When Animals Attack: The Book of the Films

A new film book called When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies With Killer Animals, has just become available in paperback and Kindle format. And it’s a lot of fun!

The essays were written by “[leading] horror writers and filmmakers”, who were each asked to write about “one of their favorite ‘animal attack’ films” in detail. The films range from the heights of The Birds (US-1963; dir. Alfred Hitchcock) and Jaws (US-1975; dir. Steven Spielberg) to the ludicrous depths of Beginning of the End (US-1957; dir. Bert I. Gordon) and Sharknado (US-2013; dir. Anthony C. Ferrante).

As the editor, Canadian horror writer Vanessa Morgan (Drowned Sorrow and The Strangers Outside), commented, “Some of the films are touching, some are repulsive, and some are just plain silly. Not all of these horror movies line up with the critical consensus, yet they have one thing in common: they have made the heart of the writer beat faster with excitement.”

Published by Moonlight Creek Publishing, When Animals Attack may not include ALL the best animal-attack horror flicks, but its 402 pages sure include a decent slew of them. The essays are written in different styles and take various approaches that reflect the individual authors responsible. It makes for both informative and entertaining reading, and will be a useful reference volume for those seeking something new to watch in this sub-genre — or for those who value being reminded of a piece of animalistic cinema they’d forgotten. You may even learn something new about your favourite animal-attack epic.

Here is the table of contents:

Alligator by Kevin Matthews
Anaconda by Russ Hunter
Ants by J.P. Wendel
Arachnophobia by Declan Lynch
Attack of the Crab Monsters by Noah C. Patterson
Bats by Ton van Rooij
Baxter by Daphnis Olivier Boelens
Beaks: The Movie by Fawn Krisenthia
Beginning of the End by Ken Begg
Birdemic: Shock and Terror by Johnny Zontal
Black Sheep by Kate Larkindale
Bug by D.M. Anderson
Chosen Survivors by Doug Lamoreux
Cujo by Maxim Stollenwerk
Curse II: The Bite by Justin McKinney
Day of the Animals by Erich Kuersten
Deadly Eyes by Jay Clarke
Deep Blue Sea by Nick Meece
Dogs by Gert Verbeeck
Eight Legged Freaks by Chelseaa Benwell
Empire of the Ants by Vanessa de Largie
Frogs by Sven Soetemans
Grizzly by Steve de Roover
In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro by Charles M. Kline
Jaws by Warren Fahy
Jersey Shore Shark Attack by Katelyn Rushe
Kaw by Paul Kane
Killer Crocodile by Jonas Govaerts
Kingdom of the Spiders by B.J. Colangelo
Lake Placid by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Locusts by Amanda Reyes
Long Weekend by Ingrid Dendievel
Monkey Shines by Megan Fisher
Night of the Lepus by Michael McCarty and Mark McLaughlin
Of Unknown Origin by Russell Fisher
Orca: The Killer Whale by Brody Rossiter
Pig Hunt by Bryan Schuessler
Piranha by Beverly Gray
Prey by Christine Hadden
Prophecy by Bob Ignizio
Rats: Night of Terror by Chris Hewson
Razorback by Robert Hood
Shakma by Tenebrous Kate
Sharknado by Ben Daniels
Sharktopus by Michael P. Spradlin
Slugs: The Movie by Danger_Slater
Snakes by Stuart R. West
Snakes on a Plane by Christine Rains
Squirm by Jeff Lieberman
Strays by Daniel Alves
The Beasts are on the Streets by Brian Saur
The Birds by Chris Austin
The Deadly Mantis by Christopher Robinson
The Devil Bat by Sven Daems
The Food of the Gods by Aaron Christensen
The Ghost and the Darkness by Kajah Ram
The Giant Claw by John Kitley
The Killer Snakes by Wim Castermans
The Last Shark by Stephan Jankovic
The Pack by Joel Warren
The Swarm by Adam Artruc
The White Buffalo by Peter Braidis
Them! by Barend de Voogd
Ticks by Matthew House
Uninvited by Justin Coote
White Dog by J. Luis Rivera
White God by Oksana Osachiy
Wild Beasts by Vanessa Morgan
Willard by David Royce
Zoltan: Hound of Dracula by Marvin the Macabre

As you may or may not notice, Robert Hood (whose undead backbrain is the creator of this blog), contributed an essay on Russell Mulcahy’s 1984 rampaging wild boar flick, Razorback. It’s a favourite of his and definitely at the positive end of the cinematic quality scale.

Be sure to check out When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies With Killer Animals.

Title information:

Vanessa Morgan | When Animals Attack.
US$17,99 | ISBN: 978 90 245 7478 0 | 402 pages | paperback & Kindle.

Available from Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon FR etc.

Source: Vanessa Morgan, Press release, the book itself.





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Metamorphosis Undergoes a Metamorphosis

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself metamorphosed in his bed into an insect-like vermin of grotesque proportions.”

Thanks to a message from director Chris Swanton, the Backbrain has discovered that Swanton’s excellent feature film version of Franz Kafka’s Absurdist novella The Metamorphosis [Die Verwandlung] has undergone changes that Swanton hopes have resulted in “a much better version” of the film. He has dubbed it the Centenary Edition, as the story first appeared in book form in 1916, making 2016 the perfect time to revisit the film.

Kafka’s story of a young man transformed overnight into a repulsive insect, written in three weeks in 1912 when he was just twenty-nine years old, has been the source of inspiration for writers, dramatists, film-makers, musicians and artists since his early death from tuberculosis in 1924. Many see it as a fanciful and satiric autobiography, though personally I don’t know enough about Kafka’s life to comment. Either way, it is a remarkable work, strongly visual and deeply emotional.

For detailed information on the development of the film, see the exclusive article that appeared on Undead Backbrain in January 2011: Metamorphosis: Unleashing the Bug.

So what does the Centenary Edition offer?

“The Centenary Edition of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis celebrates the first publication of the novella in book form in 1916,” said Swanton. “We have developed a complete package that offers much more than just the film.”

