Bees?

…why are bees in so many horror movies?

No, seriously: Why? There are certain animals I understand as a source of fear that would naturally lend themselves to being the basis of a horror film. Sharks? Totally get it. They can literally eat you. Granted, there’s only ever really been one good shark movie, but, you know, I can see why people would still try. Same thing goes for lions, tigers, and bears. Pretty much any sort of large predator, anything that can hunt and kill a person, I understand the logical progression that a mind can take into formulating a narrative out of that. It’s primal.

But bees?

Look, I get it. Allergies exist. Stings hurt. Bees can be dangerous, and people are scared of them. But to formulate an entire horror movie around them? I legitimately can’t tell if that’s genius or moronic.

Sometimes, their inclusion in horror films makes a little sense. In these instances, they tend not to be the focal point, but rather a stylistic inclusion, signaling the arrival of something else. Or other times, they’re used for one specific scene only, usually as a murder weapon (bizarrely enough). But even under these looser and more forgiving circumstances, it’s still baffling that bees are such a source of death and destruction.

Here are just a few of the more egregious examples.

The Bees

Financed by the B-movie king himself, Roger Corman, The Bees is one of the most wonderfully insane movies to come out of the 1970s – which is a massive achievement. Starring genre staple John Saxon (who you may know as Nancy’s dad in the Nightmare on Elm Street films), The Bees follows the real-life hysteria generated by the arrival of Africanized ‘killer’ bees to North America in the mid 20th century. Piggybacking off this media storm, the film is centered on a dangerous swarm of these supposedly-dangerous bees, who wind up mutated due to radiation and become supremely intelligent as a result. It’s schlocky as hell, but undeniably entertaining, and ends with – I kid you not – the hyper-aware swarm addressing the United Nations. It’s a stunning piece of no-doubt cocaine-fueled 70s cheese, and definitely worth a watch.

The Swarm

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum of The Bees, we have The Swarm which was coincidentally released the same year in 1978. Whereas The Bees at least seems slightly aware of how ridiculous it is, The Swarm, unwisely, opts to approach its subject matter with deathly seriousness, to disastrous effects. Again capitalizing on ‘killer bee’ hysteria, The Swarm is about a massive, cloud-sized mass of the hostile insects as they roam the American countryside, ravaging everything in their path and killing hoards of fleeing citizens. The film follows the brave US soldiers who try and combat this growing threat. It’s exactly as dumb as it sounds. Notable for being one of the worst-reviewed films of the decade (again, a major accomplishment), the film features the second worst film appearance of Michael Caine. The first, of course, being Jaws: The Revenge. Hopefully, he got a house out of this one, too.

Candyman

Moving on to something a little less bee-centric, we have the 1992 urban-gothic classic Candyman. Here, the crafty little bugs aren’t so much the villains of the piece as much as an omen of the real danger’s presence, the villainous and vengeful Daniel Robitaille – aka, The Candyman. The son of a former slave, Robitaille fell in love with the daughter of a rich white man, who sent a lynch mob after him for this outrageous crime. The mob cut off his right hand, and smeared him with honey, attracting a swarm of bees that stung him to death. Now a wrathful spirit who appears to anyone that summons him, the Candyman’s arrival is heralded by a ghostly swarm of bees and the scent of honey. Here, the bees are used as a greater part of a wider, allegorical mythology, and probably represent their most economical and thematically appropriate usage in a horror film.

The Wicker Man

The bees! Not the bees! AAAAGGH” -Nicholas Cage, The Wicker Man

This one’s self-explanatory, I think.

Sleepaway Camp

Honestly, if there’s any place where something as ridiculous as using a beehive as a murder weapon is perfectly in line with a film’s tone, it’s Sleepaway Camp. The scene in question is incredibly dumb and goofy, and still doesn’t even crack the top ten most insane, goofy things that happen in this movie. Amidst a sea of other inventive, questionably sane methods of murder we see throughout this 80 minute fever dream (including a hot curling iron being shoved somewhere unmentionable), the mysterious killer tosses an active – and very angry – beehive into a bathroom stall and barricades the door, leaving the poor teenage victim to suffer death by a thousand stings. As preposterous as it looks and sounds, I suppose it’s actually possible – provided you’re insane enough to walk around with an angry beehive in your hands without them killing you first.

Guys, you wouldn’t believe how many others are out there. Stung, Swarmed, Deadly Invasion, Royal Jelly, and, like, eight different movies called Killer Bees. All terrible, all about bees for some insane reason. As much as I love horror, I guess this just proves that they’ll literally make them about anything.

And of course, let’s not forget the most terrifying of all:

Happy Halloween!

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