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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Return of the Killer Shrews

October 3, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Return of the Killer Shrews

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #479: Return of the Killer Shrews

The 2018 October Horrorthon: Week 1

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that thinks it’s high time people stopped going to unchartered islands because, let’s face it, when people do it doesn’t end well for anyone, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four hundred and seventy-nine, the 2018 October Horrorthon begins with the super belated horror comedy sequel Return of the Killer Shrews, directed by Steve Latshaw.

Return of the Killer Shrews


Return of the Killer Shrews is a sequel over five decades in the making. The original The Killer Shrews came out in 1959, is in black and white, and is still, according to Wikipedia, in the public domain. The movie is best known for starring James Best, who would later go on to cult TV immortality as Sheriff Roscoe Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard, and for having dressed up dogs as its monsters. Over fifty years later, James Best is back, and the killer creatures still look like dogs, but they’re of the low budget movie CGI variety. Return of the Killer Shrewsis, without question, a loud and proud B-movie horror flick.

James Best is, once again, Thorne Sherman, a small boat captain who is transporting people and equipment to a small island out in the middle of nowhere. Along with his best friend and crew member Harold Rook (Rick Hurst), Best wants to drop off Wally (Patrick Moran), a sleazy douchebag TV producer, and Christine (Holly Weber)a hot babe in a bikini, at the island in question and then, quickly, get the hell out of there. Sherman knows the island quite well, as he fought off a pack of bloodthirsty creatures known as the killer shrews way back in 1959, and has no interest sticking around for long. No one on the island seems to know anything about the killer shrews, but then Sherman isn’t someone who wants to stick around and socialize. Sherman just wants his money. As soon as Sherman gets to the island, though, it’s just one hassle after another as no one seems to have Sherman’s fee. Sherman and Harold will have to hang around until someone gives them their money. Sherman isn’t happy about it, but what the hell else is he going to do?

As Sherman and Harold hang around waiting to get paid, we find out that the TV program being made on the island is some sort of nature reality show starring a washed up star named Johnny Reno (John Schneider). The show isn’t exactly high art and, truthfully, no one involved in seems to know what, exactly, they’re supposed to be doing. Reno starts using an Australian accent for absolutely no reason in certain scenes, there’s a snake that someone has to pull across the ground with a string because the snake was drugged, and the director (Willard, as played by Christopher Goodman) is bored out of his mind. There’s also a writer on the island (Lenora, as played by Kat Randolph) who can’t stand being there (she doesn’t like writing for “reality” television).

So everyone is on the island, either doing nothing or doing something, when weird beard dog like monsters show up and start taking out crew members one by one. First, the dog monsters, the killer shrews, take out interns and production assistants that no one seems to know the name of. When the killer shrews start attacking people in the “main’ crew, that’s when things start getting hairy and the people start getting desperate. That doesn’t happen immediately, though. There’s plenty more screwing around before the really serious stuff starts happening.

And by screwing around I mean the TV crew, once they realize that producer Wally and the interns are missing, decide to split up and search the island and change the nature of the reality TV show they’re making. Suddenly, instead of the low rent nature show they were making, they’re now making a “search party/mystery” reality TV show. If Wally and the others are dead, possibly finding their dead bodies will give the new show an edge that other reality shows just won’t have. It’s such a great idea!

The killer shrews give less than a shit about this new TV show. All they want to do is kill and consume. And that’s exactly what they do.

While all of that is going on, a mysterious man keeps showing up every so often with a whistle and what appears to be the ability to control the killer shrews. Who the hell is he and how the hell is he able to control the shrews? Well, the character is played by the great Bruce Davison, and he has a direct connection to the original movie. I won’t tell you what that connection is, though. It’s actually a nice little surprise.

Return of the Killer Shrews moves along at a fairly brisk pace and is happy being a goofy monster movie. It’s way gorier than I expected it to be, but the whole situation the characters find themselves in is so ridiculous you don’t take any of it seriously. Even when there’s a moment of suspense and the character that’s about to be attacked and eaten is terrified there’s still a sense of fun in the air. It’s amazing to me how the movie manages to keep that sense of fun consistently throughout the movie.

It’s also amazing how the movie manages to make the killer shrews such a dangerous threat despite the less than stellar low budget CGI used to create them. There are close up scenes of, I guess, a practical puppet creature, but those sequences are few and far between. More often than not we see the killer shrews via CGI. Some of the renderings look decent enough, while others look rushed and kind of lame. But when the killer shrews attack it’s game freaking over for the character the creatures are eating. Most of the blood we see is of the quickie CGI variety, which never looks exactly good, but when it’s spraying everywhere you know someone is seriously goddamn dead. I think that’s the secret to a successful low budget monster movie. Even if the monster looks kind of lame, as long as they kill a character well the audience will see the monster as a threat. Why isn’t that obvious?