In fact his Metamorphosis comes as a double DVD together with the making-of documentary Behind the Scenes, which looks at the challenges encountered in transposing Kafka’s iconic story to the screen.

But that’s not the end of it.

Also available is the Centenary Edition paperback with a fresh translation and detailed commentary.

Swanton explained, “Together, the faithful film adaptation, documentary and book provide a springboard to the discovery and interpretation of the work, as well as igniting debate on what Kafka’s intentions with his enigmatic story might have been. The straightforward approach of the commentary makes Kafka’s story accessible to any level of study.”

The film is also available digitally on Vimeo, in the form of a 24-hour streaming period, or a stream and download any time option. For obtaining the double DVD and book, go to the STORE link on the website.

Addendum: The New Version

The Backbrain asked Swanton about the new cut of his film. What was done to make it “a much better version”? He explained:

  1. The film has been cut down by 15 minutes, one of the main reasons being to lose a lot of the insect’s shots so that it becomes a much more unseen presence.
  2. The insect’s voice has been distorted to become scarcely intelligible (as it is in Kafka’s story), but is accompanied by subtitles so that information does not get lost.
  3. New, specially composed opening front music has been added, and many of the existing music cues in the rest of the film have been changed.
  4. New CGI shots have replaced the original ones, to improve the quality of the digital image.
  5. A narrator has been added to move the story along in a different, more dynamic way.

He added: “The overall result of these amendments has been to change the tone of the film so that it is now a much darker and more atmospheric piece.”

For further information, see www.metamorphosisonfilm.com.

Source: Chris Swanton







Posted in Film, Giant Bugs, Independent film | Leave a comment

An Unexpected Chat with Alex Caine

Some days shriek off in unexpected directions almost from the word go. I was all set to get back into some semi-serious blogging — tossing up between, on the one hand, reporting on the rumour that Donald Trump had threatened to take a starring role in the next Star Wars spin-off if he didn’t get elected President, and on the other, revealing that DC has announced Zack Snyder is working on a follow-up to two of his most controversial flicks — a masterpiece titled Sucker Punch 2: Batgirl v Supergirl — Scrag Fight of Justice — when my study door was kicked in, literally. A tall, firm-muscled bloke in a leather coat, a Motorhead tee shirt and somewhat ragged jeans burst in, scowling fiercely.

“Can I help you?” I said.

“I’ve come to put a stop to your evil plans, Hood,” he snarled, as mystic energy splashed around the corners of the room.

“Which evil plans are those?” I replied. “The Snyder rumour, isn’t it? Desperate, I know, but someone has to do it—”

He scowled, but kept his distance. “I thought I was rid of you forever,” he continued finally, “but then I heard rumours you were back.” His simmering eyes evaluated me some more. “I must say you look… different.”

“From what?”

“Hood … my nemesis.”

“I don’t think I’m who or what you’re looking for.”

He growled some more. “Are you saying I might’ve jumped the gun?” he snarled.

“The shark maybe.” I responded. He didn’t smile. “Who are you again?”

He sighed as the magic currents he’d dragged in with him began dissipating. “Caine,” he said. “Alex Caine.”

Light dawned. “Right. I get it. I read volume one of the thrillers that Baxter bloke wrote about you. Bound, wasn’t it?”

His eyes narrowed. “So?”

“Don’t fret,” I added. “I loved it.” He scowled again. “Look,” I said. “I’m not THAT Hood, okay. I’m less sociopathic in my evil ways. I tell you what. Give me an exclusive interview right now, and I won’t sue for defamation or make you pay for the door. A new edition of all three volumes of Alan Baxter’s Alex Caine trilogy comes out this month, so… good timing to advertise the event.”

“I don’t know…”

“It’ll be great! We could arm-wrestle for it. If you win, you do the interview.”

“Of course I’d win.”

“Great! So there’s no need to actually do it. Now about that interview….”

To cut a long story short, I won him over in the end. We talked. I’d escaped from Trump and Snyder, so for me it was a BIG win.

So here’s the exclusive, first-ever interview with Alex Caine

Undead Backbrain: Thanks for agreeing to talk to us, Mr Caine.

Alex Caine: [grunts]

UB: So… tell us about yourself? How accurate are the books?

AC: Tell you about myself? I’m a man who just wanted to be left alone. Everything was going fine, until that interfering Welby showed up. The books, sadly, are very accurate indeed.

UB: But you’re a professional fighter, aren’t you? Doesn’t that tend to keep you in the spotlight?

AC: That was the beauty of taking part in the underground scene. The fights were more real and by its very nature, it eschewed too much outside attention. I was a successful fighter without having to endure all the interviews and other false media bullshit. That’s all I ever wanted.

UB: What about now… you know, as your life has become more … shall we say, complicated. Has all the supernatural stuff changed the way you see the world?

AC: Dude, the world changed, not me. I had to make some pretty quick adjustments. Like a blind man given sight, only to see the world is a more terrifying place than I could have imagined. But you know what? I’m getting used to it. And maybe that’s the scariest part of all.

UB: Are you telliCaine-Bound-full-webng me all that demonic whatsit in the books is fair dinkum?

AC: I’m sure you’ll believe whatever best suits your worldview. That does tend to be what most people do. But there’s more than is dreamt of in your philosophy and all that. See this scar? That was made by a creature you wouldn’t believe could possibly exist. Yet there’s the proof.

UB: What are these creatures and what makes you such a magnet for their attention?

AC: Just lucky I guess. Honestly, what they are is something I’m not really qualified to even guess. There are demons and monsters from who knows how many realms out there. A while back I had to fight two gargoyles made of stone, for fuck’s sake. That’s some serious magic at work. But what are they? Stone gargoyles, man. What other explanation is needed? Why am I such a magnet? Maybe because now the bastards see me as a challenge. Everyone wants to have a go these days. Bring it on.

