Friday 5: 5 Fantastic Insect Horror Movies

I am a huge wuss when it comes to watching horror movies.  I am jumpy in general (this might be the result of spending my early childhood in a place that has rattlesnakes in the gazillions, my current city!) so movies where things jump out really bother me.  Movies where things move in creepy ways are incredibly disturbing to me.  That scene from The Exorcist (I saw the director’s cut) where the girl crab-walks down the stairs?  Eeek!  And those horrible torture movies that are popular at the moment (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Saw series, etc) worm their way into my brain and stick there so I can’t think of anything else for weeks.  I really hate those movies…  However, I adore cheesy, low-budget, B-movie horror movies.  And guess which group of animals is frequently featured in these gems?  Insects!  Thus I can combine my passion for insects with my craving for bad horror movies on a reasonably regular basis.

Over the years I’ve seen dozens of insect horror movies, but there are a few that I absolutely adore.  Some are brilliant examples of classic horror films, but the others are so cheesy I laugh hysterically all the way through them no matter how many times I see them.  So, without further ado, I present my top 5 insect horror movies:

The Fly

IMDB Rating: 7.0. Image from IMDB.com.

5. The Fly. Now many of you will be familiar with the modern version of The Fly, the one with Jeff Goldblum and Gina Davis that was released in 1986, or maybe The Fly II with Eric Stoltz.  These are both fine insect horror films.  However, if I’m going to watch The Fly, I prefer the 1956 Vincent Price version.  Vincent Price was a brilliant horror actor and really makes this movie work.  You probably all know the story: a scientist develops a teleportation device and tests it on himself.  However, he didn’t know there was a fly in the machine with him when he turned it on.  The result: the scientist’s body comes out the other side with the fly head on top!  Vincent Price’s character is a the brother of the doomed scientist and attempts to help the scientist’s wife cope with her husband’s disfiguration.  The movie is actually good, with skilled actors and a a touching plot.  The end of this movie is fabulous, but I’m not going to ruin it!  You’ll just have to watch it yourself.

Mansquito

IMDB Rating: 3.1. Image from IMDB.com.

4.  Mansquito / Mosquito Man. This is a Sci-Fi Channel exclusive, and if you know anything about made-for-Sci-Fi Channel movies, you know how terrible this movie really is!  The plot is decent enough.  Once again, we have a scientist, this time a woman who is testing some new compound she’s developed on prisoners.  However, an explosion in the lab as the prisoner is about to be injected has disastrous effects!  Both the convict and the scientist begin to transform into giant mosquitoes.  And if that isn’t enough to make you want to run out and watch this tonight, let me just say that the “love” scene between mostly transformed convict and partly transformed scientist is about the most hilariously bad scene ever created for a movie.  This movie definitely falls into the so bad it’s good category, but it made me laugh.  A lot.  Hence its appearance on my list.

Skeeter

IMDB Rating: 2.8. Image from IMDB.com.

3.  Skeeter. This movie follows a standard plot in insect horror movies: pollution caused by man irradiates or otherwise mutates the insects in an area (usually a remote area) and turns them into giants.  Apart from the fact that an insect this big would collapse under its own weight, I really love this particular plot.  I believe Skeeter takes place in a small town in Nevada, a town that has an illegal toxic waste dump conveniently located in a damp cave or mine shaft with a lot of water.  The mosquitoes become gigantic, about the size of a basketball, and go on a killing rampage through the area around the town.  Add to this a love story between a lawman and a woman from the town and you’ve got yourself one fabulous so bad it’s good insect horror movie!

Them

IMDB Rating: 7.4. Image from IMDB.com.

2.  Them! Okay, okay.  I know I should put Them! first for several reasons.  First, this movie is surprisingly detailed and correct when it comes to the science. You can actually learn something about ants watching this movie!  Second, the story is fabulous – atomic testing in New Mexico creates a hoard of ant giants that terrorize the humans who created them.  Third, this is probably THE most classic insect horror movie.  Don’t get me wrong.  Them! is a truly brilliant movie and makes for great commentary on the consequences of the nuclear age.  If I were going to recommend a good insect horror movie to someone, this would be it.  However, I just can’t put this movie above my all-time favorite insect horror movie…

Empire of the Ants

IMDB Rating: 3.2. Image from IMDB.com.