James Best does a great job as Sherman. He’s an old bastard who just wants to get paid so he can move on with his life. When he ends up trapped on the island, he’s still a bit of an old bastard, but he becomes a resourceful old bastard. He knows what the heck is really going on (well, sort of) and he wants to make sure that everyone, including his best friend Harold, makes it off the island alive. Best co-write the script along with Latshaw and Pat Moran and, as a result, he gets to deliver some terrific one liners. You just don’t see geriatric stars in these kind of movies. Awesome stuff.

John Schneider is hilarious as washed up star Johnny Reno. Reno is an amped up douchebag from the second you see him to the second he gets eaten by the killer shrews (no, that really isn’t a spoiler. You just know he’s going to die as soon as he opens his mouth because guys like him always die in these kinds of movies). You like him because he’s funny, and you don’t like him because he’s just an awful human being. Be on the lookout for the big Dukes of Hazzard reunion scene where Schneider, Best, and Rick Hurst talk about being in Georgia back in the day.

Jennifer Lyons is interesting as the camera operator Mickey, as she’s just a technician on the island trying to do her job. Amazingly, she figures into the end of the movie way more than I expected her to, and I wouldn’t mind seeing her show up again in another sequel. That probably won’t happen, but it would still be fun to see. Jason-Shane Scott also does an interesting job as Sam, the (I guess) production manager who, like Mickey, is just trying to do his job and get out of there.

Christopher Goodman tries to out-douchebag Schneider’s Reno as the TV show director Willard. The only time he seems to be engaged in what’s going on is when it directly benefits him. If it doesn’t, the dude is bored out of his mind. It’s great watching his big “new show” scheme blow up in his face. Katherine Randolph, as the writer Leonora, probably deserved a little better since her career is so wrapped up in Willard’s bullshit, but then I can’t feel sorry for her for too long. She could have joined up with Sherman and the others who really wanted to get off the island. That would have been the smart move.

Jenna St. Clair is gorgeous as Julie, a hot babe who wants to be a star. She has several funny little scenes, and, I have to say, she really knows how to fill out a goddamn bathing suit. Maggie Wagner goes through some crap as Reno’s agent Stella. Yeah, she helps feed his delusion that he’s still a major star, but then isn’t that her job? I really wanted to see more from her. Way more. Sean Flynn’s big scene involves wearing a goat costume because the TV show production couldn’t afford to get an actual goat for the location. The scene shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. You’ll laugh at it.

And then there’s Bruce Davison as Jerry. His performance is nothing short of a hoot from start to finish. He looks like he’s having the time of his life blowing that whistle and directing the killer shrews around the island. And check out that scene where he boils a human hand in a big pot. Why the hell is he doing that? Cannibalism, obviously, but it’s funny. When was the last time cannibalism was funny? I love that he’s in this movie.

At the end of the movie there’s a promise/warning that, eventually, we’re going to get another Killer Shrews movie at some point. The next one is expected to be called Revenge of the Killer Shrews. Sadly, James Best won’t be starring in that one as he died in 2015. Who will sort of take his place in the next one? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I hope we don’t have to wait another half century to see the next one, though.

Return of the Killer Shrews is set to arrive for the first time ever on Video on Demand on iTunes on October 26th, and will then hit Amazon and Google on November 9th. You can still buy the flick on DVD on the movie’s official website, which you can see here. If you’re a fan of goofy low budget monster movies, Return of the Killer Shrews is a movie you absolutely need to see. You will no doubt have a good time with it. I loved it.

See Return of the Killer Shrews. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: At least 12.

Explosions: One.

Nudity?: None, which is a damn shame.

