August 10, 2018
The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen Featuring Human Hybrids
(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we mix it up with a look at movies featuring people who cross their DNA streams with non-people, with typically unfortunate results.)
I’m always eyeballs deep in genre movies, but with The Meg opening this weekend I’ve been digging into animal-related horror films a bit more. One of the best mentioned throughout my online travels is David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) starring Jeff Goldblum as a scientist turned Brundlefly. It’s a phenomenal movie – horrifying, emotional grim, and utterly disgusting at times – and it got me thinking about other movies featuring some manner of human/? hybrids. The hybrid element can be anything from animal to vegetable to mineral, and it can be accomplished genetically (Splice), surgically (Tusk), through good old-fashioned fornication (Species), or even via a bite ,as werewolves and vampires are technically hybrids too.
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977, 1996) is probably the most well-known with its island of lost souls howling their half human/half animal hearts out through the jungle, but plenty more have appeared on screen with decidedly less fanfare and staying power. The premise of people being enhanced, lessened, or changed altogether with the addition of some other form of life is an intriguing one, but I’m also the guy who enjoys Manimal and Automan – both short-lived TV series from 1983 featuring hybrid heroes – so maybe it’s just my own questionable tastes. Let’s find out together, shall we?
Keep reading for a look at some of the best movies you haven’t seen featuring human/something hybrids!
The Vulture (1967)
A woman out walking in bad weather sees something horrifying that turns her hair white, but while her story lines up with a local urban legend involving a man buried centuries earlier no one believes her. It’s understandable, though, as she claims a casket rose from the earth, opened, and let loose a large cackling bird into the night sky.
The grave in question belonged to a man reportedly wronged and buried alive after cursing the descendants of his oppressors, and in addition to his rage he was apparently entombed with a large predatory bird he had acquired on his travels. The explanation as to how the two came to meld together over the years is a real doozy, but the end result offers an engaging look at small-town culture and attitudes. No one believes they’re cursed until the bodies start falling from the sky, but by then, of course, it may just be too late. The flying beast is the monster, but the film delivers a pretty chilling sequence involving someone knocking on an outside window to draw attention. We just see their hand sneak into frame, knock, and quickly pull away, and it’s creepy!
It’s probably clear that the picture above is not from the film, but as I was unable to find one that fit I felt this was my next best option. The resemblance is pretty spot on aside from the beak, and that’s actually where the film stumbles a bit. Once we finally see the “vulture” in all his glory it’s a little underwhelming to modern eyes — large bird body from the feet up, and then a bald head that looks like James Coco — but as the film’s denouement it works to punctuate the growing terror with the human face behind it all.
The Vulture is not currently available.
Night of the Bloody Apes (1969)
Young-ish Julio is dying from leukemia, and his scientist father isn’t prepared to let him go. Desperate to prolong his son’s life, the good doctor transplants a gorilla heart into the young man’s chest for obvious reasons. The cancer seems to fade, but it’s replaced by something even deadlier — to others — that soon has him attacking women, killing men, and behaving like a real jerk.
Look, I’ll be honest. This is a sleazy, trashy horror flick, and I don’t recommend you watch it. (I totally do recommend you watch it.) I can’t speak for the performances of the Mexican actors as I’ve only seen it dubbed, but it feels like a sloppy, low budget affair that finds its appeal in its brazen embrace of nonsense, gore, and nudity. The bloodletting is cheap but plentiful, and there’s enough absurdity at play to keep viewers laughing, cringing, or shaking their heads with uncertainty as Julio’s entire face and body change as a result of the gorilla heart and blood. Why? Science. Things get pretty brutal in a campily grim sort of way, but when approached with the right mindset it’s also good fun.
While the main thread involves Julio’s descent into animalistic acts of murder and assault the film has some other stories afoot too. Are they necessary? Do they even make sense? No, and no, but sometimes you want a little subplot involving a masked female wrestler and her detective boyfriend who keeps canceling their dinner plans due to the rash of murders and assaults around town. I kid the wrestling lady, but her storyline does eventually cross paths with poor Julio’s. More importantly, it offers a breather in between murders, assaults, splashes of bright red blood, and some real open heart surgery footage.
Night of the Bloody Apes is available to buy on DVD.
A college student hoping for extra credit takes a gig as a lab assistant for a renowned herpetologist, but what should have been a simple job handling snakes becomes something far more complicated. He falls in love, he skinny dips, he starts turning into a half man/half cobra. You know, the usual kind of higher learning shenanigans.
Dirk Benedict plays the poor assistant as a wholesome young man who falls prey to the twisted whims of a quietly deranged scientist (Strother Martin). The grey-haired wacko tricks him with injections that slowly turn him into a blue-eyed snake-man en route to becoming a King cobra with the mind of a man. It’s complicated. There’s horror, sci-fi, and drama at play here, but there’s also a heavy dose of pathos as an opening scene is revealed to involve the scientist’s previous experiment — a failure who didn’t fully transition but progressed far enough to land a “job” he can’t escape in a freak show. Watch this scene and you know Kevin Smith saw it before making Tusk.
The film opens with a shout out to the cast and crew for putting up with the 100% real snakes during the production, many of which are truly poisonous species, and while it never quite becomes “Roar with snakes” these undulating creatures are given free enough rein to make viewers nervous. It gives the film a dangerous feeling, and not for nothing, but the King cobra is terrifying. I’m not familiar with snake sounds, but he’s a breathy and imposing nightmare even behind safety glass. Characters interact with the snakes to the point that we even see one biting a guy’s bare foot, and it makes for an unnerving experience for those of us who don’t like showering with reptiles.
Sssssss is available to rent on Amazon Video.
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