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Home > Movies > Scary Stuff, Part 3: Children

Scary Stuff, Part 3: Children

October 30th, 2005

Children can be deadly, or so stories tell us. Sometimes, they themselves are evil incarnate, such as the Children of the Damned or the Children of the Corn. Occasionally, their playthings are the problem, as with killer dolls Chucky or The Twilight Zone‘s Talky Tina. But sometimes it’s the relationship that naive kids have with hideous creatures that mixes a fatal cocktail.

Consider Yongary, Monster from the Deep, a 1967 film intended as South Korea’s answer to Godzilla. It was a lousy answer.

I have a peculiar affection for giant-monster-on-the-loose stories, and I’ve suffered any number of Godzilla pretenders. I can say with some authority that Yongary was one of the worst. Yongary himself was an off-the-rack dinosaur with a clearly visible flamethrower nozzle inside his open mouth. He drank oil, had an annoyingly repetitive roar, and danced (yes, danced) to surf rock music. The miniatures were cheap–look for a scene in which an oil tank “destroyed” by the monster simply rolls down a hillside–and the optical work combining screaming Koreans with the rubber-suited critter was done with little attention paid to film grain, lighting, or even scale.

Yongary so closely aped the Japanese monster flicks of the late ’60s that it included an obligatory boy in short pants whose role it was to bond with the beast. In his first appearance, the brat used his scientist uncle’s experimental light gun to make a pair of passing motorists itch uncontrollably. (No, I don’t understand the physics involved.) Throughout the film, he popped up wherever Yongary was so frequently that I expected the monster to slap him with a restraining order.

At one point, Yongary had been knocked unconscious by a rocket fusillade. Short Pants walked up, and for no reason whatsoever, WOKE HIM UP with the itch ray! The monster went on a second rampage, destroying several major bridges and a jet fighter squadron. Those deaths were on your head, kid. Of course, he not only got off without so much as a backhand, but–because he provided a clue to the ultimate destruction of Yongary–was recognized as a hero! I wanted to see the scene in which the widows of the doomed fighters pilots sued the little shit’s parents.

Another kid–a little girl this time–was the catalyst for the Night of the Lepus, part of the “nature takes revenge” film cycle of the ’70s. “Lepus” referred to the oversized rabbits spawned by a failed attempt at population control. A scientist’s young daughter took a liking to one of the test rabbits being injected with a mutating serum, and SWITCHED HIM with a bunny from the control group. Then, naturally, she adopted him…adoption in this case consisting of immediately losing him down a burrow. It wasn’t long before ten-foot varmints were bounding in slow motion across miniature farmsteads.

On paper, Night of the Lepus made logical sense. As the movie pointed out via newsreel footage, rabbit infestations have been a real-world problem which would surely be intensified if said hares were the size of Volkswagens. And I have no doubt that oversized rodents could easily become killers of livestock and slow-moving humans alike. In that regard, Lepus worked as a cautionary tale and a scientific lesson ala the quintessential giant ant movie, Them!

The problem was, of course, that the movie was about bunnies. Cute, fuzzy bunnies. There’s a good reason that most mutant animal movies feature creatures which are naturally ugly and threatening. No matter how many extreme close-ups of saliva-dripping maws and titanic incisors the filmmakers inserted, there was no getting around the fact that a herd of galloping, giant bunnies were adorable, not terrifying.

God love ’em, the special effects people did their best. The miniature and high-speed photography were surprisingly good, and aside from one lousy matte in which the rabbits bounded through a fence, the proceedings were as effective as possible. Which is to say, not very.

There’s a moment in Lepus which was simply classic. One of the local constabulary pulled his squad car into the front row of the drive-in theater and shouted into his bullhorn, “Ladies and gentlemen, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!” Strangely enough, not one person found cause to doubt or even hesitate in the face of such a warning. Instead, every last driver dutifully lined up his or her car and followed the police into the desert, single-file. I found this strange, because the last time someone said that to me in a drive-in, I just kept necking and let the killer rabbits do their worst.

Getting back to the theme of kids and monsters, last night Vicky and I went to the Parkland Theater production of Bat Boy: The Musical. This was an off-Broadway show based on a character from the “Weekly World News,” taboid: an alleged, half-human, half-bat child found in a cave. Over the years, I’ve followed Bat Boy’s continuing exploits (did you know that he once stalked Jenna Bush?) with interest, and was thrilled to have a chance to see the show.

Thankfully, it did not disappoint. The cast–especially the young man playing the title character–was game, and the production had enough intentional cheese to keep the occasionally grim proceedings light. A highlight was an “orgy” of stuffed animals (don’t worry, it made sense within the context of the show) presided over by the nature god Pan. And I dare anyone to come out of the theater without the song “Hold Me, Bat Boy” running through the recesses of their brain.

The Bat Boy of the play came to a tragic end, but fortunately, the “real” Bat Boy goes on. And if he ever befriends any little kids in short pants…all hell is gonna break loose.

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