Directed by Bert I. Gordon [Other horror films: Beginning of the End (1957), The Cyclops (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Earth vs the Spider (1958), War of the Colossal Beast (1958), Tormented (1960), Picture Mommy Dead (1966), Necromancy (1972), Empire of the Ants (1977), Burned at the Stake (1982), Satan’s Princess (1989), Secrets of a Psychopath (2015)]
For the longest time, this has been one of those films I’ve been aware of and have wanted to see. I didn’t have any delusions that, upon my finally watching it, I’d have discovered a forgotten classic, but I was always hoping for at least an enjoyable film, and I have to admit that I didn’t really get that.
I think this film highlights some of the biggest potential problems with movies from the 1970’s, specifically, in this case, just how dry some of them can be. Certainly other 70’s movies suffer the same problem (one that immediately comes to mind is It’s Alive!), but this is one of the worst cases I’ve seen.
With a plot about some mysterious natural growth serum causing insects and rats to enlarge, you might hope for a little bit of hokey fun, and while I won’t dispute that some of the action may well fall under the category of ‘hokey,’ I don’t think this film has a whole lot of fun ingrained within. Even similar films like Night of the Lepus (which also took itself too seriously) feel a little more enjoyable, and you’d sort of hope that any “nature gets revenge on humankind” movie would have more going for it.
Of course, that may just be my view, but this felt almost entirely dry from beginning to end. You maybe got a little fun out of Ida Lupino’s character, and maybe a pinch of laughs from Ralph Meeker’s insensitive actions, but that’s really all there is, and it’s definitely not enough to keep my interest.
In fact, I actually nodded off not once, but twice, and one of those times was during a giant rat attack (which, by the conclusion, felt far more repetitive as opposed to horrifying, not that they ever once felt horrifying). Perhaps admitting this says more about me and my consistent lack of sleep, but there you go.
I don’t think I really cared much for Marjoe Gortner (of Mausoleum fame) or Jon Cypher here. Neither one really had much feeling to them. It’s the same with Tom Stovall and Belinda Balaski (The Howling) – just more dull characters. Ida Lupino was only remarkable due to having such goofy, old-fashioned beliefs, and Ralph Meeker played a selfish dick, so he was sometimes a hoot. Perhaps best of the cast was Pamela Franklin (The Innocents and The Legend of Hell House), who’s character’s love interest in Gortner’s was just ridiculous but at least Franklin was almost sometimes okay.
Certainly the cast felt uninspired, but I think that has more to do with the film itself. Give these actors and actresses a good story, and I suspect most of them will give decent performances, that’s my motto. And that didn’t happen here, alas, which is more the shame, as this is based (loosely) on a 1904 novel by H. G. Lewis.
The special effects were laughable, but that’s okay, because anything to give this movie a little extra boost is always appreciated, even if it didn’t work. And I have to say, this movie really needed something, but The Food of the Gods never got it. I just didn’t have fun at all – it felt tedious and dry from beginning to end, and I just can’t see myself wanting to give this one another shot anytime soon.