked this dude because he was such a cowardly prick. Good job! Belinda Balaski and Tom Stovall were pretty bland as the pregnant couple. It must have been a one night stand because I honestly can't see the two lasting longer than that. No chemistry at all between these two. But really, who watches a film like this for the acting anyway?
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE NEVER AGAIN HELPING MY BEST FRIEND FIGHT OFF GIANT RATS
- Instead of doing regular hunting like normal violent people, a couple of idiots and some dogs chased after a tiny deer during some boring horseback riding. If this is how Bambi's mom was killed, then I'm glad it was cut out.
- A giant, plastic wasp bit a guy so badly that his face was completely swollen. Finally, an explanation for Tori Spelling's face!
- Morgan was repeatedly pecked by a giant rooster. I thought only George Michael had to deal with this much cock?
- A bunch of giant rats attacked Mr. Skinner by biting and nibbling on his skin. Man, that scene was so cheesy to watch.
- Thomas wants to marry Rita so their baby can have his name, yet she refused. Well, if the kid is picked on at school because his name is "Bastard", then I know who to blame.
- The white giant rat leads all the darker rats to kill telepathically. Nice to see the racial heirarchy is still in effect, even in the rat kingdom. I can't wait for The Rodent Civil War and The Civil Rats Movement!
- Lorna wants to have sex with Morgan only hours after barely meeting him and interacting with him. Now I understand how she got that promotion from greedy ol' Jack. I wonder if she's related to Rose McGowan?
- There were traces of The Food of the Gods left, after it was thought to be destroyed, being eaten by cows and going in to all dairy products. I guess when you see a potential franchise for your film, you have to milk your product for all its worth.
THE FINAL HOWL
THE FOOD OF THE GODS isn't worth worshipping since it's mediocre as hell. First half sucked but the last half was actually decent - I can't honestly recommend this film to anyone unless you're willing to sit and watch boring human characters in between funny moments with giant wasps, chickens, and rats. I think THE FOOD OF THE GODS took itself a bit too seriously, which makes it less fun to watch than it deserves to be. Stick to your diet plan and pass on this FOOD.
**This review was done in part of Final Girl's Film Club. **