Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Mike Conway, Keri Draper, Shawna McSheffrey, Kevin Preece
Directed by Brett Kelly
I’ll confess right upfront that I’ve never been that big a fan of Attack of the Giant Leeches. I put it in the category of one of those movies with a fun concept that you really want to like a lot more than you actually do. Even the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" episode bored me to tears. It’s been so long since I’ve even seen the film I can barely remember much about it aside from a good deal of swampy soap opera melodrama and man-sized leeches sucking the life out of people. I do distinctly remember the original boasting one-dimensional characters, more droning dialogue than action, and a complete lack of dramatic tension.
When I read that a remake of this 1959 Roger Corman-produced creature feature was in the works, even an ultra low budget shot-on-digital 21st Century version, I figured this could be fun. I mean how hard would it be to improve upon the original? Therein lies the problem with this Attack of the Giant Leeches redo from writing-directing team Brett Kelly and Jeff O’Brien: They haven’t improved upon it. If anything, their version is just a modernized version of the exact same film shot in color with maybe a touch of self-awareness. There’s not even much by way of extra gore or nudity to make it really stand out from its forerunner.
As I said, my memory of the specifics of the original is sketchy at best, but a lot of what I saw here felt very familiar, and none of it struck me as new or improved. Not entirely the same; not entirely different either. There’s a love triangle involving a cheating wife and her jealous shotgun-toting husband. There’s a heroic game warden, his own love interest, and her ex-boyfriend who happens to be the sheriff. Giant leeches in the swamp are draining townspeople dry. Since the remake is clearly as much loving homage as it is a new movie, should it be considered a success or failure that Kelly and company have recreated the same sense of one-dimensional characters, droning dialogue over action, and almost complete lack of dramatic tension? It clocks in about 15 minutes longer than the barely hour-long original, too. With the exception of the guy playing the scientist father of the love interest, they did all this with what appears to be even worse acting. In all honesty, the biggest improvement Kelly has made is that this version isn’t a total bore.
And I don’t know what Kelly was going for or why he thought it was a good idea to give his film this visual look that made me feel like I was watching a video on the Internet that was having minor streaming issues. If this was somehow an attempt to recreate the flickering visual look of a choppy old film print, I’m afraid it only succeeded in being distracting.
One thing that has definitely been improved upon are the giant leech effects. The trade-off, though, is that while the rubbery puppet leeches look more realistic, they lack the hokey charm of those people in decorated trash bags used in the original. The campy nature of those giant leeches is what makes the original memorable in the first place. Kelly does pull off two successful jump scares involving these enlarged leeches, but overall, his staging of the leech attacks proves disappointingly routine in more of a modern nature gone amok movie way than a Fifties monster movie sort of way.
Call me a stickler; there’s also something quizzical about doing a remake of a movie called Attack of the Giant Leeches and the giant leeches in the remake appear smaller in size than those in the original.
The overriding conundrum that bugged me all throughout this remake was simply wondering why. Why do a remake of an ultra low budget bad movie from half a century ago if you’re not really going to try to make a better version of that film, go so far as to try and recreate aspects of the badness, and not even do so in an overtly campy fashion. Even as someone known for being an aficionado of bad movies, I just don’t understand this. I guess it just boils down to the one nagging question that kept going through my mind when it was over, sort of the same question I had in regards to Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake: If I really want to watch Attack of the Giant Leeches, then why wouldn’t I just watch the original?
2 out of 5
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