UB: What about that namesake of mine? (Hood? Really? Not to mention the fact his partner is named “Sparks”… as is mine! What sort of coincidence is that?) Who the hell are they and what sort of role do they play in these events?

AC: Well, they fucked everything up, quite frankly. That Hood is a psycho and a megalomaniac. But you know, I learned a long time ago that a person’s greatest strength can often be exploited and used against them. That is a pretty crazy coincidence, though, isn’t it? What are the chances of those two evil nutcases sharing your names?

UB: I’ve heard it said that Hood is to you what the Joker is to Batman. What do you say to that?

AC: It’s a fair comparison. The Joker is nothing but ego and chaos, and the same could be said for Hood. But where the Joker is only chaos, Hood is also driven by more specific plans. I’m not sure if that makes him more or less dangerous. But of course, the important part of this is that it makes me Batman, and I’ll take that. Trouble is, it turns out that real life is not like the comic books. Who’d have known? I don’t recommend it.

UB: So what, in your experience, is the downside of “real life” as compared to the comic books?

AC: It hurts more. There’s a LOT more blood.Caine-Obsidian-full-web

UB: But according to Baxter’s books, you’re pretty much a superhero yourself. Would you admit to that?

AC: There’s a saying in the traditional martial arts: Anyone who calls himself a master, isn’t. It’s a title for others to bestow. I think the same thing applies here.

UB: Sure, I understand that in relation to conventional fighting, but unlike Batman you’ve got a bit of magic going on there, too. Or is that just artistic embroidery on Baxter’s part ….?

AC: Welby said that to me and I thought he was mad. I’ve just trained my arse off my whole life. And got a lot of experience. But it turns out there’s a bit more to me than I realised. But magic, man — it’s more trouble than it’s worth, I reckon.

UB: Give us an example of the downside.

AC: Well, I used to fight humans. Now I’ve found myself up against anything but! Mind you, if I’m honest, I’ve always loved a good fight and most humans weren’t much of a challenge any more. Maybe it’s not so bad…

UB: A common thematic thread within the superhero comic world (and elsewhere, even in traditional Westerns) is that heroism attracts the bad guys, and to defeat evil you need to have a touch of evil within you. Maybe only monsters can defeat monsters… Are you afraid of becoming what you seek to defeat?

AC: That’s always a concern. Would there even be monsters without heroes? Yes, there fucking would. Monsters are eternal, and they prey on the innocent. The only way to defeat them is to stand up and fight. If that’s being a hero, then so be it. If it costs the hero something, even his heroism in the long run but for the greater good, so be that, too.

UB: A worthy answer! Batman would approve. Yet you were dragged into this life. It was foist upon you. Perhaps you can explain, for those who haven’t read Baxter’s novelisation yet, how this came about. That mob you ran afoul of? What was going on there — and is that how it began?

AC: King Scarlet. Yeah, in tCaine-Abduction-full-webruth, I suppose it did begin with him. Can you even believe he calls himself that? Honestly, what a dick. But a dangerous dick. I’m sure you know there’s all kinds of corruption in sports, so you can imagine the levels possible in underground events. But I’ve always played solo, never buying into that stuff. Trouble was, I was so successful that King Scarlet decided I had to fight for him – no doubt take falls for him – or die. I couldn’t allow that. I was prepared to go up against him, but a training buddy of mine, who is also into… shall we say, under-the-radar business, said he could help me out. I just needed to get out of town for a little while. At the same time, Welby had arrived with promises of all kinds and an offer of a trip to London. So I took it. Big mistake, man. Really big.

UB: But wasn’t Welby only the start of your problems?

AC: Oh man, yeah. Since I met him I’ve been all over the world, and to other worlds if you can believe that. I’ve fought things you people wouldn’t believe. And you know what? You owe me a lot, if only you knew. But I suggest you and everyone who reads this should check out Baxter’s novelisations for more details. Judge for yourself! And it’s not over yet. I’ve actually got a lot still to do.

UB: Such as?

AC: There’s no end of monsters in the universe! It’s a wild —

[At that moment, the room darkened and a rumbling began somewhere up in the far corner of the ceiling. It spread fast. I was hit by a wave of maleficence that wasn’t just in the room, but all through me – in guts, bones, blood…]

UB: What the —?

AC: [Laughing] It’s about time!

[The nausea took on a shape, a gruesome amalgamation of sickness and dread with horns and three eyes — two in the normal place and the other, larger, where its mouth should be. I could see something in that Eye, something human — a person screaming for help — and it was me! The world had become dripping flesh, biliousness, motion-sickness and claws like katana.]

UB: [Shouting over the noise] You’ve got to be kidding me! This a friend of yours?

AC: Hardly! But I was hoping he’d show up if I pretended to drop my guard for a while.

[Alex grabbed me then and tossed me back behind him as the demon or whatever the hell it was came at us.]

AC: Stay down! I’ll deal with It!

[He leapt at the Whatever, rammed into it and forced it back the way it had come. The last thing I saw of them was Alex beating into the creature’s sodden flesh as it screamed in fury (from a mouth that wasn’t even there) and they were both sucked into swirling darkness like flotsam down a whirlpool. They disappeared. Light returned. I rushed forward.]

UB: [Shouting into the void] See you at the launch of the books then?

[In the distance, beyond the wall of my office, echoing from some place I didn’t want to know about, I thought I heard a laugh…]

Postscript: new editions of the Alex Caine books: Bound, Obsidian and Abduction, will be launched at Galaxy Bookshop in Sydney on June 30th. Come along! Who knows, Caine and a bevy of bad-arse monsters might turn up!

  • This interview was undertaken by Robert Hood under the auspices of author Alan Baxter.


alan-kirk-cropAlan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. He’s the award-winning author of several novels and over sixty short stories and novellas. So far. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.



