Sharks, dogs, rats, snakes, even earthworms. Any one of them (being big enough, or with enough of their friends) can kill you dead…quickly. The animal world is pretty much a bastard with big teeth and an insatiable appetite waiting to eat whatever lesser life form comes across its path. Piranha 3DD is the newest reminder of that.
Everyone loves their favorite pet and can’t get enough of happy little penguins or otters or other cute creatures, but the truth is animals can be simply brutal. Just keep that little fact in the back of your mind the next time you bend down to pet a strange dog. Snap! Goodbye nose. With that in mind, and with Piranha 3DD hitting the open waters, isn’t it only fitting that we would take a look back at the Top 13 Killer Animal Films of All Time?!?!
Of course we mustn’t forget our honorable mentions! Who could forget such great animalistic frights like Wolfen, Of Unknown Origin and Mulberry Street? Some great animal horror films have that element of humor that bring a whole different form of entertainment to the story like Sharktopus (a personal guilty pleasure) and Snakes on a Plane. But perhaps the most effective animal attack films are the ones that take place in the water, where we are at our most vulnerable, such as Rogue and Deep Blue Sea. But those are just the HMs! Now dig in (in no particular order…but honestly most of the better ones are near the end) to the Top 13!
Might as well start right here, the film that was the original inspiration for this new series of Piranha 3D films. Joe Dante directed this bastard child of Jaws that took the aquatic threat out of the ocean and put it into the river, thus expanding the number of people certain to be freaked out. For some reason whenever the government begins experimental weaponization of anything, calamity ensures and Operation: Razorteeth was no different. Let’s see…combine man-eating fish with government intervention. Bad idea. This horrifically bloody, edge-of-your-seat adventure is campy and fun and makes you think twice before dipping your tootsies in even the most serene bodies of water. Nom nom nom.
When are we going to learn to stop antagonizing the quirkiest folks among us? I guess along those same lines, when are the quirkiest among us going to realize that things like training rats to do your evil bidding is pretty much a lousy idea. Neither of these rather easy to grasp lessons were heeded very well in Willard. Bruce Davison plays the outcast title character masterfully as he befriends and trains his vermin-filled army to do his nutsy bidding before they eventually turn on him. Can’t trust a rat, Willard. You, of all people, should have known that.
Okay, everybody hates snakes, right? I know there are those of you out there that are the exception to the rule, you’ve got 20 ball pythons in fish tanks around your house, but as a general observation, I think it’s safe to say the majority of the public would like to spend as much time away from snakes as possible. But what about earthworms? Very snakelike, but somehow they don’t get the same bad rap as their larger brethren. However, anyone who’s ever had the chance to dig Squirm knows that those wiggly little devils, in large enough numbers, can be just as deadly as anything. As for me, I don’t even like fishing because of the whole worm on the hook process, so millions of earthworms shocked into a murderous frenzy by a giant bolt of electricity is more than I would care to deal with. Thanks for calling.
The Birds (1963)
Can’t forget this classic. Alfred Hitchcock made people feeding flocks of birds in parks and on the beach think twice before they busted out that bag of bread crumbs. Tippi Hedren stars as one of the original masters of horror weaves a shocking tale. The great thing about this film is that it takes something previously looked at as beautiful and serene, a flock of soaring birds, and puts that uncomfortable thought into the mind of those who had seen the film. Instead of strolling through the park thinking ‘Look at that beautiful flock of birds…how lovely.’ those who’ve experienced the movie think. ‘Look at that beautiful flock of birds…let’s get the fuck out of here, just in case.’ Now that’s brilliant horror!
How anyone can watch this film and not smile all the way through it is beyond me. From Danny Trejo’s (pre-Machete) obligatory early film death scene to Jon Voight’s totally random and unidentifiable accent to the fact that the cast is made up of players that became superstars, Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Owen Wilson and even Eric Stoltz, Anaconda is just pure joy in my book. Yeah, it’s basically just a boatload of people trying to avoid a giant man-eating snake, but it does take the time to delve into the man vs. man conflict that so often arises when man finds himself in conflict with anything else. Anaconda is just a jolly good time!
Every intelligent movie watcher tries to take a lesson away from each film they view. Sometimes the filmmakers hide the lesson within the folds of the film, urging the savvy viewer to seek it out. Other times the message is quite clear, as is the case in Alligator. The message this film is broadcasting is simple…for god’s sake don’t flush baby alligators that you purchase on vacation down your toilet because sooner or later they are going to come across some wonky experimental growth chemical in the sewer, grow to 36 feet long and terrorize Chicago. As life lessons go, this is a pretty good one to keep close to your heart. Alligator is another fun, giant-beast-on-the-rampage film that has spent its existence getting audiences to cheer for the monster as it makes its way through a pile of tasty bodies.
