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10 Crazy Animal B-Movies Worth Way More Attention Than Sharknado

If you're going to make an "animal attack!" movie, there are two ways to go: you can take the "serious" route and try to emulate at least a fraction of the cool class and calm intensity of Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975), or you can plant your tongue firmly within your cheek and try to be silly and scary at the same time. One would argue that the former approach is decidedly more difficult to pull off than the latter, and that you need only to switch over to Syfy for proof. That's where you'll find all the Crocosauruses, the Giant Octopi, and of course the Sharknadoes: frequently chintzy and sometimes willfully bad movies that ask you not to play along with a silly premise, but to actually laugh at the ineptitude being splattered across the screen.

With that in mind, let's shine a small spotlight on some of the crazier animal B-movies that, while frequently quite silly, all strive to be seen as legitimate comedic thrillers; films that ask to be laughed with, not at.

1. Squirm (1976)

Squirm, the directorial debut of Jeff Lieberman—a low-key horror hero who went on to helm Blue Sunshine (1978), Just Before Dawn (1981), and Satan's Little Helper (2004)—is about a small Georgia town that finds itself overrun by electrified, carnivorous earthworms. Yes, they pour out of shower heads, flood cellars, and get into the food supply. It's all pretty gross.

Although frequently quite straight-faced, Squirm seems to get a bit more silly and self-deprecating as the worm feast lurches on, plus you'll get to see some great early work from FX master Rick Baker, a few wonderfully over-the-top acting performances, and more worms than you'd ever want to experience in real life.

2. Piranha (1978)

When it comes to filmmakers who love movies, you simply won't find anyone like the genre-blendin', fun-lovin' child-at-heart known as Joe Dante. Long before he gave us matinee classics like The Howling (1981), Innerspace (1987), and both of the undeniably awesome Gremlins movies (1984 & 1990), Dante was hired by the legendary Roger Corman to do something kinda, sorta just like Jaws.

Fortunately the director was way too creative to construct just another tiresome rip-off. Backed by a clever screenplay by John Sayles, in which ravenous fish invade a summer resort, Piranha is clearly inspired by Jaws (and its massive financial success) but also has its own distinctly satirical edge. It's arguably the best of the Jaws copycats, specifically because it's already poking some fun at the genre's various tropes, themes, and cliches. Plus it's got some memorably creepy kills.

3. Prophecy (1979)

It would be an understatement to call the late John Frankenheimer an eclectic filmmaker, but it seems that the director of The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Seven Days in May (1964), and Grand Prix (1966) had a little trouble tackling the "animal attack!" sub-genre back in 1979. Although clearly intended as a dead-serious statement about pollution and the plight of Native Americans, Prophecy is a bit too stone-faced for its own good, and the result is an earnest but goofy monster movie in which an impressive cast is left wandering around in a forest while a freakish mutated bear picks them off one by one.

While the set-up is a bit slow, and the screenplay by David Seltzer (The Omen) often takes itself way too seriously, it's still sort of fun to see a basic B-level monster movie that was put together by Paramount, Frankenheimer, and a cast that includes Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Richard Dysart, and Armand Assante. Also there's a death scene involving a sleeping bag that you simply must see to adequately disbelieve.

4. Alligator (1980)

Although director Lewis Teague would go on to direct a considerably more intense killer animal flick with 1983's Cujo, it's the weird wit and sardonic tone of 1980's Alligator that elevate it beyond most movies of its ilk. Like Piranha, Alligator is both a full-bore nature-run-amok horror flick and also sly parody of horror movies in which nature runs amok, which only makes sense since both films were written by screenwriting demigod Sayles (he also wrote 1981's The Howling).

In addition to its colorful balance of nasty horror and wise-ass humor, Alligator also boasts some pretty decent special effects and an acting ensemble that includes Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Dean Jagger, and Henry Silva having a great time in the "Quint" role. Keep your eyes peeled for the infamous swimming pool sequence, which inspired nightmares in at least a million pre-teens throughout the 1980s.

5. Roar (1981)

Although best known for her work in a movie about killer birds, Tippi Hedren should also be remembered for producing a film that required her to live alongside wild lions for the better part of a decade. Although all but forgotten these days (though it's about to get a re-release), Roar was relatively notorious for being a monumental flop at the box office—but it's easily one of the most insane films you'll ever see.

