Oliver Driver in Black Sheep courtesy IFC First Take
When movie animals attack, gill men and more movie questions...

Question: I just saw that there's a movie about killer sheep being released on DVD. Is it some kind of joke or is it serious? I started wondering about other "horror" movies with animal killers, but after the one about the killer rabbits, I couldn't come up with any others. Can you? - Carlos

First, the movie you're talking about is the New Zealand-made Black Sheep (2006) and it's neither entirely serious nor seriously joking. Hard though it may be to believe, it's really clever, occasionally very funny and gets in a couple of genuine scare sequences. And really, are killer sheep so much sillier than killer birds? Not eagles and hawks and other major winged predators, but finches and seagulls and other run-of-the-mill birds - they're the villains in The Birds (1963), and while it's not one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films, it's generally well regarded.

The ridiculous rabbit film you mention is, of course, the notorious Night of the Lepus (1972), and I don't care how big the mutated bunnies are they're bunnies and I just can't get too scared. The same goes for The Killer Shrews (1959). Again, they're shrews, and I don't care how big they are. That said, the fact that they're clearly dogs strapped into some kind of half-assed hairy shrew costumes doesn't help.

Absolutely terrible special effects also sink the monsters of Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959); leeches at least are nasty and blood sucking, so I could buy them being scary if they didn't look like men wearing garbage bags. Sharp little teeth and claws notwithstanding, I also didn't buy the menace in Eye of the Cat (1969). "Cat" like pussycat, not tiger.

Worms also don't strike me as inherently scary, but there are actually some pretty good moments in Squirm (1976) due to the fact that these particular worms have become electrified and bite and there are a whole hell of a lot of them. Killer frogs hmm, even if they were giant frogs like the one on the poster with the itty-bitty human hand hanging out of its great green maw, I'm not so sure. But the frogs in Frogs (1972) are just little guys. Some people find the film camp fun, but I'm not one of them.

Pigs, on the other hand, I can sort of buy - I remember thinking Razorback (1984) was a pretty nifty little thriller.

Suggestions, anyone?

Question: You probably can't answer this question because the only thing I remember about the movie I'm looking for - which was most likely made in the 1950s or '60s - is the line "The food... it burns." It was a scary/eerie type of movie. Any ideas? - David

I actually recognize that quote, mostly because it comes from one of my favorite low-budget sci-fi/horror films of the 1950s: Quatermass 2/ Enemy from Space (1957). As the U.K. title makes clear, it's the middle film in the trilogy that began with The Quatermass Experiment/ The Creeping Unknown (1956) and ended with Quatermass and the Pit (1968).

The plot involves scientist Bernard Quatermass' (a miscast Brian Donlevy) efforts to find out exactly what's going on in a remote facility hidden deep in the English countryside. The complex, dominated by a series of geodesic domes, is supposedly producing artifcial food and has the support of a number of highly placed government figures. Quatermass persuades a sympathetic member of parliament, Vincent Broadhead, to let him join an official tour of the place, and while sneaking around on his own, Broadhead slips and winds up in a vat of whatever is actually being produced. His skin blackened and bubbling, he moans, "The food it burns." To say more is to reveal the film's spectacularly paranoid twist.

Question: I heard a while ago that Hayden Christensen was filming a movie with Johnny Depp and Leelee Sobieski called something like Nailed Right In. Then nothing. Can you tell me what happened to it? - Juliet

Nailed Right In first surfaced in 2001 as a semiautobiographical project scripted by Sopranos writer-producer Terence Winter. Griffin Dunne was scheduled to direct, with Hayden Christensen as Michael Turner, a young man living in a 1985 Brooklyn neighborhood where being part of the mafia was a great career move; though he wants to move up and out and has taken the first step by being accepted at Columbia University, loyalty to his old friends keeps dragging him back into the kind of situations he wants to escape. Johnny Depp was supposed to play a midlevel mobster and Leelee Sobieski was attached as the Connecticut WASP Michael meets in school.

It was scheduled to begin shooting in New York in September 2001, but production was delayed because of the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center. By the time the project came back together, the entire original cast was gone, replaced by Freddie Prinze Jr., Alec Baldwin and Mena Suvari. Michael Corrente took over as director and the title was changed to Brooklyn Rules. It finally opened in May 2007.

Question: I promised myself it would never come to this, but after years of searching - Internet, movie guides, etc. - I am forced to bow to your wisdom. Many years ago (how often do you read that old line?) I saw a movie on TV. It was about a group of people who venture to an underwater base (or submarine) and encounter a deranged scientist who transforms people into sea creatures who would do his bidding. The people were placed into tubes and exposed to some sort of chemical that caused them to grow gills and webbing on their hands and feet. The movie may have been made in Japan and my recollection is that it was an older movie, maybe from the late 1960s or early '70s. I still have delusional flashbacks about this film and was wondering if it rings any bells. - Ray

Yes and no. I haven't seen this movie, but the description sounds like Terror Beneath the Sea (1966), which was produced by Japan's Toie Studio and features future martial arts favorite Sonny Chiba as a reporter doing a story about an atomic submarine. He and a female American journalist stumble onto a mad scientist who's creating an army of computer-controlled gill men as part of some vague plan to create an underwater utopia. Dark Star Films put it out on DVD a couple of years ago - if you have a chance to check it out, let me know whether it's the source of your "delusional flashbacks."

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