Lake Placid (1999)
Everything about Alligator was ramped to a ridiculous level in Lake Placid. Another animal attack flick with a pretty impressive cast which included Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson and the unforgettable Betty White. Any film that has the former “Golden Girls” star utter the line “If I had a dick, this is where I’d tell you to suck it!” is golden in my book! Lake Placid was a creature feature on performance enhancing drugs. Great comedy, awesome monster and a story with a quality twist. What more can you ask for in a good killer croc pic?
Kingdom of the Spider (1977)
Okay, so theoretically this list is supposed to be about killer animals. We recently had our Top 10 Creepy Crawly films for the bug infestation enthusiasts out there, but Kingdom of the Spiders is just too…je ne sais quoi…to leave off the animal attack list. William Shatner is so perfect in this role as he battles legions upon legions of tarantulas! Ugh. Any film that hires ‘Mexican spider wranglers’ and pays them $10 for every eight-legged beastie they can deliver is off to a good, icky start. The picture was filmed for $500,000, the aforementioned Mexican spider wranglers managed to procure 5,000 (that’s right, five thousand friggin’ tarantulas!), so doing the math (…carry the five…) $50,000, or 10 percent of Kingdom of the Spiders’ total budget, was spent on hairy-legged extras (spiders, not hippie chicks). Bleech!
Grizzly Man (2005)
You may not have seen this one coming, but yeah, it doesn’t really get much more horrific than this. A delusional, crazy-guy with a bit of a hubris problem, filming hours upon hours of himself playing with grizzly bears, until…big surprise here…the big muther truckers decide that his entertainment value is not nearly as high as his nutritional value. I’ll let you all make your shocked faces here. For those of you unfamiliar with the film, Grizzly Man is a documentary about grizzly enthusiast Timothy Treadwell who filmed himself interacting with grizzly bears in Alaska for 13 years…and then they ate him and his girlfriend. Fin. Filmmaker Werner Herzog was alert enough to realize that this legitimate found footage would make a compelling story. And he was right. Another film just trying to teach a lesson. Stay the hell away from grizzly bears because if they want to eat you, you’re gonna be food. You can’t outrun them, can’t outswim them. Try climbing a tree? Good luck with that. Learn from Treadwell’s mistakes, do not feed the bears!
Jurassic Park (1993)
Now we’re getting into the heavy hitters. Jurassic Park, technically maybe a monster movie, but since dinosaurs did exist at one time (at least that’s what those smarty-pants scientists are always telling us) I think they can make the list…even if it’s a genetically engineered version of the creatures. Watching JP for the first time was an absolutely mind-blowing experience. The sights and sounds (perhaps only Mercedes McCambridge as Pazuzu’s voice in The Exorcist demonstrated a more terrifying use of sound than the unforgettable T. Rex roar). This was a Herculean undertaking by the filmmakers who came out on the other side looking like heroes. Jurassic Park is simply an amazing film that spawned countless sequels, imitators and video games, but nothing could ever match that first look at the creatures as we could feel the exact emotion that Laura Dern brought to life on the screen. Beautiful.
King Kong (1933)
“Oh, no, it wasn’t the airplanes…it was Beauty killed the Beast.” Damn women. Can’t live with them, can’t kidnap them and climb the Empire State Building while swatting fighter planes before crashing to your death. What’s a guy to do? Talk about iconic…they don’t get much bigger and bolder than the big ape. King Kong was the ultimate animal on the rampage. But where most of the other entries on this list were driven by either rage or hunger or an innate desire to kill, Kong was different. He was driven by a desire to protect…well, there was a lot of smashing in there too, but Kong had a good heart. A landmark film that would pave the way for tons of giant beast to come. Nearly 80 years later, the name King Kong is still as prevalent and memorable as when he arrived on the scene so many moons ago.
Some of Stephen King’s best, and most horrific moments, come when he’s dealing with claustrophobic situations. He loves to let the voyeuristic reader peek in on a helpless victim trapped in a nearly hopeless situation…Misery, The Shining, Gerald’s Game all deal with situations where the character can’t leave…trapped. Perhaps no one was more completely trapped and utterly helpless than the great Dee Wallace in Cujo. Pinned into a tiny car with her son by a rabid St. Bernard was a shitty situation. Realizing no one is coming for you while the sun pounds down on the car is even worse. Cujo was the ultimate nightmare for anyone uncomfortable around dogs. And, like King Kong, the name itself, Cujo, is still part of the lexicon. You can still refer to a big, scary dog as Cujo and people, horror fan or not, will know exactly what you’re talking about. It’s almost exhausting to watch the film as you can feel the tension and the heat in that car. Brilliant movie making.
Could there be any other film at the end of this list? Jaws changed the game. Forget about oceans or lakes or rivers, I was personally afraid to go in the swimming pool as a youngster after seeing this thing. And I think there are plenty of you out there who can say the same thing (I hope so at least). It’s the epitome of a slow-burn, giving you just enough each time as the film winds on. Even the soundtrack is legendary. And the great white shark is such a perfect vehicle to drive a horror film…black soulless eyes, a mouth full of teeth that look like they were just randomly jammed in there by a manic toymaker. The great white shark…the perfect killer, and Jaws the perfect animal attack film.
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