Doobage: A storm coming, bullshit from 1959, face biting, a pretty good opening titles sequence, fishing boat hooey, booze drinking, kiss stealing, potential sexual harassment, a buried human skeleton, bad cell phone coverage, bloody arm removal, neck biting, face eating, talk of a poisonous snake, pulling a snake on a string, snake bite to the ass, mega shrew attack, old woman eating, carrot eating, weird dancing, tequila hooey, sleeping in tents, whistle blowing, money counting, bloody money, a very bloody shirt, star eating, cave hooey, one of the least impressive wooden fences in movie history, one of the greatest bathing suits ever, charming sexual harassment, an electrified fence, attempted tape retrieval, electrocution, flashback hooey, more booze drinking, bondage, blonde eating, blood in the eyes, picture licking, face punching, an attempted fist fight, cannibalism, flare gun hooey, an exploding lake, and a weird ending.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: CGI monsters, “And Bruce Davison as Jerry,” James Best, talk of how completely unreal reality TV is, John Schneider, threats from the director, a guy dressed up like a goat, killer shrew vision, John Schneider announcing that he wants to rip his own shirt off, Joh Schneider playing the guitar, a Dukes of Hazard reunion, a stuffed animal, John Schneider “Acting,” John Schneider “doing John Wayne,” John Schneider doing a Tarzan call, Bruce Davison, Bruce Davison hanging out in a cave, flashback to the original Killer Shrews, James Best and Bruce Davison trying to have a fist fight, methane gas, and a weird ending.

Best lines: “Well, there it is. The island,” “I am not crap,” “Who the hell are these people?,” “What the hell does he know about a nightmare?,” “Old man? I’ll slap you to sleep then slap you for sleeping!,” “I think I’m in love. I think your shorts are on backwards,” “Sam! Get on the set now!,” “Remember, it’s a Johnny Reno world and you just live in it,” “Whoa! I’m not playing a female goat. That would be weird,” “I hate you all. Roll camera,” “I think we’re going to need a bigger goat,” “Sam! There is no reason to yell. Think of people’s feelings,” “Where’s my medicine?,” “I didn’t know reality shows had writers. Someone’s gotta make up this crap,” “Okay, don’t you find me really attractive?,” “There is something out there,” “The situation is fluid,” “Think the Duke,” “Did he say save our dead guys? How do you save a dead guy?,” “Who is that? I don’t see anyone,” “Johnny Reno doesn’t scream!,” “Wow. Four years of film school for this,” “What are these things? They’re killer shrews,” “I’m gonna drink myself to death, right here at this bar. We can do that,” “Caves don’t have doors!,” “Soup’s on,” “Sorry. My bad,” “Every boat needs a captain. You’re the captain,” “Hold that thought. It’s feeding time,” “Your ass is grass now, and I’m the weed whacker,” “I can’t be eaten. No one is going to eat you. Try to calm down,” “What have you got there, Jerry?,” “That pig sticker doesn’t scare me. I’ll take it away from you and cut you too short to hang!,” and “Thorne! I’ll see you in hell! I don’t think so. Because I’m going north.”

Rating: 8.5/10.0




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Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 1


Maximum Impact: This is the latest action flick from Russian action star Alexander Nevsky, which features a good cast, some good action, and an excellent performance from Nevsky. What it doesn’t have is a good story. It’s just a convoluted mess. Still, it’s worth seeing, and it’s proof that Nevsky can carry a big, slick looking movie. Hollywood needs to make him an even bigger star. Check out my full review of the movie here, and then check it out.


The First Purge: The latest installment in The Purge franchise is a prequel that essentially explains how the Purge started and what it was like when it was “just an experiment” on Staten Island. I managed to see this when it came out and I loved it. It isn’t the best of the series (Election Year is, so far, the best, with Anarchy a close second) but it was still a romp, with Y’lan Noel an action star in the waiting (he could be a horror star in the waiting, too). I wonder what the next movie will be about. And, man, I need to get watching the TV show. I’m way behind on it.



The Night Stalker/The Night Strangler: These two movies, which I reviewed here and here, are coming to Blu-ray for the first time from the fine folks at Kino Lorber. Each TV movie has been remastered in 4K and will have all sorts of special features, including commentary tracks by the great Tim Lucas. Those tracks will no doubt be worth listening to, and I intend to get these so I can learn more about these movies and, maybe, the TV show. An absolute must have.


Do you like Cult TV?


The 1970’s TV thriller Kolchak: The Night Stalker is first up! Check out what I think about the show with the links below!

Issue #1
Issue #2
Issue #3
Issue #4


B-Movie News


He is Back is coming!: Wonderful. What the heck is He is Back and who is He, anyway? Well, He is Back is an upcoming movie set to be directed by newcomer Chitah Yajnesh Shetty and star Abb Li, a martial artist from Afghanistan. The plot, as far as I can tell, will have Abb Li’s character using his martial arts skills to defeat a massive evil that could end up taking over the world. It sounds like it will take place partly in Afghanistan and will feature other international locations like Kosovo, Cambodia, Thailand, Russia, and the United States.

As for Abb Li and why he’s the focus of this particular movie, the guy really, really, really looks like Bruce Lee.


