Top 5 Animal Attack Horror Movies

Horror has a long tradition of animal attack gore. And it’s for good reason – we’ve been running away from beasties since the dawn of time.

Whether it’s a straightforward giant beast or a cryptozoological nightmare on the rampage, this one of my favourite horror sub-genres and unfortunately also one of the most underrated.

I’m not claiming that animal attack movies are fine art cinema (though Jaws is remarkable on many levels), but it is one of the more honest and straightforward genres. It’s also one of the hardest to screw up, yes even Piranha 3D (2010) and Sharknado (2013) are worth a look.

Animal attack horror doesn’t ask a lot of its audience and we don’t need a lot from the genre in order to be satisfied.  Just an animal, preferably one with big teeth, a brief story of why they’re on the prowl, gore, tension and comedy even if those laughs come only from how terrible a film is.  If we’re very lucky, there’ll also be at least a hint of a sequel.

Here are 5 animal attack horror films that deliver on all bases.

Source: Universal Pictures

Jaws (1975)

Directed by Stephen Spielberg
Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw

Based on the novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws is the ultimate classic not only as an animal attack horror movie, but as a horror movie in general.  It has all of the hallmarks of perfect horror – a powerful and deadly  menace made all the more creepy by the fact that we rarely get to see the whole shark (which was, incidentally nicknamed Bruce, after Spielberg’s lawyer); a careful balance of fun loving innocent scenes juxtaposed with glorious brutality; and perfect tension building music. Oh that music!  If John Williams never composed again after that, he could have lived a happy man knowing he had made a faultless score. Jaws is such a no brainer entry in the Top 5 list, you don’t even need a plot run down.  Forty plus years after its initial release, Jaws is still the King of Animal Horror, while all others drown in its wake.  Maybe also the only animal attack horror movie to win not only one, but three Oscars. Yes, one was for Best Original Score.

 

Source: Dimension Films

Rogue (2007)

Directed by Greg McLean
Starring Radha Mitchell, Sam Worthington, John Jarratt, Stephen Curry, Michael Vartan.

I really didn’t need any further encouragement to be terrified of these prehistoric monsters…

This Australian horror is about a bunch of tourists on an outback croc spotting tour who encounter the rogue bull croc, an enormous, deadly and freakishly cunning beast who tracks them through the waters, sinks their boat and picks them off one by one.  Radha Mitchell is great as the tour guide doing her best to keep everyone safe calm, and not to get eaten herself, and it’s a good opportunity to watch a pre-Avatar Sam Worthington actually using some of his remarkable talent. The rest of the cast is dotted with well known Aussie faces, as well as Michael Vartan playing the requisite American city slicker tourist.  Rogue was fairly light on the gore, but heavy on the tension and menace and a definite edge-of-your-seat factor.  Not nearly as good as McLean’s Wolf Creek (2005) in the broader horror department, but definitely up there for scary critter films.

 

Source: Columbia Pictures

Anaconda (1997)

Directed by Luis Llosa
Starring Jon Voight, Jennifer Lopez, Eric Stoltz, iCe Cube

Compared to Jaws and Rogue, Anaconda is significantly B-Grade but when we’re talking horror movie, B-Grade can often be a lot more effective for the genre.  Anaconda is like Rogue but with giant snakes instead of crocs and the Amazon instead of Kakadu. A documentary film crew takes off down the river in search for a possibly mythical tribe.  Along the way the encounter snake expert, anaconda bounty hunter, and oddly enough former priest, Serone, and more than enough killer snakes to keep even the most blood thirsty horror fans happy. Voight was great as Serone, almost as scary as the snakes, and while the rest of the characters might have been played by any other actors, no one is guilty of too bad a performance. Some cheesy snake effects will also add a few laughs to this generally enjoyable movie.

 

Source: Sunn Classic Pictures. TAFT Entertainment Pictures

Cujo (1983)

Directed by Lewis Teague
Starring Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly and Danny Pintauro

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Cujo is the tale of the poor old family Saint Bernard who sticks his nose down the wrong hold and gets bitten by a rabid bat.  The enormous and very, very sick dog  then runs wild and rabid terrorising and killing the family and neighbours.

I’ve never felt more sorry for a monster than I did watching Cujo.  Frightening as the poor dog was, he’s just the victim of an irresponsible pet owner.  It’s all very horrifying for more than just the blood and gore and getting killed by an enormous rabid dog factor. Cujo is also a good lesson that if you don’t take care of your pets, you deserve to have your face torn off. Simple, really.

 

Source: Silver Nitrate Pictures. Columbia TriStar

Frankenfish (2004)

Directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé
Starring Tory Kittles, K.D. Aubert, China Chow

Now we’re talking B-Grade, and that’s being generous.  Frankenfish makes no apologies for being a ridiculous romp of violence, gore, nudity and unlikely scenarios and for that, it’s awesome.  Here we have the tale of a genetically modified monster  fish, a biological experiment gone horribly wrong, chowing down on the locals in Louisiana swamp territory. That’s really about all you need to know, but really what else do you need?  Frankenfish also boasts a brilliantly tacky ending that screams for a sequel which as far as I can hasn’t been made. Yet. Frankenfish is pure schlock fun.

And a few that didn’t make the cut but still deserve a mention:

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (2002) – A straight to video absolutely shocking movie and all the more enjoyable because of it. If ginormous, prehistoric sharks aren’t your thing, watch it for the hilariously bad dialogue alone. Doctor Who and Torchwood fans need to watch it for John Barrowman.

Congo (1995) – more of an action adventure than straight out animal attack horror.  More of those freaky gorillas and it would have rated. A great movie nonetheless.

Sharknado (2013) – Sharknado didn’t make this official list because, well, it’s TERRIBLE! But it’s meant to be. This film is a fascinating artefact in that it’s chomped a firm place into pop culture in itself and its slew of sequels and imitators, simply by trying to be a bad movie. And while it succeeds in that on every level (just watch it for the hilariously shocking use of stock film), it’s actually a perfectly constructed story.

Are you a fan of the genre? What’s your favourite animal attack horror film?

Are you NOT a fan of the genre? Why?

Kate Krake

Kate Krake

Kate Krake is an Australian speculative fiction writer, the author of the dark urban fantasy series, Guessing Tales. Kate also writes non-fiction for authors. Find out more on www.katekrake.com.
Kate Krake

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