Posted in Demons, Interviews, It's True! Really!, Monsters in general, News, Weird stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Yi zhong: Monsters … the Fear of Rats and Elevators

monster-Yi zhong-poster2

Information regarding a Chinese horror film that had its cinema release in June last year has recently crept onto IMDb. Though details remain scarce and rather opaque, the Backbrain has pieced together what is so far available, thanks to expert Kaiju newshound, Avery Guerra.

The film is titled Monsters, or Yi zhong, and it appears to offer up a new take on an old trope — the rat-infested building. These rats, of course, are mutated monstrosities.

A Brief History of Cinematic Rats

Do rats make effective monsters?

Though small, the Rat has occasionally taken on the role of a monstrous threat in cinema, due to the vermin’s tendency to arrive on the scene en masse — generally emerging from the sewers, which in this instance is a stand-in for the Monster’s chthonian origins, that is, “the underworld” or Hades. The Rat’s role as plague-bringer (most famously during the 12th Century Black Plague epidemics that swept Britain and beyond) has resulted in the much-maligned rodent being well-and-truly seen as a terrible enemy (even if it was the fleas it carried rather than the rat itself that was a problem). F.W. Murnau‘s famous Dracula stand-in, Nosferatu, for example, arrives in England along with a horde of rats — a symbol of the monstrous vampire as plague-carrier [see Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Germany-1922; dir. F.W. Murnau) and Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (West Germany/France-1976; dir. Werner Herzog )].

Top among effective Rat-centric horror films, however, are probably Willard (US-1971; dir. Daniel Mann) and its sequel Ben (US-1972; dir. Phil Karlson). Both films are based on the Stephen Gilbert novel, Ratman’s Diaries, and feature the Rat as loyal friend, accomplice to murder, and deadly ally.

Though the Rat may not get top billing in many films, it does lurk in the background of rather a lot. For example, any scene set in a sewer, in whatever genre of film, will inevitably drop in a rat or five, even if briefly. It makes for a nice jump-shock moment that deflects viewers from the hero’s real danger.

Mutant Rats and Giant Monstrosities

Even more to the point of this article, however, the Rat has been rather surprisingly neglected in the history of over-sized critter cinema, having been generally ignored in favour of reptilian and chimeric monstrosities. The ones that do exist tend to be relatively minor flicks featuring mutant rats — often human/rat hybrids — or rats the size of dogs. Examples include Deadly Eyes (Canada/Hong Kong-1982; dir. Robert Clouse), Of Unknown Origin (Canada/US-1983; dir. George P. Cosmatos), Demon Rat [aka Mutantes del año 2000; La Rata Maldita] (Mexico-1992; dir. Rubén Galindo Jr.) and Mulberry St. (US-2006; dir. Jim Mickle). These are characterised by typically house-bound plots, featuring rats that have been mutated and are large, distorted, or smarter than normal, menacing folk in a confined space — houses, apartment buildings or research establishments that are the site of forbidden experiments in monster-making. There was also some decent giant rat business in one of my favouite Doctor Who episodes: The Talons of Weng-Chiang (in the sewers of London, of course).


Bigger cinematic rats take charge of the mayhem in Food of the Gods (US-1976; dir. Bert I. Gordon) — the result of a dubious experiment to cure world hunger by genetically enlarging food sources (the big rats are an unwanted side-effect). Gordon’s film bears little resemblance to H.G. Wells’ original political/social satire SF novel, of course (though both had giant rats in them so by Hollywood logic that makes them identical).

More recently, Rat Scratch Fever (US-2009; dir. Jeff Leroy) gets much closer to the kaiju tradition of giant beasties, in a tale of alien rats that grow really big once let loose on Earth, and go on a rampage to celebrate. As you can see from the trailer below, Rat Scratch Fever is low-budget exploitation, but it has lots of action and plenty of exuberant giant rat destruction.


Monsters and Elevators

However rare the Rat as Large Monster has been in the past, Chinese director Hua Guo has apparently decided to join the party, with his film Monsters [aka Yi zhong]. Though little information is available, going on available images (see below) the film features some very effective mutant rat monsters along with a second minor source of horror: elevators.

monster-Yi zhong-pic1

As far as I can ascertain (based on an IMDb plot summary), the plot goes something like this: a real estate sales manager, Jia Ying (played by Qing Liu) — who is described as “mean and indifferent” and, not surprisingly (and perhaps irrelevantly), “remains single” — has been showing some clients around the building. She returns to fetch the mobile phone she left behind, and, on entering the elevator again, is trapped when the elevator plunges downward. When she wakes, trapped among the wreckage, all she has is “a cracked work phone, a lighter and a handbag”. She tries to call for help, but reception is erratic and she can’t remember the number for either best friend or relatives. The elevator, apparently balanced part way up, falls further, and in the crash she injures her thigh. Unable to escape and bleeding badly, she keeps dialing, desperately trying to get through to someone for help. What she doesn’t expect [cue ominous music] is that this “accident” was some sort of conspiracy and that a “bloody monster” lurks in the darkness that surrounds her.

Yi zhong-poster landscape1

So, there you have it: rampant paranoia, playing on fear of loneliness, falling elevators and things that go bump in the night. Is the “bloody monster” the escaped result of a mad scientist’s lab located somewhere in the building? Are we told Jia Ying is single because she will be rescued by a handsome lab assistant? Is there more than one monster rat? (It’s plural in the title!) What will she find in her handbag that will be of help? (Based on Anton Chekhov’s maxim regarding story-writing “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

Uncertain? Maybe the trailer will help. (Hint: no, it won’t!)