See? Spitting freaking image.

This could turn out to be an insanely fascinating martial arts flick. I will do my damndest to keep everyone in the loop on it.

The resemblance is uncanny, isn’t it?

Check out the official press release for the movie over at


Nemesis: Collector’s Edition Blu-ray coming December 11th!: According to this article over at, Albert Pyun’s classic badass low budget sci-fi action flick Nemesis will be getting a Collector’s Edition release as part of the MVD Rewind Collection series and the Blu-ray disc will be available starting December 11th of this year!

Holy crap, this is awesome. Nemesis has been out of print on DVD in the United States for years, and outside of the occasional airing on cable (the Encore Action channel is the last TV station that I know of to air it and that was a few years ago) there was no way to see it (I’m not sure about any streaming options. Was it ever on Netflix or something like that? Damned if I know). Now, with this Blu-ray, which is set to be packed with all sort of special features, the world at large can revel in this amazing low budget movie watching experience.

Check out my full review of the movie here, and then make plans to own Nemesis on Blu-ray. The movie will make a terrific Christmas gift for the B-movie nerd in your life.

Nemesis is coming to Blu-ray! Yes!


Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 2


S.M.A.R.T. Chase: This is some sort of action flick that Orlando Bloom made in China, and based on the flick’s imdb page and the trailer it looks like Bloom is the only “Western” actor in the cast. As far as I can tell, Bloom’s character is some sort of private mercenary security guy who has to rescue a Chinese antiquity from bad guys who want it instead. It doesn’t look great, but it looks watchable and is thusly rentable, just to see if it’s worth buying. I’m surprised that Bloom hasn’t done more action movie stuff. You’d think that would have happened after The Lord of the Rings. Anyone out there see this?


Alterscape: The great Michael Ironside stars in this low budget sci-fi bit of weirdness about a guy with depression who goes through a bunch of medical tests that mess with his mind. Or something like that. I don’t know, the trailer is messed up, and it sure as heck looks like the movie itself is messed up. In a good way. Maybe. Charles Baker plays the guy that goes through all of the tests, and imdb claims that Debbie Rochon is in the movie, too. That’s always cool. Rentable.


Tales from the Hood 2: The original Tales from the Hood was a terrific horror anthology movie from director Rusty Cundieff that came out in 1995. Twenty three years later we’re finally getting a sequel, with Keith David essentially playing the “Crypt Keeper” type character that the great Clarence Williams III played in the original. The trailer suggests that this sequel is a direct-to-video low budget affair, which is cool and fine, but it’s a shame that a bigger budgeted sequel didn’t happen. At least we have this, and if it’s a success maybe we’ll get another one. Or a TV show. That would be cool, too.


Who is the Douchebag of the Week? Go here and find out!


Next Issue: The 2018 October Horrorthon continues with The Drifter!



david j. moore
Jino Kang
Vladimir Kulich
Paul Mormando
Michael Matteo Rossi
Tyrone Magnus
Hector Barron
Jeffrey Orgill
Michael Baumgarten
R. Marcos Taylor
Don “The Dragon” Wilson
Paul Kyriazi
Eric Jacobus
Juju Chan
Luke LaFontaine
Marco Siedlemann
Sam Firstenberg
Amariah Olson
Alexander Nevsky
Mathias Hues
Kristanna Loken
Steve Mitchell
Albert Pyun
Brad Thornton
Mathieu Ratthe
Damien Power
Kelsey Carlisle
Mike Dwyer
Nicholas Bushman
Brahim Achabbakhe
Richard LeMay
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Eric Miller
Alexander Nevsky (2)
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James Mark
Casper Van Dien
Chris Mark
James E. Wilson
Barry Hunt
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Barry Hunt (2)
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Harry Mok
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Luke LaFontaine (2)
Roger Yuan
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Tim Gouran
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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Return of the Killer Shrews

James Best– Thorne Sherman
John Schneider– Johnny Reno
Bruce Davison– Jerry Farrell
Jennifer Lyons– Mickey
Sean Flynn– Derek
Jason-Shane Scott– Sam
Rick Hurst– Harold Rook
Jeneta St. Clair– Julie
Katherine Randolph– Lenora Mallard
Maggie Wagner– Stella
Holly Weber– Christine
Christopher Godman– Willard
Patrick Moran– Wally
David Browning– Neavis

Directed by Steve Latshaw
Screenplay by James Best, Steve Latshaw, Pat Moran, and Patrick Moran

Distributed by Quiver/Premiere

Runtime– 83 minutes