Attack of the Garbage Bag Men! I mean Giant Leeches!

I was reading some of X-Entertainment’s old movie reviews the other day, which were, if you weren’t already aware, the inspiration for this blog. You really can’t find writing like that any more. Even DinoDrac doesn’t have that same tone. But that’s what time does. The internet is a much different place than in was in 2002. Thoughtfully-written websites and blogs are gone in favour of mindless Tweets and Facebook statuses. Luckily, things tend to stick around forever on here.

Reading those old reviews sparked my will to write, and my initial inspiration was to write a big long blog post about why I don’t watch movies any more. But that very quickly became a huge mess of partial thoughts and poorly-described neuroses. So I burned it down and tried to create a shorter, point-form version of it. That ended up in pretty much the same boat, so I axed it as well.

Then I had a flash of brilliance: Why not actually just watch a movie and then review it?

The problem was where to start. The frightening truth is that I haven’t watched about a quarter of the movies I own. There was a lot to choose from. But it had to be something reviewable. And by that, I mean corny and easy to make fun of. I figured that I’d already set a precedent, so I might as well try something else from the Roger Corman box set.

And that’s why you’re going to read about Attack of the Giant Leeches today.

I hope you like intros that take up a good quarter of the review, because this movie is only an hour long, and there really isn’t a whole lot going on in it. It’s in the Roger Corman box set, but he was only a co-producer for it. It’s not even listed in his Wikipedia filmography. Seems like a bit of stretch, especially when there are plenty of other similar movies out there that he was a bigger part of.

Anyway, this one starts off with some hick rambling through a swamp (during the dead of night) with a jug of moonshine glued to his hand. I don’t remember what he was up to. Hunting gators maybe? Did I accidentally put in the Hatchet DVD? Anyway, Billy Bob here sees some weird thing in the water. And by weird thing, I mean totally indistinguishable to the viewer. It could have been a dirty old section of carpet for all we know. Billy Bob shoots the thing repeatedly and breathes a sigh of relief (in between swigs of moonshine). That object floating harmlessly in the swamp is now chock-full of lead. Another job well done.

Then the main titles happen. I don’t know if there was anything going on at this point, behind the credits. I’ll be honest, I was actually playing Super Smash Bros for 3DS with the movie on in the background. So this is less of a “review” than me sort of trying to recall what happened and then making poor jokes about said hypothetical content.

Ol’ Drunky Shootsalot ambles back into a bar or something to tell all of his friends about his close encounter with the shagged kind. Of course, nobody believes him. The proprietor of the bar takes a moment to yell at his wife for playing her music too loud, and then promptly scurries into the bedroom after her, where he proceeds to apologize and beg forgiveness for that display of raw manhood. I should mention that he is an ugly tub with pants pulled up to his man-boobs and she’s a smoking hot pinup model. Apparently this grossly mismatched pairing was a trope long before sitcoms?

I can’t remember a single character’s name from this movie, so let’s go ahead and call this couple Tom and Betty. Betty clearly despises her husband, and in a following scene, we find out that she’s been having a steamy affair with the town hunk, whom I’ll call Bertrand. Bert and Betty go off to have a sexy picnic… next to the swamp. Wha… why even? Why would you have a picnic in a swamp? I don’t think the exact location of the movie is said, but there’s a swamp and hillbillies and much ado about gators, so I’d place them in Florida somewhere. Possibly Georgia. Regardless of location though, there’s got to be a better place to have a picnic. The heat and mosquitoes alone would easily kill any sexiness of a swamp picnic.

Tom just happens to be tromping through the swamp. Poaching gators, possibly. He stumbles upon Betty and Bert’s sexy picnic and overhears her say that she was in an abusive relationship before, and after getting out of it (good for her!), she married the first guy who was nice to her (not so great). Tom isn’t happy about this, and even less so about her fooling around behind his back. He chases the two of them through the swamp at gunpoint, and just as Bert messes his pants in fear and agrees to stay away from Betty forever, the two are mysteriously dragged into the swamp to their apparent deaths.

I guess it should be noted that earlier on, Betty had snuck out to meet another lover in the swamp, but he was all eaten up by some sort of mysterious creature! That brings Joe Wildlife into the picture. He’s some kind of forest ranger, and he’s assigned to check out the swamp when the rangers hear about the reports of a dead guy with sucker marks all over his body. Joe assumes it was an octopus, but then his boss calls him an idiot because an octopus’ suckers are just suckers; this guy’s blood was drained out from these marks. After setting up a home base in the home of his girlfriend and her father (Sally and Old Fred), Joe starts poking around the swamp.