See what I mean? Anyway, other evidence may be found in the myriad of advertising posters available:

Two articles found on the web relate to the monster and the SFX used to create it. Unfortunately the sites are in Chinese, and using translation software makes for a less than satisfactory reading experience. For example, the title of one of the articles translates (via Google Translate) as:

“Dissimilar” [the film’s title I assume… the software’s attempt to render what might more correctly rendered as “mutant monster”] exposed featurette decryption mechanical biological entity effects monster out of the college entrance exam students encounter variants beasts

Anyway, from the main text of both articles I gleaned the following assumptions, which may or may not be accurate:

  • After experimenting with various creatures — from European rats to a particular Mongolian reptile — in the end the creators opted for a domestic animal as a base reference, namely the Wolf Rat that lives in the Gobi desert in Xinjiang. In the backstory of the film, these creatures were subjected to radiation and as a result became extremely cruel and bloodthirsty, and were known to attack rodents, camels and pedestrian traffic. (See conceptual art below.)
  • Practical FX as well as CG effects were used in the film.
  • Three different animatronic monsters were made for the movie.
  • One of the above (at least) was very detailed in its construction, with multiple moving parts.
  • So accurate and detailed are the teeth, for example, actress Qing Liu was left with a bleeding arm after filming a particular scene in which she was attacked by the monster.
  • Each “performance” of the monster involved a “trio responsible for the operation” of the animatronic model: a person responsible for directing and coordinating the action, a person responsible for hand control, and a person in charge of electronic remote control for the eyes and mouth movements.
  • For every shot, the controllers had to stop and rest after 15 minutes.
  • The SFX director was Yuan Jinxin.

And here’s one of the models:

monster-Yi zhong-pic2monster-Yi zhong-pic3

Concept Art

At the moment, I have no idea when, or even if, Monsters is to be released in the West. Even though the critters don’t seem be kaiju size, they look pretty effective and I would definitely like to see them in action.

If anyone knows more about the film, including corrections to my assumptions, feel free to let us know in the comments.

Sources: Special thanks to Avery Guerra; www.taringa.net; practical FX article; concept art; IMDb; wiki page.

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Music To Die By: Indie Schlock Soundtracks (Part 1)

Over the years I’ve written about a large number of independent, low-budget exploitation flicks, and have been extremely impressed when, amid the mediocrity and failed ambition, there appears a real gem, a film that stands up well under fire, despite the limitations imposed by lack of funds and access to quality technical expertise. Surprisingly there have been quite a few of them — made almost singlehandedly, with minimal budget, by individuals driven by enthusiasm and sheer talent — that remain in my mind as superlative , even when held against the best the mainstream has to offer. One such is The Horseman (Aust-2008; dir. Steven Kastrissios), a powerful and deeply moving revenge thriller, technically excellent and beautifully acted. You can read my review and an interview with the director here. It’s out on DVD/Blu-ray these days, and if you haven’t done so, you should check it out.

More often, though, successful indie films work by being simply entertaining, making up for what they lack in slick production values or first-rate acting by the sheer enthusiasm and genre engagement of their creators. Sometimes, despite the lack of studio backing, they manage to draw upon talented technical crew — friends, industry acquaintances willing to work for little or no money just for the satisfaction of doing what they love, out-of-work but effective actors, FX artists who value the old, hands-on techniques but rarely get a chance to use them. While watching such films, you can be willingly blinded to flaws and glitches simply by the glare of their energy and commitment.

One aspect I don’t think I’ve ever touched on before is soundtrack music. Over the next few weeks I’ll introduce you to three soundtracks, music gathered or created by the makers of the films themselves. They are all available on CD and are worth your attention.

Part 1: Crustacean: Songs & Music

Crustacean Songs And MusicCrustacean (US-2010; dir. L.J. Dopp — see Backbrain review) is a great example of an indie exploitation film that really hits the mark. It’s got everything — sideshow carnival with freaks, backwater township with an inbred population, nudity, gore, comedy, bad language, slapstick humour, beautiful women (sometimes naked)… you get the idea.

What surprised me was the attendant soundtrack, which is written and performed by the director, L.J. Dopp, and sung by members of the cast as well as Dopp himself. Even though the film isn’t a musical as such, the songs are relevant to its setting and general ambiance, occasionally relating to the characters (for example, the titular song), even though it doesn’t follow the movie’s narrative in a direct way. The music — which largely parodies R&B styles — is complemented by some hilarious lyrics. Warning: often offensively funny. Among my favourites are:

  • “Lemur’s Holler”: sung by Maxine Gillespie, this is an ode to a redneck backwater community and includes all the stereotypes implied by that description:

“There ain’t no law and they eat meat raw,
Down in Lemur’s Holler,
And if you’ve made it through third grade
Then there you’d be a scholar.

If you like your sister and want to be her mister,
When folks find it hard to swaller,
Come on down to Lemur’s Holler.”

  • “Trailer Park Queen”: sung by L.J. Dopp, “Trailer Park Queen” is a bogan love-song to another favourite stereotype:

“She won’t win no blue-ribbon prize,
It’s hard to look in both of her eyes
(at the same time, ’cause one of ’em kinda drifts)
My trailer park queen … she’s so mean to me.”

  • “You Matter To Me”: sung by Angela Berliner (version 1) and Peter Atkins (version 2), this is another love song. No obvious jokes, but I find it oddly funny. It is dedicated to The Beatles:

“You matter to me, like wings matter to doves.
You matter to me, like wings matter to doves… oh, yeah.
‘Cause doves without wings can’t fly very high,
You matter to me, like wings matter to doves.

Doves need wings, and squirrels need trees,
And girls need boys between their knees,
And you, you matter to me, you matter to me ….”

  • “Dungeon of My Heart”: sung by Maxine Gillespie.

“I don’t wanna let you go, but I know I cause you pain.
I don’t wanna let you go, but I’m down to my last ball and chain.

I slip into the night, and my dogs will hunt you down,
I slip into the night one more time…”

There’s more, of course, all with the same ironic, non-PC humour, all played well by Dopp, including the title carnival-freak titular anthem itself:

The full play list is:

  1. Carnival Moon (2:51)
  2. Lemur’s Holler (2:14)
  3. You Matter to Me 2 (2:44)
  4. Trailer Park Queen (4:01)
  5. Even Though (2:32)
  6. Goth Blues (2:05)
  7. Crustacean (3:22)
  8. You Matter to Me (3:03)
  9. Dungeon of My Heart (4:09
  10. Lemur’s Holler Instrumental (2:19)
  11. Dark Side of the Honeymoon (3:46)
  12. Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan (0:29)
  13. Roadkill Blues (4:07)
  14. Trailer Queen Instrumental (4:02)

You can get the album from CrustaceanTheMovie.com or from the usual sources, such as Amazon.

