Return of the Killer Shrews

Fifty-three years after being attacked by killer shrews on a remote island, Captain Thorne Sherman is hired by a reality television crew to return to the island in question. The shrews attack again in short order.

Back in the 50’s there was a whacky trend of oversized anything or mutated whatever wreaking havoc on the general population. Gila Monsters, Wasp Women, Triffids, and probably the most absurd animal-turned terror was probably The Killer Shrew. /SHro͞o/ a small mouselike insectivorous mammal with a long pointed snout and tiny eyes. Now how in the hell is that scary? You throw some fangs on it and a good mutation, and it looks a little threatening in black and white.

I would argue that today’s audiences are more sophisticated, even though that is such a misuse of the word. Let’s say cynical. A straight horror pic with these little buggers would have to take great writing and phenomenal effects to approach anything convincing.

“…warns them of the danger of killer shrews, but of course, no one listens.”

Despite all of these red flags, it is back to this seemingly endless wellspring of possibilities that we return for the horror comedy Return of the Killer Shrews. James Best, star of the original 1959 film, returns as co-star and co-screenwriter with a story that brings a reality T.V. crew back to the same location 53 years later to shoot a nature program. Only this time the hunter becomes the…well, you get the idea.

The movie opens with shrew veteran Thorne (James Best) ferrying a few of those snooty Hollywood types to their filming location. Thorne warns them of the danger of killer shrews, but of course, no one listens. On the island, Johny Reno (John Schneider) is the arrogant pretty boy star at the center of a haphazard production under the direction of the loudmouth director Willard (Christopher Goodman). It is up to the production coordinator Sam (Jason-Shane Scott), to keep things moving along. When a production assistant goes missing (due to shrew attack) Willard decides it would be great TV to shoot a reality search and rescue show and stay on the island. Thorne does his best to urge the youngins to safety but they will have none of that, and they eagerly go tromping into the wild. Jerry Ferrel (Bruce Davison) is again skulking about the woods, summoning his killer animals with a blow of his shrew whistle that instantly summons the snarling, ridiculously rendered digital creatures. There you have the plot.

“…a crappy movie, and it knows it.”

Return of the Killer Shrews is a crappy movie, and it knows it. As stated at the outset, the original was no work of art. Expectations were not high here, yet it would be great if the four writers credited on this dreck could have risen above broad Hollywood in-jokes and stereotypes. Then there is the acting. Whooo boy! Everything is so far over the top; you really expect the stars to turn to the camera and wink every once in a while. I almost wish they had. That would have told me they knew they were pulling my leg. As it is now, I am left to wonder. About the only notable performance lasted all of three minutes from poor Derek (Sean Flynn) whose scene is painfully unfunny, but Flynn still manages to extort a slight chuckle from viewers.

No, it wasn’t all bad. Most of it was, but not all. The original score by Jeffrey Walton was actually very, very good. In fact, the title theme, complete with theremin and Elfmanesque flourishes made me sit up and think I was about to see something worthwhile. Alas. I was assaulted by hammy writing, special effects that would make even SyFy cringe, and one hour and 22 minutes I will never get back. Still, I am humming the song from the closing credits, “Shrewd Awakening.” Cute.

Return of the Killer Shrews (2012) Directed by Steve Latshaw. Written by James Best, Steve Latshaw, Pat Moran, Patrick Moran. Starring James Best, John Schneider, Bruce Davison, Jennifer Lyons, Christopher Goodman, Jason-Shane Scott, Maggie Wagner.

3 out of 10 stars

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