1977 - 97m.
You would think with Leslie Nielsen as a loudmouth racist and animal attacks every ten minutes, this would be a slam dunk but awkward cinematography and underdeveloped characters make this more boring than it should be. I have seen a lot of nature-runs-amok movies and, on paper, this should have been one of the best of the bunch as it features many different animals as opposed to just birds, bears, or dogs alone. The whole forest has gone crazy but nothing seems to be too threatening except for when Nielsen takes off his shirt and decides to rape a fellow hiker. What should be an intense thrill-rise in the forest ends up being a boring melodrama that seems like it was intercut with stock footage from "Wild Kingdom".
Christopher George leads the cast as a tour guide who takes a group on a trek through the mountains. Among the group are a beautiful reporter (Susan Day George), an Indian (Michael Ansara), a professor (Richard Jaeckel), a cancer-ridden football player (Paul Mantee), and the usual other characters including a young couple, a quarreling couple, and a mother with her young son. They pick a bad day for hiking as it is also a day where animals are bloodthirsty due to ozone-layer depletion. Led by a loudbeaked falcon, the animals slowly start to follow the hikers and sabotage their food supply. The group is fairly oblivious but we can see that the native guy knows that something is amiss because he is at one with nature and just has that look about him. As dull as this first act is, there are some classic lines being spouted especially by Nielsen who has nicknames for Ansara (kemosabe) and George (hot shot). We also hear some entertaining dialogue that would never be heard in today's politically correct world including a great moment when Ansara jokes with the young boy by saying "stop throwing rocks or I'll scalp you". I had to rewind that moment a few times.
As the movie progresses, the animal attacks start and include wolves, snakes, birds, cougars, and dogs. These are all fairly quick with the bird attacks being the most intense due to the fact that what look like condors, buzzards, and vultures join in on the mayhem. We also get a funny scene where rats fly off a plate at the sheriff's face and the pinnacle of the attacks when Nielsen battles a grizzly bear. As fun as it is to reminisce about how ridiculous some of this stuff is, the bottom line is that director William Girdler did a poor job of establishing any suspense and the editing (especially during the action sequences) did not flow well. This ends up taking the viewer out of the scenes rather than drawing them in. We can only watch animals and people wander around for so long before it gets tedious.
If you look at this movie like one of those all-star TV movies with goofy dialogue and the occasional light action scene, you will get a kick out of this flick. I wish I had gone into it looking for that rather than an actual horror movie that I was expecting. The tameness of this movie may have been the most shocking aspect. Maybe some gore or hanky panky would have given it a little more of a fun factor but I felt somewhat ripped off. I was so happy to see Andrew Stevens (which tells you something) and thankful that Nielsen decided to ham it up as much as he did. Director William Girdler was killed in a helicopter crash the year after this movie was released. He was only 30 but left a number of cheesy movies behind for us to enjoy. Look for Susan Backlinie as the girl who is pushed off the cliff by the birds. Backlinie's major claim to fame is when she portrayed the doomed skinny dipper at the beginning of Jaws. She doesn't have much luck with the animal kingdom. (Josh Pasnak, 2/15/10)
Directed By: William Girdler.
Written By: Eleanor Norton, William Norton.
Starring: Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Leslie Nielsen, Michael Ansara.
aka: Something Is Out There.