‘Wild Beasts’ and ‘The Survivor’ leave a trail of carnage and thrills in HD.
Severin Films doesn’t release titles with the speed or quantity of the more well-known specialty labels, but the love they show these beloved but often obscure gems from the past is still readily apparent each and every time. Their two most recent releases, Wild Beasts and The Survivor, resurrect early ’80s horrors involving carnivorous creatures and angry spirits. We take a look at both below.
When water used to quench the thirst of hundreds of zoo animals is contaminated with PCP the beasts turn into bloodthirsty creatures devoid of respect for the humans who’ve kept them in chains all their lives. That’s gratitude for you! They escape and wreak messy, scream-filled carnage across the city as an animal expert chases them all over town.
Wild Beasts is pretty much everything you want in an animal attack film aside from one thing ‐ a reasonable guarantee that no animals were harmed during the film’s production. To be fair the vast majority of the beasts here look well taken care of, but I’m pretty damn sure some rats met their end back in 1983 when the film was made. If you can get past that, and it’s understandable if you can’t, director Franco E. Prosperi’s schlocky slice of Euro-horror is guaranteed to entertain.
The film is essentially a series of animal attack set-pieces, and most display an air of originality and/or real danger. Elephants stomp occupied cars, rats make a buffet of necking lovers, a cheetah chases a car down a city street ‐ beasts big and small get a shot at revenge on the human race, and since very little time (if any at all) is spent on character work we really don’t care who gets eaten.
Our hopeful hero, played by an actual circus animal trainer, is wonderfully ineffective but still manages some impressive face time with some big, toothy cats. Highlights abound including some crazy car stunts and a sequence that sees kids doing shadow puppets on the wall only to be attacked by creatures we only see as shadows assaulting them on the wall. It’s a pocket of artistic genius in an otherwise down and dirty animal attack film, and you can’t help but respect it.
Severin Films’ new Blu-ray gives the film a digitally remastered picture, a trailer, and the following special features:
- Altered Beasts [15:33] ‐ Director Franco E. Prosperi discusses the film’s troubled production including failed attempts to shoot in Africa, the trouble with shooting live animals, and the reaction from Dine De Laurentis. He says no animals were harmed, but that’s a bit hard to swallow.
- Wild Tony [12:54] ‐ Actor Tony Di Leo talks about how he got the film by chance, how Prosperi scared him, and how he brought a tiger cub home with him… for fifteen days. He says rats were burned alive, so uh, Prosperi is apparently full of it.
- Cut After Cut [34:54] ‐ Editor Mario Morra shares thoughts on his career including his work on this film.
- The Circus Is in Town [10:25] ‐ The son of the film’s animal wrangler talks about his father’s work with animals.
- House of Wild Beasts [12:42] ‐ Footage originally shot for a follow-up to “The Godfathers of Mondo” is presented here offering a glimpse into Prosperi’s home and archives.
A fully-loaded passenger jet crashes in a field killing everyone on board except for the pilot who walks unhurt from the wreckage. His memory of the disaster is spotty at best, but as the authorities investigate a psychic begins hearing the cries of the hundreds who perished. And she hears that they’re hungry for vengeance.
James Herbert is a best-selling horror author whose heyday saw sales on par with the likes of Stephen King, but he hasn’t seen many of his numerous novels adapted for the screen. It’s understandable after the “dogs in rat costumes” featured in Deadly Prey (based on his novel The Rats), but who doesn’t love Fluke?! Matthew Modine reincarnated into a cuddly Golden Retriever who finds a friend in a mutt voiced by Samuel L. Jackson?
This is where I’ll note that I legit love Fluke.
Anyway, The Survivor was an early example of Herbert’s shift towards supernatural horror, but that doesn’t stop a small amount of bloodletting from dripping across the screen. The main narrative though is one of mystery, and to that end the film does a good job of offering the necessary clues to the truth before obfuscating it all with ghostly sightings, bad people forced towards self-harm, and a very concerned Jenny Agutter wandering around. There’s not nearly enough Agutter here, due both to an underwritten role and the film’s production happening before An American Werewolf in London made it obvious more Agutter is always better.
The story comes to a solid conclusion and offers one last little stinger before the credits hit, but there’s a definite lack of energy through much of the film. The death scenes are drawn out a bit too long ‐ not the deaths themselves, but the sequences leading to the various demises ‐ with one in particular seemingly going on for ten minutes or more only to kill a jerky character we’ve barely met.
Still, as ghostly revenge tales go The Survivor offers some suspense and creepiness alongside its epic opening explosion. Fans of supernatural horror will want to check it out.
Severin gives the film a solid 2k restoration, a TV spot, and the following special features:
- Extended final scene [3:34]
- Not Quite Hollywood extended interviews with the film’s producer and cinematographer [22:12]
- The Legacy of James Herbert [9:19] ‐ A look at Herbert’s midlife career shift into writing and the immense success that followed.
- Robert Powell on James Herbert [3:24] ‐ Powell talks briefly about his friend and his work narrating Herbert’s novels.
- Archive TV special [29:59] ‐ A behind-the-scenes look at the film’s production.
- Archive TV interview with David Hemmings [15:43] ‐ An early ’80s talk show segment that sees Hemmings share some anecdotes and a magic trick. (The interview is mistakenly listed twice on the special features page.)
- Antony I. Ginnane trailer reel [32:03] ‐ Trailers for Aussie films produced by Ginnane.