Next up: Part 2: Hot Rod Girls Save the World (coming soon)

Posted in Horror, Music, News, Review | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Who Says the Space Monsters Must Die?

So what do you get when you toss a gaggle of giant monsters into the one film? Pacific Rim? Well, yeah, but not this time. Destroy All Monsters? That’s more like it, at least according to the director of a new, mainly “old-school” giant monster pic called

space-monsters-must-die-bannerDirected by John Migliore, Space Monsters Must Die is the third feature from Survival Zombie Films. Rumour has it Space Monsters is a serious (as in “seriously awesome”) science-fiction comedy “in the vein of Destroy All Monsters and Airplane!

I don’t have details about the actual plot, but clearly it involves giant monsters from outer space fighting both humanity and other monsters. Currently in production, it will be a homage to kaiju eiga and other great monster flicks of the ’50s/’60s. Below is one of the key monsters, Golgothra the Conqueror:


“I was influenced by Japanese monster films,” director Migliore told the Backbrain, “but also the big bug movies of the 50’s and 60’s like The Deadly Mantis, Them and Tarantula. I was heavily influenced by comics and Jack Kirby monsters, too. I was a comic writer for a number of years and even wrote the Stargate film comic book sequels for Entity Comics. Humans fight monsters and monsters fight monsters.”

A Diversion into Kirby Land

Personally, I’m a big fan of all of the above-mentioned — as well as Godzilla and his many kaiju mates. But the wonderful absurdity of Kirby’s monsters in comics such as Tales to Astonish, Strange Tales and Where Monsters Dwell, along with those that appeared in Marvel’s superhero comics, is something else again. One of the examples below became rather more famous, and less monstrous, as part of the Guardians of the Galaxy team. Guess which one (it’s not hard)!

Where_Monsters_Dwell_Vol_1_12-Orogo Fin-Fang-Foom-strange-tales-KirbyFin Fang Foom, of course, went on to have quite an illustrious career (see the two-part Backbrain article “He Whose Limbs Shatter Mountains”). I keep hoping he will appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point.

Goliath-KirbyTales_to_Astonish_Vol_1_13-GROOTGorgolla-where-monsters-dwelltaboo-where-monsters-dwellThen there’s this critter, from the famous first issue of The Fantastic Four:

FF-issue 1_cover

But I digress.

Back to Space Monsters Must Die

“I believe there will be seven monsters in all [in Space Monsters Must Die],” Migliore told the Backbrain. As to the use of “rubber suits” and miniature sets vs. digital work, he added: “Most of the movie will be suitmation. I may employ other methods, but it’s too early to tell for sure.”

Here’s a few of the other monsters, who all have appropriately odd names, of course:

space-monsters-must-die08-Kyrabagu space-monsters-must-die09-Veggalonspace-monsters-must-die05-Mhangorah_risesspace-monsters-must-die10-Cygan_the_Enslaver

There will also be a mermaid called Marinna, played by MarieBeth Young:

space-monsters-must-die04-Behind_the_Scenes_with_MarinnaIs she a giant, too? One can only imagine…

Other Films By Migliore

Migliore’s first feature film was Johnny Ghoulash Escapes From Creightonville, which will be released on DVD soon. Here’s the trailer:

“I have another film on the festival circuit right now,” Migliore added. “It’s called The Friday Night Death Slot.”  And that one’s got a trailer, too. Here it is:

Back to Space Monsters Must Die … Again: The Music

Mike Trebilcock will be providing the score for Space Monsters Must Die. Trebilcock composed the music for the official stage adaptation of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead Live and arranged the music for the hit Toronto production of Cannibal! The Musical. He’s also known as the former frontman of the Juno-winning rock band, The Killjoys.


On the film’s soundtrack will be a hard rock song titled “Die, Monster, Die”, written by Jerry Moore and Sammy Sosa, performed by the Monster Madhouse Band, with TV Horror Host Karlos Borloff on vocals and guitar. I think that’s the one you can hear (or maybe just a version of it) in the trailer for Johnny Ghoulash above.

space-monsters-must-die02-Monster Madhouse Band

A Clone of Cygan the Enslaver? It’s Danger Force

One of the central monsters of Space Monsters Must Die is Cygan the Enslaver (seen in image No. 10 above). It seems that there’s a look-alike out there, as “Cygan” is to appear in another film — this one directed by Brett Kelly. It’s called Danger Force.

dangerForce teamDanger Force is a short film about an 1980s mercenary team that is dispatched to stop a deadly alien invader. In short, says the publicity, “think Megaforce vs Creepozoids. It’s a loving homage to movies of the 80’s”.

In the tradition of using a monster suit from one franchise in another — most famously, a slightly modified Godzilla suit appearing as a different monster in an episode of UltramanSpace Monsters Must Die‘s Cygan is being re-used for Danger Force.

Migliore explained. “Originally, the monster that became Cygan [which Migliore designed and built] for my film was slated for a different Brett Kelly film that unfortunately fell apart. Subsequently, Brett came up with the idea of using it in Danger Force. We decided it would appear in both films.

Danger Force will be a short, but not sure how long at this point. Space Monster Must Die , however, is a feature film.”

Source: Film publicist Avery Guerra and Director John Migliore. Official Facebook page for Space Monsters Must Die; and FB page for Danger Force.

Posted in Daikaiju, Exploitation films, Giant Monsters, Humour, Independent film, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s Never Gonna Be Safe To Go Back In The Water…

Sharracuda-warning signJust when you thought the assorted permutations of cinematic Selachimorpha [aka sharks], post-Jaws, must come to an end, some mad filmmaker always seems to release another one into the wild.

Do We Really Think The Possibilities Are Exhausted?