Produced by Hedren and her then-husband/thoroughly inept writer-director Noel Marshall, and starring all of their kids (including a young Melanie Griffith), Roar is a virtually plotless mish-mash of barely-connected sequences in which the filmmakers frolic, romp, and wrestle with a wild menagerie of lions and tigers and elephants. (Oh my.) Despite some beautiful cinematography, Roar frequently feels like a horror film that thinks it's a family film. The combination of good intentions, (mostly) bad filmmaking, and outrageously misguided tenacity make Roar one of cinema's most WTF!-worthy films.

6. Slugs (1988)

In the annals of Spanish cinema history, Jean Piquer Simón is a true original, as evidenced by this wildly unpredictable tale of garden slugs who suddenly turn homicidal. Of course it would be absurd to spin this type of yarn with a straight face, and Slugs does not disappoint in the over-the-top department.

Not only does the film offer the obvious threat—that being "slugs that eat people"—but it also features some truly disgusting moments involving slug salads, exploding heads, and all sorts of random carnage that has no logical place in this type of movie, but sure is fun to witness all the same. 

7. Man's Best Friend (1993)

Written and directed by John Lafia (Child's Play 2) and starring Ally Sheedy, Lance Henriksen, and a genetically-modified Tibetan Mastiff, Man's Best Friend plays a little bit like 1986's Short Circuit (which also starred Sheedy), only instead of a sweet-natured robot with a crush, the plot centers on a super-smart, super-strong, and frequently ferocious mega-dog who escapes from a lab, befriends a nice woman, and quickly starts eating people left and right.

The humor stems from a clever skewering of dog-related clichés and a slyly satirical tone that pops up in between moments of canine-related carnage. Man's Best Friend might not be the best killer dog movie you'll come across, but it might just be the most (intentionally) amusing.

8. Willard (2003)

Film buffs love to scream about how remakes are always inferior to the original film. Until you mention something great like The Fly (1986) or something good like Glen Morgan's stylishly nasty reboot of the (not very good) 1971 rat-laden Willard. Then they'll concede that, OK, sometimes remakes aren't all that bad.

What is it that elevates Willard beyond the trappings of a typical remake? Its dark sense of humor, fantastic Shirley Walker musical score, some nifty rodent-related visual effects, a supremely villainous R. Lee Ermey, and (of course) an admirably weird—but also sort of touching—performance from the patently unique Crispin Glover. The 1970s were rife with "misfit strikes back" horror movies (the original Willard even predates Carrie, which is sort of the template for this type of horror tale), but this unexpectedly clever remake adds a welcome dash of dark humor, which makes the admittedly bizarre premise feel just a little more accessible.

9. Black Sheep (2006)

Now here's a perfect example of a movie that strikes a balance between horror and humor: obviously it'd be impossible to make a "serious" movie about man-eating sheep, but that doesn't mean you have to deliver something overtly broad, stupid, or sloppily made. In fact, the New Zealand import known as Black Sheep was impressive enough to earn itself a spot in the Toronto Film Festival's prestigious "Midnight Madness" slate.

Writer-director Jonathan King strikes a great balance between character-based humor, sheep-related lunacy, and enough over-the-top gore to keep any horror fan appeased, but what works best about Black Sheep is its self-mocking tone and energetic presentation. It's all very silly, of course, but it's also very well made, and it stands as a great example of how to go broad, silly, and even ridiculous—without skimping on quality or treating viewers like imbeciles.

10. Big Ass Spider! (2013)

Although frequently (and erroneously) lumped in with junk-drawer movies like Mega Shark and Dinocroc, this low-budget, high-energy giant spider romp is actually an admirably on-point homage to a sub-genre that spawned The Giant Spider Invasion (1975), Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), and the still-fantastic Arachnophobia (1990). (If you haven't seen Arachnophobia, queue that one up immediately.) And feel free to toss Eight Legged Freaks (2002) onto the list as well.

Although obviously broad and frequently silly, Big Ass Spider! is also a B-movie in which a surprisingly witty cast tries to save Los Angeles from—you guessed it—a big ass spider invasion. And while it certainly shows a few budgetary constraints and typical low-budget glitches, Big Ass Spider! still earns a lot of points for asking the audience to laugh with its goofy antics, but never at them. Which is the main the difference between low-rent pop culture "product" and an actual "movie." (Also, the spider FX are really cool.)

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15 Festive Facts About Jingle All the Way
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In all of Arnold Schwarzenegger's film oeuvre, Jingle All the Way might just be the one that most exhibits the ugliness of humanity. Set on a fevered Christmas Eve brimming with desperate last-minute shoppers, Schwarzenegger's Howard Langston and Sinbad's postal worker character Myron Larabee find themselves battling one another to make themselves look good to their sons by getting their hands on the elusive Turbo Man action figure. The comedic genius Phil Hartman; Rita Wilson; future young Anakin Skywalker, Jake Lloyd; Laraine Newman; Harvey Korman; Martin Mull; Curtis Armstrong; and Chris Parnell were the other willing participants in this cult comedy, directed by Brian Levant. Here are some things you might not have known about the contemporary holiday classic.

1. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER WAS ABLE TO PLAY THE LEAD BECAUSE OF A DELAY ON A PLANET OF THE APES REMAKE.

Arnold Schwarzenegger signed up to star in the Apes remake in March of 1994, but 20th Century Fox rejected multiple scripts for the movie, including one co-written by Chris Columbus (Gremlins, The Goonies). Columbus left the project in late 1995, and Schwarzenegger followed him soon after, freeing him to sign up for Jingle All the Way, produced by Columbus, in February 1996. Fox's Planet of the Apes reboot found its way into theaters in 2001, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Tim Burton.

2. SINBAD THOUGHT HE SCREWED UP THE AUDITION.

Sinbad in 'Jingle All the Way' (1996)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Filming was delayed so that Sinbad could follow through on his commitment to travel to Bosnia with Hillary Clinton. Even though Columbus agreed to wait for him, the comedian still thought he "messed up" his audition and told his manager-brother he was going to quit show business.

3. OFFICER HUMMELL WAS INITIALLY WRITTEN AS A WOMAN.

Though the role of Officer Hummell was written for a woman, the part went to Robert Conrad. Conrad's explanation was that the producers "wanted someone who could pull up next to Arnold and tell him to pull over and he pulls over."

4. IT WAS CHRIS PARNELL'S FIRST MOVIE.

The future SNL star played the toy store clerk. "Well, it was my first movie role, and I didn't know how they typically shot scenes," Parnell admitted in a Reddit AMA. "So I had to laugh a lot, and I sort of spent all of my laughing energy in the wider takes, so by the time we got to the close-up shots, it was a real struggle to keep that going."

5. MARTIN MULL STAYED ON SET FOR OVER TWO WEEKS LONGER THAN HE WAS SUPPOSED TO.

Mull (KQRS D.J. a.k.a. Mr. Ponytail Man) was told it would just be a one- to two-day shoot for him. Unfortunately, his part had to be shot on a rainy day, and it didn't rain in Minneapolis for two and a half weeks.

6. PHIL HARTMAN MADE UP A BACKSTORY FOR HIS CHARACTER.


20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Hartman (Ted Maltin) was probably joking for the film's official production notes, but you never know. "Ted is a guy who sued his employer for headaches caused by toner fumes and now hangs around the neighborhood and helps all the housewives," Hartman said. He also offered a take on how he was kind of being pigeonholed in Hollywood when he added, "Ted's another weasel to add my list of weasels."

7. HARTMAN ENTERTAINED HIS BORED YOUNG CO-STARS.

To keep young E.J. De la Pena (Johnny Maltin) and Jake Lloyd (Jamie Langston) from getting bored shooting a car scene all day, Hartman improvised songs designed to bring kids to hysterics. One tune contained the lyrics “You make my butt shine, the more you kiss it, the more it shines! The clock is ticking, so keep on licking, oh how you make my buttocks shine!”

"When you’re an 8 year old hearing that kind of potty humor, it was hilarious!" De la Pena remembered. "And we had a lot of fun."

8. JAMES BELUSHI HAD EXPERIENCE PLAYING SANTA BEFORE.

Belushi sort of trained to portray the Mall of America Santa in the movie by playing Kris Kringle for four years in "about 20" different homes, according to his estimation.

9. SHOOTING BEGAN IN MID-APRIL.

The Minneapolis/St.Paul areas were chosen because the producers figured they had the longest winter. But they also filmed in Los Angeles' Universal Studios for the big parade over a three week span, where it was typical hot California weather on the verge of summer. Sinbad remembered it was 100 degrees on the days when he wore the Dementor costume, and the water in his helmet had started to boil.

