As far as "when animals attack"-type movies go, this one's actually pretty good. If "Grizzly" was William Girdler's "Jaws", this is probably his "The Birds". There are probably more shots of staring owls and vultures and other birds of prey in this film than any other in memory. But wait, there's more: a generous serving of tarantulas, snakes, big cats, bears, wild dogs, rats ... basically this film is Dr Doolittle's worst nightmare.
The plot (animals driven crazy by cosmic rays attack hikers) may sound simplistic, but at least Girdler cross-cuts between the different disaster-movie-type characters and their various subplots to maintain interest. (There's even a Shelley Winters clone.) He even manages to give a SLIGHTLY post-apocalyptic scope to the film, which is quite cool, with scenes of an abandoned town a la "The Andromeda Strain" and a deserted campsite whose occupants have obviously become lunch.
Media Blasters have done a very nice job with this DVD. While it lacks a commentary, it does at least offer a "making of" doco featuring interviews with surviving cast members (including Susan Backlinie, who became fish food at the start of "Jaws"), an original trailer, and TWO versions of the same film, one a 1.85:1 television master, and the other a 2.35:1 theatrical reissue under the title "Something Is Out There." The latter version is a fairly beaten-up print, but there's a kind of grindhouse beauty to its dust, scratches and splotches, and the aspect ratio is my personal pick over the cleaner, yet cropped 1.85:1 version. Which version you choose to watch comes down to whether you prefer a cleaner print or the proper OAR. However, the 2.35:1 version is missing some snippets of dialogue in which Leslie Nielsen's character insults a Native American character, one of which seems to have been edited out with a chainsaw, so jarring is the jump cut.
William Girdler's composition and widescreen camerawork are excellent, and the editing's pretty good, too, especially in the frenzied animal attack scenes. The wilderness scenery is beautiful, too. Girdler could have gone on to become a solid genre director like Peter Hyams if he'd lived past 30. We can only imagine what he could have done with modern filmmaking equipment and visual effects, but alas, his career was snuffed out just as he was starting to hit his straps.
The acting is adequate for a film like this and while the dialogue is not exactly William Goldman, it's serviceable.
* Spoilers *
There are some pretty wild scenes in this film that you probably wouldn't see if a similar film was made today. Without giving too much away, expect leaping rats, Leslie Nielsen going "Lord of the Flies" and turning into a homicidal rapist/bear wrestler (an UNFORGETTABLE scene), and a scene in which several characters are being attacked by savage German Shepherds WHILST ON A RAFT FLOATING DOWN WHITEWATER RAPIDS. I watched that sequence wondering how on earth they filmed it. One poor character is attacked by wild dogs AND rattlesnakes SIMULTANEOUSLY. When you see stuff like that, you can't quite believe what you're seeing, but it's very entertaining nonetheless.
Gore-wise, this film is nowhere near Eli Roth-level, but it does have some claret splashed around here and there. Young kids probably wouldn't cope with it too well, but anyone over about 13 should be fine.
Overall, a good effort, and a movie worthy of sharing shelf space with other '70s/'80s creature features like "Squirm", "Piranha", "Alligator" and so on.