Betty and Bert’s deaths rile up the whole town. Tom is accused and arrested, and he hangs himself in his cell. Meanwhile, Joe and Sally’s investigation has hit a dead end. After a quick consultation, Old Fred decides that he wants to blow up the swamp, since the bodies were never found and explosives could bring them to the surface, why not? Joe says no, because he’s a stinking hippie and refuses to harm any wildlife. Two more hicks go canoeing and are dragged into the water by what looks like men draped in garbage bags. There’s a scene with torches and pitchforks, but I wasn’t paying attention at that point so I don’t know what it has to do with anything.

It’s about this time that we learn that Betty and Bert are still half-alive, captive in a cave under the swamp where the garbage bag men occasionally show up to feast on their blood. The garbage bag men are actually supposed to be the titular leeches, though my description isn’t too far off. They literally look like men draped in Hefty bags, with some white painted highlights and some sort of sucker apparatus glued to their faces. Alternatively, Bizarro KKK members. The leeches drop off their two newest victims, suckle a little blood out of them, and then swim off.

With the death toll mounting quickly, Old Fred decides that he’s got to blow up the swamp despite Wildlife Joe’s orders not to. The explosives go boom and somehow shake the three men’s bodies out of the leech cave and up to the surface. I haven’t got the foggiest idea how that worked. It boggles the mind.

I also want to note that I have no idea what gives Old Fred the authority to just go chucking dynamite into the swamp all willy-nilly. He’s got a nice home, and he dresses better than any other character while he’s indoors, so maybe he’s the mayor or something? Maybe nobody but Joe cares about the environment or proper dynamite safety? If it was explained, it went straight over my head.

Now that [most of] the bodies are found and Tom’s ghost is exonerated, people start freaking the heck out because every body was drained of blood and covered in weird sucker marks. Wildlife Joe goes to arrest Old Fred for blowing up the swamp, but then Old Fred manages to confuse and misdirect Joe, who forgets why he came in the first place and then rushes out to hunt down the giant leeches.

Joe, who apparently has enough chest hair to look like he’s wearing a sweater when topless, strips down to his speedo, along with some other nerd who I don’t recall seeing before this scene. The two put on some scuba gear and dive into the depths of the swamp, looking for the leech cave. For some reason, Betty’s body shuffles itself out of the leech cave and bubbles up to the surface, along with some gratuitous Dead Girl Cameltoe. Hot stuff. Joe and his hunky friend have a ten-second knife battle with a leech underwater, and then escape to shore.

Meanwhile, Sally and Old Fred (now with a stupid hat) discuss how atomic radiation from Cape Canaveral must have mutated some animals, and that’s where the leeches came from. Because they were launching rockets there and whatnot. Because that makes sense. Because rockets in the 1950s were powered by atomic energy. (I’m pretty sure that they were not, at least I couldn’t find an example of one that went beyond the testing phase.)

Once Joe and his pal make it to shore, they blow up the swamp again, which instantly kills the remaining leech. And possibly the one that the guys knifed up; it was unclear whether they’d killed it or not. Regardless, both leeches are dead now, and the town can finally rest easy. Notably, the movie does not end the moment the leech body bubbles up to the surface, like so many other monster movies of the time. There’s less than a minute between the dead leech and the fade to black, but it’s still got more sense of closure than many old monster movies I’ve watched, which tend to end abruptly as soon as the creature dies.

In summation, Attack of the Giant Leeches is a passable film at best. Like most monster movies, it whiles away a lot of time with unimportant people and their uninteresting problems, but it doesn’t really win you back with the monsters. The leeches aren’t even goofy enough to be funny or iconic, they’re just lame. I mean, they’re leeches for God’s sake. Gross, but ultimately not very scary. At the very least, it’s not overly stupid. Aside from the atomic rocket radiation thing, there isn’t too much in the way of bad science fiction or human stupidity to muck things up.

They did miss a perfect opportunity to have a character run around with some manner of giant salt shaker though, which is definitely a strike against. Also, not enough terrible leech puns. That really sucked.

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