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January 21, 2010

Midnight Movie of the Week #3 - The Food of the Gods

Most cinema buffs agree that the 1970s were the apex of the horror genre thus far. We had The Exorcist, The Omen, and more on the satanic front and Halloween, Black Christmas, and more starting up the slasher genre. We had Dawn of the Dead jumpstarting the zombie genre, The Wicker Man doing its thing, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre making exploitation mainstream, and plenty more. In no way is this week's movie, The Food of the Gods, comparable to any of those films in quality or relevance. The fact that I'm leading this review with mentions of them serves one of two purposes - 1) Showing how diverse the selection of horror was in the decade; or 2) Proving that I'm crazier than a rabid cat in a burlap sack. Let's hope for the first.

Produced by American International Pictures' Samuel Z. Arkoff and directed by Mr. B.I.G himself, Bert I. Gordon, The Food of the Gods is billed as an adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel (fully titled The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth), though it takes a very simple route of telling the story as a "nature gets revenge" tale. We might not think of that on our own, so the opening narration informs us of it, thankfully.

Our story begins with a professional football player named Morgan (who appears to play on a team of no more than 9 players, all scrawny and lanky middle-aged Caucasians) and his team's publicist jettisoning off to a British Columbian island for some horseback riding with a teammate, who's promptly attacked by the world's largest wasp and killed. When I say killed, I mean stung so badly that his bloated corpse resembles George Kennedy.Soon after it's revealed that a local farm woman (played by legendary actress/director Ida Lupino in one of her final roles) has found a substance bubbling out of the ground that, when consumed, makes animals grow to epic proportions. Like most illogical humans, she jars it, labels it F.O.T.G., and starts feeding it to everything while trying to sell it off and make a fortune. What follows is a mashup of our favorite stereotypical sci-fi/horror characters facing the challenges of the food's mutations. These characters include the hero (Morgan, played by Marjoe Gortner), the hero's assistant (Jon Cypher) the money-hungry cynic (Ralph Meeker), his initially-in-it-for-cash cohort (Pamela Franklin as a "female bacteriologist"), a young yet distressed couple (Belinda Balaski and Tom Stovall), and the aforementioned farm woman, Mrs. Skinner. In the opposite corner we have gigantic wasps, chickens, worms, and - most of all - rats. The battle is on.

If you haven't guessed yet, this is not a good movie. The creatures look silly next to our characters, and while the trickery of making normal rats look huge is impressive, they still don't look threatening at all. Gimmicks like the giant chicken early in the film fail too, primarily based on the fact that you can see the edges of the chicken suit and the person inside at times. The script relies on the opening and closing narrations to make most of its points, and also gives Morgan some godlike understanding of plot elements. My favorite example of this comes when he decides the huge rats are too large to swim due to their new found size, and sure enough is proven right as the film goes on.Why, you ask, am I pimping this as Midnight Movie of the Week? Simply because The Food of the Gods is a perfect example of what a bad movie can be - a blast to watch and hurl laughs and insults at. As a piece of high-class idiocy, The Food of the Gods never fails to entertain, and I'd call it one of the finest films to riff on with friends over pizza and Dew (or whatever your food and beverage choices might be). The Food of the Gods will fill you with its own brand of goofy cheese, and for that I feel it an adequate choice as Midnight Movie of the Week.

(By the way, check out the trailer below to see the studio try to sell this film with a COMPLETELY serious tone....and try not to laugh!)

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

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