As the spookiest day of the year (Halloween) approaches, people start talking about what actually scares them the most. We’ve run several articles this month discussing horror films from multiple genres (Comedy, Sci-Fi, Thriller) and then we covered a list of “fun for everyone” Halloween films.
In too many instances people focus on the alien, zombie, ghost and slasher films to represent the horror genre – and while those are all truly frightening topics for films, I think that ultimately one of the scariest horror sub-genres often gets overlooked: Animals gone crazy!
Whether it’s by land, sea or air, creatures of every imaginable size and shape have terrorized us for decades. Some are exotic animals, others are extinct beasts brought back to life by the magic of Hollywood, while still others hit closer to home and make us question if we should even own a pet. Come join me now and see if your favorite beast film made the list as we discuss the animals that scare us.
Let’s just start off with the heavy-hitter that made the phrase “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” a classic movie line. Well before the Discovery Channel had ever thought about Shark Week, Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider all teamed up to make sharks scary in Jaws. Set to a classic John Williams score that still holds up today (more than thirty years later) people all over the world are still apprehensive about going into the water for fear of sharks. No one can even mention the name Jaws without thinking “Dun Duh! Dun Duh! Dun Duh!”
Spielberg’s film Jaws would be “sequeled” to death, but none would ever reach the classic status of the original.
PIRANHA – 1978
OK, so maybe you aren’t scared by creatures in the ocean because you live in the Midwest and the closest thing to a body of water near you is a big fresh water lake. Go ahead, strip to your skivvies, grab your boyfriend or girlfriend and jump in – I just hope you don’t mind being torn apart by thousands of tiny flesh-ripping teeth belonging to genetically altered, government created Piranha. For a movie that never showed the actual animal(s), Joe Dante’s Piranha managed to convince most Americans that piranha fish could and do survive in North American lakes and rivers. There’s a 3D remake coming out soon directed by Alexandre Aja, and we can only hope it is as convincing as the original.
LAKE PLACID – 1999
“But Paul,” you say, “I never actually go into the water, ocean or lake, so I’m safe right?” Fair enough; to answer that question, I now give you Lake Placid and its giant man-eating alligator. Full of a list of recognizable and decent actors (Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt, Mariska Hargitay and a foul-mouthed Betty White) Lake Placid provided some truly memorable moments in horror. To this day, doing something as innocent and “safe” as taking a canoe ride or fishing off the bank of a lake makes me think about a giant pre-historic reptile jumping out and chomping me up. Argue this point if you want, but I still say Betty White had the best performance of anyone in this movie.
FROGS – 1972
It’s time to start transitioning from water to land animals, and what better way to do that than with an amphibian? Frogs represents one of those truly classic animal horror films where logic is thrown to the wind and phobias begin to seep into the mix. Starring Ray Milland and Sam Elliot, director George McCowan manages to take a low-budget horror film about something smaller than my hand and turn it into a cult classic. Why should we be afraid of a frog in the garden? Because the frog will eat you, that’s why! Fed up with being mistreated and targeted for termination by a local farmer, the frogs take matters into their own hands and bring down vengeance in a way that will make you look at Kermit in a whole different light.