Welcome back! So, last month I started ranking some of my all-time favorite movies that feature all kinds of pests from rodents to bugs and everything in between. I’ve managed to pick 20 that I think are particularly chilling and that will likely have you reaching for the phone to call the pros at Western Exterminator the next time you see a cockroach.
As you might guess, the vast majority of these are horror films, but that isn’t always the case and the insects aren’t always scary. In fact, in this batch, as we look as numbers 14-10, there are adventure tales, a superhero movie and at least one comedy that make my top 20 best bug/pest films of all time.
So, without further ado, here are numbers 14-10:
14. Spider-Man (2002)
I was Spider-Man for several Halloweens in my younger dress-up days. When it comes to pests, well, Spidey is more of a hero. That’s the Catch-22 of Spider-Man. Sure, he became a hero, but he does so by getting bitten by a nasty spider. In the movie version Peter Parker is visiting a lab when a genetically-modified spider bites him.
Is there a spider lab where genetically-modified spiders might bite unsuspecting visitors? Do we really need genetically-modified spiders in the world? Is there a lab working on that right now? And, if so, where is it? (Hopefully not near my hometown). Well, unless they are creating Spider-Man, I hope they stop.
Despite the heroics, at least for me, it was hard to get past the terrariums full of spiders that dominate the first part of the film and that’s why it makes the list. Oh, and spiders are pretty cool, so watching Spidey spin a web has its moments, too.
13. Joe’s Apartment (1996)
They sing! They dance! They talk and they try to help Joe get a date, but the “they” I am speaking of are hundreds and thousands of cockroaches that yes, live with Joe in Joe’s Apartment. This is a movie that started out as a short film that played on MTV, was fairly popular, so someone decided to throw some money at it, get a celebrity in the title role, and make a full-length film.
Joe finds out that his apartment is infested with yes, tens of thousands of cockroaches who can talk and who engage in many musical numbers. Of course, after a few moments of trying to kill them all, he ultimately befriends them or at least they all agree to mutually co-exist. The fact that Joe is a bit of a slob endears him to the roaches and I guess helps him to not be as troubled by them as I know I would be.
Of course, when Joe brings a date over to the apartment, the roommates he has gotten used to aren’t quite so endearing to her and she flees screaming. There’s actually much more to it than this, so it’s a high ‘recommend’ on this list. This movie plays more like a life-like cartoon in many instances, with slapstick humor and some of it is kind of enjoyable. However, if your home has as many cockroaches as the apartment in this film, you may want to call someone. Just sayin’.
12. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
We are entering a short arachnid phase of the list, so be warned you squeamish folks. This is a classic story originally written by the great thriller, sci-fi and horror writer Richard Matheson. It was adapted by him for the big screen and is about a man who, while on a boating trip, passes through a strange cloud that starts the titular shrinking.
This movie is considered a classic of special effects and most of them still manage to hold up today. The main character, Scott, gets smaller and smaller, an effect created by larger and larger props, and as he gets smaller he becomes prey for many now larger beings and his danger quotient greatly increases.
This is where the pest comes in. Near the end Scott gets so small that he ends up pursued by a common house spider. The spider itself is very small, but to Scott it’s absolutely gigantic! When I saw this movie in my younger days, it terrified me as that spider closed in. However, with age and experience I’m over my spider aversion now, which is why Western Exterminator hosts the 6-week Spider Pavilion at the L.A. Natural History Museum every fall.
11. Eight-Legged Freaks (2002)
This one knew it was silly and then just went with it. I mean, the action all happens in a town named ‘Prosperity.’ You don’t have to be a sci-fi maven to predict that Prosperity probably won’t prosper much in this film.
Eight Legged Freaks follows all of the standard giant-monster-movie tropes, but does it with a wink and a nod that it’s not meant to be taken seriously. An accident, involving a rabbit no less, dumps toxic waste into a reservoir that a man who collects exotic spiders uses to find crickets for his pets. The crickets don’t ‘appear’ to be affected by the toxins, but of course, we know better. Our spider handler has all kinds of spiders, and once they eat the affected crickets, they not only turn deadly and aggressive, they start to grow to gargantuan proportions.
Of course, there’s a local kid that finds out early-on what is happening in Prosperity, but of course the adults around him don’t believe him, thus making some of them victims of the now enormous spiders. Scarlett Johansson plays a damsel in distress and local sheriff’s daughter. Before long the small Arizona mining town is overrun by giant spiders and only David Arquette’s character can save them. It’s fun and funny.
10. Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
Imagine Captain Kirk battling thousands of deadly tarantulas! Well, that’s sort of what this is. These days it has become something of a camp classic, but this is another one of those films I remember leaving me with nightmares when I first saw it (until I learned how cool spiders can be).
This is a man-versus-nature film where normally docile tarantulas, but in this scenario affected by the overuse of pesticides, learn to live together (in real life most spiders are cannibalistic and will gladly eat each other) and become highly aggressive and venomous.
Shatner plays a local veterinarian who is skeptical about the spiders, until he sees a giant “spider hill” behind a man’s house. Before long the spiders are attacking the town and we get scenes of people running screaming down the street covered in tarantulas and finding lots of deceased folks encased in webbing. It’s campy and silly much of the time, but some scenes, including the ending, are chilling.
OK, so there’s the next batch and we are getting closer and closer to my number one movie that will make you want to call an exterminator. Can you guess what my favorite is going to be? You might be surprised, but feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments.