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John’s Horror Corner: Food of the Gods (1976), the classic, allegory-rich natural horror about man-eating giant rats.

June 9, 2020

MY CALL: An allegory and action-rich H. G. Wells adaptation done right. This movie marks a positive turn for natural and giant animal horror. MORE MOVIES LIKE Food of the Gods: Looking for more natural horror? Well, there’s Food of the Gods II (1989). But also check out Night of the Lepus (1972), Frogs (1972), Bug (1975), Jaws (1975), Grizzly (1976), Squirm (1976), Empire of the Ants (1977), Day of the Animals (1977), Orca (1977), Piranha (1978), Alligator (1980), Of Unknown Origin (1983), Cujo (1983), Razorback (1984), Monkey Shines (1988),  Slugs (1988), Shakma (1990), Arachnophobia (1990), Ticks (1993), Mosquito (1994), The Ghost in the Darkness (1996), Anaconda (1997), Lake Placid (1999), Rogue (2007), Pig Hunt (2008), Chaw (2009), The Grey (2011), The Bay (2012), The Shallows (2016), 47 Meters Down (2017), Boar (2017) and Crawl (2019).

From its opening narration, this film’s allegory is abundantly clear—the day will come when nature will find revenge against man for all the pollution he has inflicted upon the Earth. Seeking a quiet retreat to the wilderness, Morgan (Marjoe Gortner; Starcrash, Mausoleum) ventures to a remote Canadian island to discover such natural revenge firsthand.

We are introduced to giant animals almost immediately when Morgan’s friend is attacked by a giant tarantula hawk (or spider-wasp) which gives him some intensely fatal anaphylactic shock. The flying wasps are easily the worst visual effect of the movie—hazy rotoscoped wasp silhouettes awkwardly pivoting in the air—but I got a nice chuckle out of it. Not seeing the cause of the injuries, Morgan approaches a cabin for help only to be ambushed by a 7’ tall chicken!

After the comical event, a local (Ida Lupino; The Devil’s Rain) explains to Morgan that Mr. Skinner (John McLiam) is behind a special nutrient that creates these giant animals, and that it’s all deliberate in an effort to “solve world hunger” with giant livestock. I guess no one realized that creating giant animals would actually require giant amounts of food… since whatever molecular matter that forms giant animals doesn’t form via magic!

From here we get more high-quality (for the 70s) rubber monster shenanigans. A woman is “attacked” by flesh-eating giant caterpillars. Really, she just sees them on her bloody arm and shakes around a bit. It’s hokey and I certainly giggled at the effort. But when it comes to the rats the effects vary wildly.

Approaching shots depict actual mice in natural settings perhaps climbing on a model car or split-screened beside actors to make it seem giant. But the attack shots will show giant rat heads biting at screaming, blood-covered actors as they tear them apart. I may not have been impressed but… it’s fun to watch. If only this was made ten years later the gore would’ve been off the charts. Here, it’s rather tame.

The attacks are pretty bloody but boast little latex wound work. But watching those big hokey rat heads attacking the actors from off-screen (where you don’t see their bodies) is entertaining enough. Oddly, amid all the action, there is an actual on-screen birth scene.

Based on the H. G. Wells story, director and writer (of this adaptation) Bert I. Gordon (Empire of the Ants, Necromancy) did alright! The pacing is quick enough, there are a lot of action scenes, and the concept is cool. Those giant rat attack scenes were surprisingly satisfying. Even today I find this movie pretty entertaining. So if you enjoy the classics, I’d recommend this.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2020 8:43 am

    My friend’s teenage sister took us to see this when he and I was 8 years old, and I still remember it to this day. Probably because it gave me nightmares for weeks, if not months. My most vivid memories are the rats around the house in the water, the pile of dead rats, and those chickens you mentioned. I can’t help but wonder how many McNuggets could be made from one of those.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      June 12, 2020 8:47 am

      We could feed all the Baby Yodas of all the universes with all those chickie nuggies. haha

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