Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Animals Attack Films

To honor the beginning of a new year, I’ve decided to give myself a little present: the most fun month of horror movie reviews I could possibly think of, which is to say that the next 31 days of Satanic Pandemonium will be devoted to animals attack films. Also know as eco-horror, creature features and natural horror, these movies are devoted to animals running amuck and killing humans. Usually they have low production values, bad acting, silly dialogue and nonsensical plots. And they are utterly delightful. 

There are dozens and dozens of animals attack films, so many that I could never possibly review them all in one month. To make things a little easier, I have set aside some rules about the kind of movies you will not see in the next month, but that I hope to cover at some point:

No movies before 1960. There are a lot of amazing ‘50s monster/killer animal movies - Mesa of Lost Women (1953), Them! (1954), Tarantula (1955), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), and Earth vs the Spider (1958), to name a few - but I think they deserve their own nuclear paranoia sub-genre. 
No movies after 1990, with two surprise exceptions, because it would cause me physical pain not to write about them. There are an absolute shitload of new, mostly terrible animals attack films, in part thanks to the abysmal SyFy network. I am not subjecting myself to SyFy channel movies. In general, newer films tend to focus on sharks, snakes, crocodiles or alligators, though there have mystifyingly been remakes of Willard (1971) and Piranha (1978). There are also a lot of giant-scary-animals-face-off movies, like Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009). 
No monster movies, which means nothing like the Godzilla series, King Kong (1933) or even things like Prophecy (1979) or The Boogens (1981). Only animals actually found in nature. 
I’m also avoiding movies that may have a loose animal theme, but are clearly other sub-genres, like dinosaur or prehistoric monster movies and animal-human hybrid films. This means no werewolves, nothing like Cat People (1942) or any of The Fly (1958) movies, and sadly no Sssssss (1973) or Hell Comes to Frogtown (1987).

Two final rules that might seem strange: No dog attack films and no horror movies with primates. I think the many available canine-themed horror films, like Cujo (1983) or Man’s Best Friend (1993), are about a different sort of fear, more domestic than the rest of the films on my list. No simian-themed films for the main reason that they are really their own sub-genre. And I also hate all apes and monkeys, with the exception of gorillas. Hate them.

There are quite a lot of animals attack movies, so for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to organize my reviews by species and stick to chronological order when possible.

Mammals Run Amok:
There aren’t a whole lot of mammals humans are naturally afraid of, other than predators, but there are still somehow a lot of mammal-centric horror movies.
Day of the Animals (1977) tries to cover all the animals in the mountains going berserk.
Long Weekend (1978), an Australian film, concerns a couple vacationing on a beach full of murderous creatures.
Black Zoo (1963) follows a animal-worshipping cult and a deadly zoo of trained killers.
Wild Beasts (1984) is perhaps the greatest and most bizarre of the animal mash-up films and concerns zoo animals running amuck after the local water supply is poisoned with PCP.
Grizzly (1976) is William Girdler's masterpiece (and Jaws' rip-off) about a giant, lethal, and enraged bear.
Daddy’s Deadly Darling (1972) concerns pigs as a means to dispose of corpses (pre-Hannibal)
Razorback (1984) is a surprisingly great Australian film about a wild boar causing mass-destruction

Bats and Rats, Oh My:
Nightwing (1979) depicts the bat rap given to vampire bats in the American Southwest
Willard (1971) and its sequel Ben (1972) concern a boy and his pet rats
The Food of the Gods (1976) is one of my favorite animals attack films and features a number of critters, including giant mutant rats
Deadly Eyes (1982) - Toronto is massacred by mutant rats
Of Unknown Origin (1983) - A man loses his marbles when he has to face off against rats invading his apartment
Rats: Night of Terror (1984) - This Italian mash-up of post-apocalyptic terror aka Mad Max meets a rats attack film with absolutely ridiculous results

Bunnies, Buffalo, and Cats:
Night of the Lepus (1972) - Bafflingly, a horror movie about evil bunnies was made, and it is glorious
The White Buffalo (1977) pits a cowboy Charles Bronson against a demented white buffalo
The Uncanny (1977) is an anthology film about how cats are inherently evil
Night of a Thousand Cats (1972) is not technically a cat-horror film, but I’m including it here because a couple hundred cats get furry revenge against their serial killer owner

Sharks Attack!:
Obviously the most popular sub-genre of animals attack films are shark movies. There are so many shark attack movies I probably could have done a month (or two) about them.
Jaws (1975) and the rest of the series - Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983) and Jaws: The Revenge (1987) - are obviously the most important here. The Italians, so quick to create entire sub-genres inspired by a single, successful film, have made many Jaws rip-offs. Tintorera (1977) - Jaws rip-off
Great White (1980) - another Jaws rip-off 
Monster Shark (1984) - another Jaws rip-off 
Deep Blood (1989) - is, surprise, another Jaws rip-off
Deep Blue Sea (1999) is a later effort that is enjoyable against all odds and includes a mind-blowing scene with Samuel L. Jackson

Blood-Thirsty Fish:
Piranha (1978) is a delightful entry about killer fish invading a summer camp
Orca (1977) - Because someone made a killer-killer whale movie
Tentacles (1977) is one of the lone early entries to cover the giant octopi/squid subgenre
The Beast (1996) is really another Jaws rip-off, this time with William Peterson against a giant squid

Killer Crocodilians, Snakes, and Frogs:
Sergio Martino’s The Great Alligator (1979) is enjoyable entry that sort of combines jungle horror with the animals attack genre
Alligator (1980) is the best of the lot and features a mutated beast named Ramon who rampages through New York City
Killer Crocodile (1989) is a lot more lackluster, but I had to watch it anyway 
Venom (1981) is only loosely an animals attack film, but concerns Oliver Reed and Klaus Kinski invading the home of a wealthy family; little do they know that a poisonous snake is loose in the house
The Bite (1989) must be seen to be believed
Frogs (1972) also exists, though frogs are admittedly high on my list of "least terrifying animals ever"

Arachnids and Insects:
As much as I love them, people are terrified by spiders, which means there are a lot of spider-themed horror movies: Horrors of Spider Island (1960), The Giant Spider Invasion (1975), Kiss of the Tarantula (1976), Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo (1977), and Arachnophobia (1990). I want to cover spiders/arachnids another time, but I had to include the best spider film ever made, Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
Insects are equally popular, particularly bees. For some reason there were a number of killer bees films in the ‘60s and ‘70s: The Deadly Bees (1966), Killer Bees (1974), The Bees (1978), but again, I'd also like to do insect films another time, so I focused on the best bee-horror film of all time, The Swarm (1978). I also included a little bee-related surprise. Other insects have also received attention, like hybrid beetles in
Bug (1975), one of the worst examples of the genre, concerns hybrid beetles
Phase IV (1974) is probably the finest (and most bizarre) killer ants movie, another subgenre with a baffling number of entries

It’s going to be a long and busy, though hopefully very fun month. If you think I forgot anything, please let me know. Otherwise, keep a look out for 31 days of gut-munching, man eating terror!

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