1.  Empire of the Ants.  This movie is pure B-movie greatness!  There’s a ton of bad, overly dramatic acting.  The story is completely ludicrous.  The beginning of the movie is supposed to put the plot into context – we humans are destroying the planet, consequences be damned – but the narration is so over the top it’s impossible to take the movie seriously.  Once again, we have giant ants created due to toxic waste.  Once again, the giant ants are terrorizing people, this time a group of potential investors who are visiting a bogus land-development project headed by the scamming Joan Collins.  They have to fight off the ants to save their lives, only to get into worse and worse situations with fewer and fewer people as they go along.  The movie oozes more cheese than a big pile of nachos!  But I think it’s absolutely hilarious to watch.  Plus, the ants in this movie are actually pretty cool for the most part.  I can’t be sure, but I believe they filmed some scenes through an ant farm-like enclosure (or superimposed film of ants in such an enclosure) so that the ants crawling on the buildings and the docks look much more realistic than they do in most insect horror movies.  Still, the big showdown between the ants and the survivors at the end is so shockingly bad it can make you forget about the more redeeming qualities of this movie.  I was recently very excited (perhaps too excited!) to discover that it had been released on DVD, so you might actually be able to get your hands on a copy of this gem of an insect horror movie.  I highly recommend it.

So that’s my list.  Anyone want to share their favorite insect horror movie?  If so, leave a comment below!  I’d love to discover a new movie or two to watch!

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13 thoughts on “Friday 5: 5 Fantastic Insect Horror Movies

  1. Always loved Them! Another favorite of mine is Deadly Mantis – global warming frees up a giant mantis that had been frozen – it terrorizes the US before it’s finally caught in the Holland Tunnel and I think they use gas to kill it.

  2. Mansquito? I’m going to have to watch that one.

    You should come out to the Insect Fear Film Festival some time. It’s the world’s premier showcase of these sorts of awful bug horror movies.

  3. I saw Mansquito when it first aired on sci-fi. It’s a bad movie classic these days, probably just for the title. I mean, how could you have a more awesomely cheesy title than “mansquito”?

    I am so thrilled you put Empire of the Ants on this list.

    For more bad bug movie greatness, check out:

    The Beginning of the End! Peter Graves! Bert I. Gordon! Really Big Locusts! If this combination doesn’t put your mouth watering, you don’t like bad movies.

    Phase IV: The 1974 film, not the 2001 Dean Cain film. Here’s a unique take on bug horror films: Normal sized bugs! In this one, a midwestern town is wiped out and scientists are sent in to investigate the cause. Turns out it’s ants. Normal-sized ants. Normal-sized super-intelligent ants. The film seems to think it’s an art film in places and has one of the most out-of-nowhere surreal endings you’re likely to see. On the plus side, it’s available in MST3K version to make the dull parts more fun! (Check out YouTube, it’s from the KTLA season that the MST3K folks refuse to release.)

    • Excellent! I haven’t seen Phase IV, but that sounds great. I’ll have to hunt it down! We have a very good video store for these sorts of movies in Tucson, so I might actually be able to rent them without renewing my Netflix subscription.

  4. “Them” is pure sci-fi classicness, but I’m suprised my favorite of all time didn’t even make the list – “Starship Troopers”! I’ll gladly wait the two hourse just to see the brain-suck scene!

    • I know everyone loves Starship Troopers and I find it very entertaining myself, but I just can’t in good conscience put a movie that’s really about aliens on my list of insect horror movies. Sorry!

      I went to a sci-fi convention (yes, I’m THAT kind of sci-fi geek!) shortly after Starship Troopers came out and Casper Van Dien was there. I considered getting his autograph. However, rather than sitting like most of the autograph signers, he stood in this “look at how incredibly hot I am!” sort of position with a leg propped up rakishly on his chair and leaned over the hoard of women who were in line to have him sign their photos. He flexed his arm and chest muscles constantly and posed for countless photos in a super tight white t-shirt showing off his “guns.” This all turned me off so badly that I couldn’t bring myself to wait in line. It’s a sad, dark day when you decide the guy signing autographs is a bigger dork than you, the person who paid $60 to spend 3 days with a really big group of sci-fi geeks! :)

  5. “The (1958) Fly” is in Cinemascope and Technicolor. I was 8 when my parents took me, as Mom was a Vincent Price fan.
    My Personal Insecta Gigantica faves include:
    1. “The Black Scorpion”


    There’s this fantastic scene in the bowels of the earth not to be missed!
    2. KING KONG (the legendary Spider Pit scene as envisioned by Peter Jackson):


    3. “Tarantula” if Big Spider movies count!


    4. “Monster from Green Hell” – another one of Science’s horrible backfires!

    5. “The Monster that Challenged the World” – an underwater earthquake unleashes a cool, car-sized caterpillar-thingie!

    Wim Grundy, author of “I, Hellgrammite!” – soon to be a major book for boys (and their ilk)!

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