Wild Beasts (1984)

At first glance it seems sensible to be concerned for the children’s safety when the polar bear attacks the ballet school. After all, the lumbering brute is just part of a whole group of animals rampaging across the city after drinking some bad zoo water. Rats are eating cats and people, Cheetahs are racing Volkswagens and folks are getting strangled by elephant trunks! What chance do a bunch of wimpy dance kids have against the most dangerous animal to ever enjoy an ice cold Coke?

Guess what though? It isn’t just polar bears, rats and pachyderms that get thirsty! Especially if you’ve been spending the afternoon doing leg lifts and pirouettes! Almost all the kids also get a dose of the contaminated water, too!

Next thing you know little Tommy is standing over his dead instructor holding a knife and asking nosy reporter Laura (there picking up her daughter Susie, whose maladjustment at being neglected is portrayed in agonizing detail in the early part of the film through the use of an answering machine and a noisy puppet) if she wants to play this cool game with them. A game he likes to call Playing Dead!

There’s quite a bit to dislike about Wild Beasts. There’s the complete lack of story (isn’t the movie just a series of animal attacks at random locations throughout the city, minus any resolution?), the pointless characters (the reporter and her daughter exist only to provide someone we can recognize being put in jeopardy by the animals while Dr. Berber from the zoo just runs from attack scene to attack scene offering such scientific expertise as attempting to shoot a cheetah from a moving car with a handgun), the lackluster cinematography (everything is shot at night and hard to see – probably to camouflage the shots of fake animals and stuntmen being used) and the dearth of primates (they probably had too much intelligence to agree to be in the film). There’s also plenty to detest about the film such as live rats being set on fire, a cat being eaten by rats, and various live animals being attacked by hyenas and assorted big cats.

But all that amounts to a bunch of either film school elitism or hypersensitive hysterics irrelevantly nipping at the heels of a movie not interested in anything but delivering what it promised – a murderous menagerie dispatching people in the most gruesome ways possible!

Wild Beasts is the type of movie that has several set pieces that pussier movies would hold back for the climax. Rats attacking and eating people? There’s been whole movies made about that! Here, it’s just the warm up! How about that elephant rampage through the city that caused several cars to inexplicably crash through store windows? That just happened while the elephants were on their way to the airport!

As a fan of the Airport series of films and the rest of the air disaster genre, I was impressed by the fresh take Wild Beasts had on things. Having the elephants walking on the runway and causing the jet liner to crash was inspired! And having the jet crash into a power station that some moron put at the end of the runway was just mad genius! City wide blackout now in effect! And that means no power to the subway system trapping people, including Laura! Trapping people with a tiger so high he’s busting windows to get in and eat people! Wild Beasts is like 20 disaster movies in one!

Importantly though, it’s an Italian disaster movie which means that instead of faded movie stars and mid list TV actors gumming up the works with their boring personal problems, you have people’s faces getting torn off! And arms chewed up! And being burned in car wrecks! In the best 1980s Italian trash movie tradition, Wild Beasts doesn’t cheat us on the gore.

And also in that tradition, if Wild Beasts ever wondered where the boundaries of good taste and turning off the audience were, you never know it. So the movie unapologetically showcases a blind guy being mauled by his seeing-eye dog, animals at a slaughterhouse being eaten by other animals, and in the film’s most disturbing moment, the semi nude scene done by a young girl! By the time Dr. Berber announced it was all a result of PCP being added to the water supply I wasn’t sure if he was talking about the animal rampage or the movie itself!

Like the best tastelessly awesome films, Wild Beasts doesn’t overstay its welcome and simply ends in the middle of a scene! Some text is tossed onscreen to let us know that that what just happened in the movie could happen in any major city which is scary because it’s true! Do you live in a city or near one that has both a zoo and water supply? Total danger zone! This is why the war on drugs is so important! We can’t run the risk of our captive rhinos, pandas and gators sparking up and then going all Godzilla on us!

At once repulsive and entertaining, Wild Beasts will have people avoiding zoos and going to the safety of circuses and pet stores much like Psycho converted a generation of movie goers into bath takers!

© 2017 MonsterHunter

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