10. THE REAL TURBO MAN DIDN'T SWEAT.

Daniel Riordan's Turbo Man suit ensured he wouldn't have trouble with the scorching heat. He was wearing a vest underneath used by race car drivers. "They're very thin membrane vests that are filled with small, plastic tubing that's tightly coiled, back and forth, and they run cold water through it," Riordan explained. "So when they run it, it's like this cold water right up against your body and it was amazing. The sensation was fantastic."

11. TURBO MAN FIGURES WERE SOLD AT WAL-MART.

200,000 were originally produced and sold at 2,300 Wal-Mart shops for $25. They would have made more but, as Fox’s president of licensing and merchandising explained to Entertainment Weekly, there were only six and a half months to produce and promote Turbo Man toys, and it usually takes "well over a year."

12. THEY ALMOST SOLD DEMENTOR DOLLS TOO.

Sinbad recalled that the studio didn't sell Dementor action figures even though they tested high during research. "I had a prototype of the doll but they said 'give it back, we'll get you the real one when it comes out,'" Sinbad said." ...And dude, it NEVER came out!" Sinbad told Redditers his theory: "I think that they didn't want the competition between Turbo Man and my doll."

13. SOME PARENTS HAD ALCOHOL-RELATED COMPLAINTS AFTER TEST SCREENINGS.


20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Schwarzenegger and Sinbad talking at a bar over some alcohol, and the fact that reindeer also imbibed in beer, were among some of the problems mothers and other early viewers took issue with.

14. THE FILMMAKERS WERE SUED FOR PLAGIARISM, AND LOST.

Randy Kornfield penned the official script, but high school teacher Brian Alan Webster alleged his Could This Be Christmas? script was very similar. The publishing firm that had the rights to Webster's script won a $19 million lawsuit from 20th Century Fox, but the ruling was overturned in 2004. Webster's screenplay was about “the quest of a Caucasian mother attempting to obtain a hard-to-get action figure toy as a Christmas gift for her son. In the course of this pursuit, she competes with an African-American woman, similarly seeking to give the action figure doll as a Christmas gift.”

15. THERE WAS A SEQUEL STARRING LARRY THE CABLE GUY.

None of the original cast members nor characters returned in the straight-to-DVD Jingle All the Way 2 (2014). It was produced by 20th Century Fox and WWE Studios and featured wrestler Santino Marella. Sinbad expressed incredulity when a Redditer inquired if he was asked to return for it. "What they are doing a new version without me! Ain't gonna work!"

Additional Sources:

Schaefer, Stephen: "Sinbad leaps at the chance to go postal in Jingle All the Way," December 6, 1996; Des Moines Register

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10 Rich Facts About Wall Street
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

It’s often said that the love of money is the root of all evil. Wall Street could have easily turned this sentiment into a tagline. A gripping financial thriller, the Oliver Stone classic is a cautionary tale whose message is every bit as relevant today as it was when it was released 30 years ago today.

1. OLIVER STONE WOULD DELIBERATELY TICK OFF MICHAEL DOUGLAS BETWEEN TAKES.

“As a director, he really tests you,” Douglas said of Stone. Around two weeks after shooting had started, Stone showed up at the actor’s trailer and asked “Are you on drugs? Because you look like you’ve never acted before in your life.” Mortified, Douglas took a look at some footage they’d already shot. Yet, after diligently reviewing it, he could find nothing wrong with his performance. “I came back to Oliver and said … ‘I think it’s okay,” Douglas remembers. “Yeah, it is, isn’t it?” Stone replied.

Eventually, Douglas wised up to his boss’s overly critical act. “Basically, what he wanted was to ratchet up that much more nastiness in Gordon Gekko,” Douglas explained. “And he was willing … for me to hate him for the rest of that movie just to bring it up a little more.” 

2. WALL STREET WON BOTH AN OSCAR AND A RAZZIE.


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Douglas’s cold portrayal of the unscrupulous Gekko netted him an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1988. On the other hand, critics were thoroughly unimpressed by leading lady Daryl Hannah, who took home a Worst Supporting Actress Razzie.

3. GORDON GEKKO’S FAMOUS PHONE WEIGHED TWO POUNDS.

In one pivotal scene, Gekko rings Bud with a state-of-the-art mobile communication device. Specifically, it’s a Motorola DynaTac 8000X. Released in 1983, this brick-shaped cell phone was 13 inches long, weighed two pounds, and cost the equivalent of $8,806 in modern dollars. During the 2010 sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the anachronistic gadget returned for a quick sight gag.

