As a child of the decade I was raised within, I can claim longstanding affection and devotion to the “nature strikes back” genre of eco-horror, these days more commonly referred to in crass terms as “animal attack films” (which change in nomenclature in and of itself speaks volumes to the devolution of culture in our society).
While films in this genre run the gamut from mystical/philosophical head trips like Nightwing to Irwin Allen nonsense like Food of the Gods, from the early 70’s to the early 80’s (Prophecy, Wolfen), the shining pinnacle of such films has always been the AIP classic Frogs. With its crumbling southern mansion and grumpy master of his domain serving as both allegory for the fall of empire (given its release date, the direct point of reference was likely Vietnam and Kent State and somewhat prescient of the impending Watergate scandal, though there is a clear and obvious statement about the Old South to be discussed herein) and a warning of ecological disaster. As most films of the genre postulate and ultimately force the viewer to address, what would (will) happen if (when) our planet and the forces of nature (be they flora or fauna) are no longer subject to the vagaries of human industrial whim?
From the insects (including but not limited to such entries as Giant Spider Invasion, Kingdom of the Spiders, Phase IV, Ants, The Swarm and Squirm) to the birds (Beaks, Killing Birds, even Hitchcock’s The Birds) to the beasts (Grizzly, Day of the Animals, even Night of the Lepus), the story is always the same: man’s encroachment on their natural habitat and poisoning of the water, land and skies with industrial runoff leads to a wholesale revolt and reprisal from the animal kingdom. While there are many more titles than I’ve listed here, suffice to say that I’ve seen most if not all of ’em, and to one extent or another, enjoyed them all, some quite profusely.
Thus it is with surprise and amusement that I have discovered the first and only challenger to the coveted crown of “greatest eco-horror film ever put to celluloid”. After four decades of absolutely no competition, Ray Milland and company have a rival. And that rival comes from Italy, from the hand of a man best known for (of all things) the generally distasteful if mildly amusing mondo film genre: the one and only Franco Prosperi.