Okay, no one really thinks there’ll come an end to the mutant sharks, B-grade or otherwise — not yet anyway. After all, the cinematic evolution of creature-features is nearly as endless and imaginative as the work of real-life evolution. We’ve had Monster Shark (from Lamberto Bava’s 1984 film Shark: Rosso nell’oceano), Mega-Shark, Mecha-Shark, Dinoshark, Sharktopus, Sharknados, Swamp  Shark, Ghost Shark, Sand Sharks, Two-Headed Shark, Three-Head Shark, Zombie Sharks, Avalanche Sharks (via Sharkalanche), Snow Sharks, Jurassic Shark, Sky Sharks (coming in 2017) — but there’s still plenty of scope, right? The genetic manipulators and gene splicers have lots of tinkering to do. As for me, I’m hanging out for Sharkquito.

Meanwhile, here’s the latest.


Who Is This Then? (After all, every monster has a name…)

Meet Sharracuda, a newly conceptualised creature-feature that brings together shark and barracuda, just to make it even clearer that you’re better off staying out of the water.


Sharracuda is a creature-feature about events that take place in a  small coastal town that is suddenly attacked by a giant mutated shark (as tends to happen). Three young metalheads, an unusual priest and a weird marine biologist decide to throw themselves into the pursuit of the creature, using heavy artillery, blesséd weapons and an aggressive attitude. But what is this thing really? Is the monster an aberration caused by pollution, the result of a government experiment, the manifestation of Satan, or a rather impressive CGI creation? Who cares? The hunt is on!

Sharracuda is to be shot in 2016, with live-action filming taking place in both Italy and the UK. It is the directorial debut of director and producer Alan Mancuso.

So what else is interesting about it?

For One Thing, It’s a Heavy Metal Shark!

According to Mancuso, Sharracuda is “an unusual shark movie”, filled with a heavy-rock soundtrack provided by “some of the best underground death metal, hardcore, punk, doom and stoner bands from around the world”. In fact, a while back Mancuso held a contest online as part of his plan to put together a new, original and high-quality heavy metal soundtrack. More than 450 underground metal bands applied, though only 12–15 will appear on the soundtrack.

“A limited edition vinyl [see cover image below] will be produced soon in order to help fund the first scenes of the movie,” Mancuso explained. “The limited edition will be pressed only once, so die-hard fans should keep their eyes open and like our FB page to keep updated.”

Check out the Facebook page here.


One of the bands who auditioned is Kamensko, and here’s their latest EP, newly released. You can listen to it, buy it and download it here. It’s rather excellent, I thought.


Application videos from Kanensko and other bands can be viewed on the film’s FB Page.

So Who Wants To Be Eaten by a Mutant Shark?

Well, Mancuso and Sharracuda are looking for anyone interested, with a focus on UK residents.

actors-wanted-posterSays Mancuso:

We’re looking for actors and extras. Casting Call is for all ages metalheads, any gender.
If you have acting experience or if you just think you may have the guts you can also apply for one of the three main roles: The main character is skinny, have long hair, typical thrasher. Think of a young Dave Mustaine. The other two supporting characters must have an interesting face, they should be character actors, overweight are ok, beards are welcome, long of short hair is irrilevant. Think a couple formed by a young Phil Anselmo and a nerd, a young Brian Posehn is a good reference. All of the three: 20-28 years old. Send pictures, showreels, resumes or just a couple of lines to casting@cineaura.com

Who Is This Alan Mancuso anyway?

Sharracuda director and producer Alan Mancuso has worked since 2004 as a casting director, creating commercials for Dior, Volvo, Hallmark, and others of a similar ilk. One day he had a moment of epiphony and decided to start his own feature-length movie. Being an avid b-movie fan — from Euro Trash and Italian sleaze films to American exploitation and creature-feature flicks — his immediate impulse was to embrace his inner monster. Among his favorite genre directors, he says, are Enzo Castellari, Joe D’Amato, Sergio Martino, and Antonio Margheriti aka Anthony Dawson (see sample posters below). With Sharracuda, Mancuso is eager to mark the rebirth of the Italian horror and exploitation genre. Other projects are already in the works.

Sounds promising, right?

A Poster Gallery of Italian Exploitation

Posted in Exploitation films, Horror, Independent film, Monster Sharks, Monsters in general, Music, News, Posters | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rise of the Vorehemoth and the Reign of the Vore King


Fancy getting eaten by a giant monster?

A new feature-length micro-budget giant monster movie going by the title Vorehemoth is to be directed by the so-named Godfather of Vore and creator of La Vore Girls, Raymond P. Whalen (R.P. Whalen aka The Legendary Rock & Roll Ray Whalen of Troma’s Go To Hell, Mondo Collecto, This Is Bigfoot, Freaky Deaky, and Atomic Midnight Shows). Whalen is now casting for loads of extras and actors!

The casting call/filming will take place Saturday, 13 June 2015, at noon in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis, US. If you’re over 18 years of age, you’re welcome to be one of over 100 extras to be consumed by a 40-foot monster. Sound appetising? We’re assured that “your death will be as horrible (or campy) as possible”. For more information, check out this casting call notice.


The film will feature one of the biggest practical FX creature creations of all-time! The 40-foot giant monster is to be created by FrightProps!  Concept art below.

vorehemoth-concept-drawing-01BW vorehemoth-concept-drawing-02BW

In case you don’t know, the term “Vore” refers to a sexual fetish in which a person gets aroused by watching creatures (presumably lots of women, but men, too) getting eaten by other creatures. Clearly this 40-foot monster will have great appeal to both vore fetishists and giant monster fans, though everyone concerned is keen to point out that the film will definitely not be pornographic — it‘s just an old-fashioned monster movie.

But it’s one really hungry monster.

vorehemoth-appetite chart

At the same time that Vorehemoth is being made, a new feature documentary about  Whalen, his films and his monsters is also in production, directed by award-winning filmmaker Dan S. (Dan Schneidkraut), best known for Seeking Wellness: Suffering Through Four Movements (2007-2008). The doco will be called Vore King and will include segments on the making of Vorehemoth as well.

