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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Return of the Killer Shrews (2012)

It must have been about thirteen years ago that I was interviewing actor James Best about his years on Dukes of Hazzard as well as his appearance in The Killer Shrews when he started talking about going into preproduction on this low budget sequel to the very low budget fifties original. I immediately jotted down that I should keep an eye out for the movie when it finally got made and released. I must have picked up this copy ten years ago or so and am just now getting around to watching it. I’ve already said this at least once but I really need to stop buying movies and taking a decade to watch them. 

Best returns as Captain Thorne Sherman. This time instead of delivering supplies to scientists on an isolated island he is dropping off cast and crew for a reality show. Now that is an interesting and appropriate update to the story! He is very uncomfortable returning to the place where he was almost shrew food but also apparently needs the paycheck. Almost as soon as they arrive we see a mysterious man controlling the shrews who get about to eating the filmmakers, though they don’t realize that until the next day.

When they find out folks are missing they go looking for them, which leads to those not killed right away being trapped in the old scientists’ compound from the first flick. The rest of the movie is them trying not to die, which admittedly doesn’t go so well, while mysteries such as who the man is as well as what the shrews have been up to get resolved. In the end some people die, some people live, and we get a fun continuation of a classic cheesy sci-fi monster flick most of us grew up watching on our local public domain creature feature shows.  

I want to start off being completely honest. I love the original movie, so I’m inclined to like this one. The cheesy special effects from the fifties with dogs in costumes chasing folks with pork chops in their pockets (a fun tidbit Best dropped during my interview with him so many years ago) is replaced by equally silly CGI. The digital effects work in Return of the Killer Shrews makes the worst Sci-Fi channel original look like a masterpiece so in addition to being silly it is really bad. Normally that would be a deal breaker for me, but as a sequel to a movie I love so much I found it hard to be too critical. 

The other complication I had was the fact that James Best was an awesome guy. My interview with him went so well and I have to say my interactions with him both before and afterwards made me a huge fan. He was a funny guy, which comes across in this movie. Much of it has him and another Dukes alum, Rick Hurst, cracking wise like they know they are in a cheesy movie. We even get John Schneider chewing up scenery as the start of the reality show so in a way it is a mini Dukes reunion. They really lean heavily into the jokes as this plays much more like a comedy rather than a creature feature. I found myself laughing along with the filmmakers rather than at them, so I think that made things a lot more fun. 

Admittedly though this isn’t a good movie. The CGI is terrible with the same crude digital models being used repeatedly for the shrews. That means you see the same random movements which many times doesn’t match up with the actors creating awkward composite shots. We do get some old school rubbery puppetry in a few of the closeups, but that isn’t nearly enough. They even double down with one of the worst “explosions” you will ever see in a movie. 

Not sure how I’m supposed to sum this one up. Personally, I liked this movie. But it is filled with things that normally bug me about low budget filmmaking. Clearly I’m digging this one for more than what just what is on the screen. Will other viewers have that same bias and connection to the cast as well as the original flick? Probably not. So, I can’t recommend this for everyone. That makes me more than a little bit sad. On the other hand, if you like James Best the actor or are a fan of The Killer Shrews you might get a kick out of this flick. I really do need to review that one for the site someday. 

© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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