4. CHARLIE SHEEN CHOSE TO HAVE HIS REAL FATHER PORTRAY HIS FICTIONAL ONE.

“It was interesting having my dad play my dad,” Sheen said on the DVD's “making of” documentary. Wall Street’s most dramatic arc revolves around Bud and Carl Fox, who were played by Charlie and Martin Sheen, respectively. Stone had built a strong working relationship with the former on the set of 1986’s Platoon. So when the time came to cast Carl, he had the younger Sheen make the call, asking “Do you want Jack Lemmon or do you want your father?” “Oh, Jack Lemmon’s a genius,” the actor said, “but my dad’s my dad and he’s kind of a genius, too.”

5. SCREENWRITER STANLEY WEISER COULDN'T FIND INSPIRATION IN EITHER CRIME AND PUNISHMENT OR THE GREAT GATSBY.

Before the writer could get started, Stone gave him a little homework. Originally, the film was conceived as “Crime and Punishment on Wall Street.” When Weiser was brought aboard one fateful Friday, Stone told him to read Dostoyevsky’s novel over the weekend. “Not having taken an Evelyn Wood Speed Reading class, I went to UCLA and purchased the Cliffs Notes,” Weiser wrote in 2008.

But the literary exercise proved futile. “On Monday, I explained to Oliver that the paradigm for that masterwork would not mesh well with the story we wanted to tell.” In a flash, Stone hit him with another assignment. “Okay,” he ordered, “read The Great Gatsby tonight, and see if we can mine something out of it.” This time, Weiser simply rented the 1974 movie adaptation. Once again, though, inspiration eluded him.

Wall Street as we know it didn’t really start to take shape until after a change in tactic: When Gatsby led him nowhere, Weiser read everything about finance that he could track down and, along with Stone, “spent three weeks visiting brokerage houses, interviewing investors and getting a feel for the Weltanschauung of Wall Street.”

6. PARTS OF THE MOVIE WERE SHOT AT THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE DURING WORKING HOURS.


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Permission was secured with the help of Kenneth Lipper, a longtime Wall Street insider who also served as New York City's deputy mayor from 1982 to 1985. For the film, Stone brought him on board as the chief technical advisor.

7. TWO MONTHS BEFORE THE FILM’S RELEASE, THERE WAS A MAJOR WALL STREET CRASH IN REAL LIFE.

Historians now call it “Black Monday.” On October 19, 1987, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by a staggering 22.6 percent. It was the largest single-day stock market decline of all time, with $500 billion suddenly going up in smoke. Wall Street would hit theaters on December 11, leading conspiracy theorists to wonder if Stone had seen the crisis coming and made his movie to exploit it. 

“I did not foresee the crash, as some people say, because if I had, I would have made a lot of money,” Stone quipped.

8. GEKKO WAS BASED ON THREE BIG-NAME FINANCIERS. 


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“If you need a friend, get a dog,” Gekko advises his young protégé. This quote was adapted from a remark that corporate raider Carl Icahn once made (which he had cribbed from Harry Truman). In 1985, Icahn became a notorious figure by taking over TWA airlines under the pretense of making it more profitable only to sell off its assets for his own gain. Gekko, no doubt, would’ve approved.

Wall Street’s charismatic antagonist also took cues from Asher Edelman, a financier and major league art enthusiast. Another source of inspiration was arbiter Ivan Boesky, who confessed to illegal insider trading in 1986 and ended up in jail in 1988 (more about him later).

9. STONE’S FATHER WAS A STOCKBROKER.

A survivor of the Great Depression, Louis Stone had a huge influence on his cinematically-inclined son. “The main motivation to make Wall Street was my father,” the director admitted. “He always said there were no good business movies, because the businessman was always the villain.” In the end, Wall Street was dedicated to the elder Stone, who passed away two years before its release. 

10. GEKKO’S BIG LINE IS NUMBER 57 ON THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE’S TOP 100 MOVIE QUOTES LIST.

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” finished just ahead of “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” from The Godfather: Part II. Gekko might as well have been quoting Boesky: At a 1985 commencement address given at UC Berkeley, the trader said “Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

Newsweek later reported on the speech—and made a telling observation. “The strangest thing, when we come to look back,” the magazine argued, “will not just be that Ivan Boesky could say that at a business school graduation, but that it was greeted with laughter and applause.”

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