Be there, or be officially unappetising!

Source: Written by Avery Guerra. Vorehemoth FB page; Vore King website and FB page.

Posted in Giant Monsters, Humour, Independent film, Kaiju Search-Robot Avery, Monsters in general, News, Weird stuff | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Space Monster Numagirasu is Coming

Space Monster Numagirasu is clomping into view, though only the vibrations of his coming are being heard so far. Charming chap, isn’t he?

numa01Space Monster Numagirasu (a title which can also be transposed from the Japanese as “Space Monster Numaguirus”) is the product of a graduation project being undertaken by students from Tokyo Kōgei University (Tokyo Polytechnic University).

kai1With its “old school” suitmation monster and miniature sets, the film is a kaiju eiga (or monster movie) in the full daikaiju (giant monster) tradition. This is a fertile tradition that sprang into existence in the middle of last century thanks to the success of Gojira, the classic film directed by Ishirō Honda in 1954 (and later “translated” for US audiences into Godzilla, King of the Monsters, starring an interpolated Raymond Burr) — and has only recently been (mostly) superseded by CGI technologies. [See my article “Man and Super-Monster: A History of Daikaiju Eiga and its Metaphorical Undercurrents 1954-2006″ for an account of the development of the Japanese tradition in giant monster films.]

With his weirdly distorted form, Space Monster Numagirasu is suggestive of the sort of Japanese giant monster that followed in Godzilla’s wake, especially in the monstrous extravaganzas offered up in the prolific Ultraman TV series (and films) – which were originally created by Eiji Tsuburaya, Godzilla’s SFX master-craftsman. As a form of SFX, the method is very hands-on.


Produced by Hosonuma Takayuki and directed by Takayuki Hosonuma, Space Monster Numagirasu is a short film (13:20 min.) and will be translated into English for its American premiere – at a venue the Backbrain could reveal except we’ve been sworn to secrecy.

So until the details are firmed up, check out the trailer (and production pictures) below:

On-set and Behind the Scenes:

back street11 stree2 setti numa002 numa end2

Written by Robert Hood

Sources: via Kaiju Search-Robot Avery (Guerra); YouTube; www.t-kougei.ac.jp. Translation help by Yuki Morita (Godzilla 2014).

Posted in Daikaiju, Film, Giant Monsters, Godzilla, Independent film, Japanese | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Mega Shark’s Attack on Titan

It began when low-budget, exploitation production company, Asylum, released Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus (US-2009; dir. Ace Hannah) [Backbrain review]. Back in May 2009, Undead Backbrain was the first to reveal a still of the giant shark eating the Golden Gate Bridge, and then gained an exclusive on the initial release of the trailer – and the result was internet frenzy. UB had never had so many hits before; the video itself on YouTube received over 1.5 million views in a week or so (it’s currently on about 4.2 million). The film also scored record audience figures when aired on the SyFy Channel.

Below is the Japanese DVD release cover:

megashark vs gioant octopus-japan coverThe low-budget and far-from-perfect film was, in exploitation terms, a great success –  having deservingly received both negative and positive reviews – and this inevitably led the Asylum to follow it up by pitting the Mega Shark against another giant monster, this time a reptilian monstrosity: Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus (US-2010; dir. Christopher Ray).


Next came the epic tale of mankind’s use of the inevitable technological solution to the problem of a gargantuan pest: Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark (US-2013; dir. Emile Edwin Smith):

mega-shark vs mecha shark coverNow, just when we thought there was no mega-absurdity left for the Asylum folk to exploit, evidence has arisen of the next chapter in the ongoing adventures of Mega Shark. It is titled Mega Shark vs Kolossus, and introduces a gigantic humanoid robot into the mix.

Mega-Shark vs Kolossos-1_largeOur information on the film comes from a Japanese website, where the title is given as “Mega Shark vs the Great Titan” (bringing to mind the popular anime series Attack on Titan – a connection also suggested by the general appearance of the Kolossus itself, even if it’s metal rather than flesh and bone). That the report of the film is genuine has been confirmed by Kaiju Search-Robot Avery Guerra via contacts within the Asylum.

Mega-Shark vs Kolossus-2_large

As for the plot, a rough translation from the site indicates that though Mega Shark was thought to have perished in the fight against Mecha Shark, a Russian fishing vessel catches a similarly huge shark, which is subsequently revealed to have been newly born from a Mega Shark egg. Simultaneously, terrorists in the Ukraine activate the “Kolossus” – a huge robotic weapon developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. No doubt chaos ensues. (Source: eiga.com) It appears Mega Shark may be the hero of this one!

Mega Shark vs Kolossus will premier at the Tokyo Shinjuku Shinemakarite Film Festival, held from May 16 to June 26, as part if the “Karite Fantastic! Cinema Collection 2015”.

More images:

Mega-Shark vs Kolossus-5_large Mega-Shark vs Kolossus-6_large Mega-Shark vs Kolossus-4_large Mega-Shark vs Kolossus-3_large

Written by Robert Hood.

Update: we have official details, thanks once again to Kaiju Search-Robot Avery.

  • Director: Christopher Olen Ray
  • Producers: David Rimawi, David Michael Latt and Paul Bales
  • Screenplay: Edward DeRuiter
  • Cast: Illeana Douglas, Amy Rider, Ernest L. Thomas.
  • Production Company: The Global Asylum
  • Official release: April 2015.
  • Synopsis: As a mega shark threatens the global economy, Russia accidentally re-awakens a giant robotic doomsday device. The world must fight to stop both deadly creatures.

Source: Avery Guerra; The Asylum; eiga.com. Images are © 2015 RED ROBOT MOVIE, LLC.

Posted in Daikaiju, Film, Giant Monsters, Kaiju Search-Robot Avery, Monster Sharks, News, Robots | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment