Syfy has an interesting history. Once known as the Sci-Fi Channel and rechristened in 2009, the cable network has long been home to some of the most outlandish B-movie fare on television. The kinds of fantasy, horror and, of course, science-fiction cinema that Syfy specializes in stretches the limits not only of reality, but of the imagination as well. But of all these genres, over the years Syfy has really honed in on and perfected the monster movie. If you were to name any beast, real or mythical, from Yetis and Bigfoot to bugs and reptiles, it’s almost guaranteed that Syfy has put it onscreen in a wild feature film.
Perhaps the best known of these films is Sharknado from 2013, which chronicles the aftermath of a cyclone that harvests sharks from the sea and spews them all over downtown Los Angeles. The film spawned two sequels: Sharknado 2: The Second One released in 2014, and Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! released in 2015. On July 31, the beloved franchise will receive a fourth entry titled Sharknado: The 4th Awakens. This film will return the series to its roots as fearless hero Finley “Fin” Shepard (Ian Ziering) is forced to battle his way through shark infested tornadoes in order to protect the people of Las Vegas. While we’ve already thought up 15 of the worst shark movies of all time, here’s a list of some of the stranger Syfy films that have both inspired and taken inspiration from Sharknado. These are Syfy’s 15 Craziest Monster Movies… So Far.
15. Monster Ark
For Syfy, nothing is sacred—not even the Good Book. Monster Ark is exactly what it sounds like: two archaeologists, Dr. Ava Greenway (Renee O’Connor of Xena: Warrior Princess) and Dr. Nicholas Zavaterro (Tim DeKay) discover an ancient inscription in some Israeli ruins claiming that Noah built an ark much different than the one everyone learned about in Sunday School. Instead of two of every animal, this ark contained only one beast: the Nephilim, a fearsome creature determined to bring about the end of mankind. Thinking the monstrous long dead, the scientists seek out the ark and unwittingly release the creature from its ancient prison to wreak havoc on the world once again. The archaeologists set out to find Noah’s staff, their only hope to corral the Nephilim into banishment once again.
While the Bible certainly has its share of monsters, the story behind the Nephilim is a bit more outlandish than the giant slayed by a single rock or swarms of angry bugs. Although there’s only a single creature in Monster Ark, the Nephilim were actually an entire race of demons created by the union of a “son of God” and a “daughter of man.” Much of the details surrounding the Nephilim is contested among different religious sects, but the beast of Monster Ark was created by God before he created man. For some unknown reason, God was unable to destroy the demon and therefore commanded Noah to rid the world of it. Noah built two arks: one for the animals, which he steered to safety, and one for the Nephilim, which he sunk to the bottom of the sea.
Frankenfish is not about Frankenstein’s monster’s beloved goldfish, as much as the title might suggest otherwise. The 2004 film is actually all about a couple of genetically engineered fish and a whole lot of mysterious deaths. On the case are medical examiner Sam Rivers (True Detective’s Tory Kittles) and biologist Mary Callahan (China Chow), who travel to the troubled bayou in an effort to rid the village of the man-eating sea dwellers.
Weirdly enough, Frankenfish is one of three films based on true events that occurred in Crofton, Maryland after a Northern Snakehead fish was found in the small community in 2002. Native to Asian countries, the highly invasive species is the same as that of the fish in the film, although the two don’t share many qualities beyond that. While the snakeheads in the movie were large enough to decapitate innocent townspeople and able to survive even out of water, the Crofton snakeheads didn’t pose much of a threat to anything beyond the local aquatic ecosystem. And the snakeheads in Crofton were quickly killed off with a few doses of pesticides. The Frankenfish, however, faces its grisly end in the fan blades of an air boat—but not before it has spawned, leaving at least one minor character to his onscreen death as he is attacking by hundreds of Frankenbabies.
Woolly mammoths may seem all fuzzy wuzzy, but those tusks—and a little bit of alien DNA—can make these prehistoric elephants downright deadly. This is the case in Mammoth. When a meteorite carrying an extraterrestrial lifeform crash lands near a Louisiana natural history museum, that lifeform latches onto the first available organism: an enormous, frozen woolly mammoth. What follows is a night at the museum of a completely different sort. As the mammoth is released upon the town, mowing down anyone it comes in contact with, museum curator Frank Abernathy (Tom Skerritt of Alien fame) takes it upon himself to stop the beast with the help of his daughter Jack (Summer Glau) and government agents Powers and Whitaker.
While plenty of movies have envisioned the horror that could come with the return of the dinosaurs (Looking at you, Jurassic Park), few have imagined exactly how much damage the woolly mammoth could actually do. Spoiler alert: Turns out it’s a lot. And not all of it is mammoth-caused either. With no other alternative to stop the prehistoric monster, the government plans to detonate a nuclear bomb in order to wipe out the beast—and the town with it. To save their home, Frank and the townspeople have to hatch an alternative plan involving liquid nitrogen to literally freeze the mammoth in its tracks. And after all that? The mammoth is put back on display in the museum as if nothing happened. It’s enough to make anyone think twice before planning a trip to the Smithsonian.
12. Fire Serpent
Who knew that solar flares could be so deadly? While they usually only cause radio stations to drop out for a period of time, the super flare in Fire Serpent actually propels an alien serpent made entirely of fire to Earth, where it has set its sights on a small, defenseless town. Leading the charge to extinguish the beast is firefighter Jake Relm (Buffy’s Nicholas Brendon), forced to team up with the older and supposedly batty firefighter Dutch Fallon (Randolph Mantooth) in an effort to put out the flaming snake before government officials can intervene and initiate a cover up.
Credited to creator William Shatner, Fire Serpent isn’t necessarily tied down to its premise. Sure, the titular snake rears its poorly rendered head every so often to smite one thing or another. But the extraterrestrial being also travels as a tiny cartoonish flame able to possess humans, manifesting itself through flaming orange eyeballs. This change in form pays off spectacularly when one character slices another cleanly in half with laser-like eyes flames that really needs to be seen to be truly appreciated.
11. Blood Monkey
Even Charlton Heston would be wary to rebel against the rule of the primates running wild in Blood Monkey. F. Murray Abraham (yes, that F. Murray Abraham) stars as Conrad Hamilton, an anthropological professor who will do anything to study a new species of primate that could provide the missing link between man and ape. That anything, it turns out, includes luring a group of unsuspecting students into the jungle to be used as bait. What ensues is an impressive amount of gore as the bloodthirsty monkeys mow down just about everyone that crosses their path—and everyone that doesn’t, too. The 2007 film serves as the first entry in the Maneater Series, a collection of made-for-television horror films focused on the natural world and produced specifically for Syfy.
It turns out that Blood Monkey isn’t all rooted in fiction. The first clear look at the film’s namesake reveals it to be a Gigantopithecus, or a species of giant ape that could be found in what is now southern China as recent as 100,000 years ago but is now extinct. And the term “giant ape” isn’t used lightly; the Gigantopithecus stood at about 10 feet tall and could weigh more than a thousand pounds. All the better to terrorize the research team, which endures severed limbs, torn off faces and even a shower of urine onto their campsite. Maybe next time they’ll pack some umbrellas…
10. Bats: Human Harvest
Bats are usually only a threat in films when vampires are involved. But in the case of Bats: Human Harvest, these winged creatures don’t need Dracula’s help to feast on human blood. The movie follows a group of Delta Force soldiers tasked with hunting down a weapons researcher gone rogue after the U.S. government shuts down his funding. Trekking further and further into the Russian wilderness, the troops are eventually feasted upon by a group of bats that have been genetically altered to enjoy the taste of human flesh.
Bats: Human Harvest isn’t the first of its kind. The 2007 film serves as a sequel to Bats, released in 1999 and starring Lou Diamond Phillips as a sheriff responsible for subduing a rampant swarm of genetically engineered bats in a small town in Texas. Interestingly enough, the bats’ echolocation abilities, which would seem like the ultimate tool against a group of military men stranded in the woods, ultimately prove to be their downfall. In an effort to wipe out the bats once and for all, the soldiers use a microphone to lure the bats to one place and destroy them in a large explosion, officially reinstating Batman as the most deadly bat-hybrid in pop culture.
Although he might be one of the more forgotten characters in the ever-expanding and seemingly endless Marvel Universe, Man-Thing is no less interesting than the rest. Long before Groot made vegetable matter cool again, Man-Thing was a plant monster in the Louisiana swamp in the 2005 film. After a crafty oil tycoon employs questionable methods to purchase land belonging to a Native American tribe, a series of unfortunate deaths shake the town and catch the interest of newly instated sheriff Kyle Williams (Matthew Le Nevez), who thinks the disturbances can be credited to those other than the ecological protesters swarming the area. According to local Seminole legend, the creature is the Man-Thing, tasked with guarding the land.
Created by Stan Lee, the Man-Thing first appeared in early-1970s comic books. While the comic book version of Man-Thing had the awesome-sounding power to burn those who “knew fear,” the film’s Man-Thing can only command plants to do his bidding. Yet the movie version of the creature is also far more hostile, going after both those involved in the oil drilling scheme as well as those unfortunate enough to have wandered into the swamp at the wrong time.
Is it a fish? Is it a snake? It’s the best of both worlds in this 2012 film produced by B-movie king Roger Corman. A crew trying to film a slasher movie in the Hawaiian jungle is interrupted by the eponymous hybrid monsters after a scientist (Tarantino favorite Michael Madsen of Reservoir Dogs, among others) steals the creatures’ egg. In pursuit of their looted offspring, the ruthless beasts spare no one. Not even in the final scene, when the sole surviving couple is devoured by a third piranhaconda.
Anyone who is at all familiar with the Syfy Channel knows that it’s home to a number of hybrid monstrosities, with Piranhaconda falling at the more logical end of the spectrum. Piranhaconda combines the worst of its namesakes, adding the man-crushing power of an anaconda with the extremely sharp fangs of a piranha. Top all that off with the abilities to swim and travel quickly on land and you’ve got one totally out-of-control beast.
7. Dinocroc vs. Supergator
After years of combining two animals to create one new superpredator, it was only a matter of time before those monsters would have at each other for our entertainment. Dinocroc vs. Supergator certainly isn’t the first in this mold, but it could be argued that it’s one of the more spectacular. The events unfold at a shady biotech company, where experiments led by the dubious Jason Drake (David Carradine of the Kill Bill movies) have spawned the two giant reptiles that serve as the film’s stars. The action begins straight away as a dinocroc and supergator break free of the facility in which they’re being studied and proceed to wreak havoc in the surrounding area as a mismatched trio attempts to take them down.
Although it’s thrilling to watch people attempt to escape from the clutches of these unbelievable beasts, the real fun starts after dinocroc and supergator are trapped in a tunnel together with no escape. United in their quest for human destruction, the two battle like mortal enemies when forced to confront one another, all snapping jaws and gnashing teeth. Plus, you really haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a dinocroc on the run.
6. Avalanche Sharks
Avalanche Sharks isn’t the Syfy shark movie most people are familiar with, but maybe it should be. Aired in 2014, the film takes place at the Twin Pines Ski Resort as the staff prepares for the busiest day of the year, which is of course called Bikini Snow Day. Gaggles of bathing beauties keen to celebrate spring break are flocking to the mountainside just as an avalanche unearths a prehistoric shark buried within the icy depths. Unsurprisingly, the monster has a healthy appetite for human flesh, which just so happens to be bared in excess. With the guests trapped on the mountain by heavy snowfall, the local sheriff teams up with a band of snowboarders to take on the monster.
Thought sharks could only survive in water? Well, you thought wrong as the snowbound shark of Avalanche Sharks is free to frisk about in the powder, cutting through the snow with its fin as easy as water and even breaking through the bottom of a hot tub to devour an unsuspecting victim. With repeated mentions of some sort of ancient Native American legend, it seems as though these sharks are imbued with some kind of mystical power that might explain their aversion to water, but it’s more fun to make up your own theory.
5. Ice Spiders
As possibly the most nonsensical matchup since a swarm of sharks were found slopeside (see above), this 2007 film isn’t named for spider made of ice (which actually would be pretty cool), but rather for its cast of huge eight-legged monsters able to withstand extremely low temperatures. Leading the science experiment that nobody asked for is Dr. April Summers (Vanessa A. Williams—not the Miss America winner), who is working to create a new breed of spider. This of course backfires when another scientist, intent on accelerating the research, has made the spiders not only larger and stronger, but also impervious to cold and insatiably hungry.
When the spiders inevitably escape and make for a nearby ski resort, the guests band together under the leadership of former Olympic skier Dan “Dash” Dashiell (Patrick Muldoon) to try and take the freakish arachnids down. In some kind of weird hybrid of an ‘80s teen ski slope comedy and a creature feature horror movie, the key to ridding the mountain of the spiders is shredding down the slopes to trap them together in order to make it easier to blow them all up. Pretty gnarly, bro.
4. Bone Eater
For as long as there have been Native Americans, there have been careless non-native people who desecrate sacred Native American land. The reckless business developer in this case is Big Jim Burns (Gil Gerard), who goes ahead with plans to develop the land despite objections from Native American protesters. During construction, a worker discovers an ancient talisman which, as it turns out, unleashes a large skeleton beast upon the town. In order to stop the monster, Sheriff Steve Evans (Bruce Boxleitner of TRON) must retrieve the relic before the vengeful Johnny Black Hawk (Adoni Maropis), who would rather let the skeleton destroy the town.
While a larger-than-life skeleton doesn’t seem all that wild, especially compared to something like a piranhaconda, it’s the onscreen rendering of the Bone Eater that really takes this film over the top. With glowing green eyes and a fringe of bones along its skull that makes it look vaguely like a cockatoo, the skeletal monster carries itself with all the grace and dexterity of a robot with arthritis. Not only can the Bone Eater dissolve victims with a single touch, but it also has the power to spit acid impressive distances for those far-off targets. To top it all off, the Bone Eater has a faithful ghost steed to pursue terrified victims through the western wilderness. The Lone Ranger has got nothing on this bonafied vigilante. (Yes, pun intended.)
3. Anonymous Rex
Have you ever wondered if everyone you’ve ever known and loved is actually a dinosaur in an elaborate holographic human disguise? Probably not, but Anonymous Rex imagines what it would be like if people actually did consider such a thing even remotely possible. The 2004 film posits that dinosaurs co-exist with unsuspecting human beings, doing normal human things like holding jobs, watching TV and even running successful detective agencies. Detective Vincent Rubio (Sam Trammell of True Blood) is a velociraptor private investigator with his partner Ernie Watson (Daniel Baldwin), a triceratops. During the investigation of a friend’s murder, the pair discovers a secret cult of dinosaurs intent on overthrowing the human race by any means possible.
Originally produced as a TV pilot that was set to air on Fox before it was rerouted to Syfy as a feature film, Anonymous Rex is based on the novels of Eric Garcia. His novel Matchstick Men spawned the 2003 crime comedy of the same name starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Ridley Scott. Rex‘s dino transformations are something to behold, such as toward the beginning when Detective Rubio is overtaken by splotches of electric purple light before his hands become clawlike and his head long and scaly. With impressive digital effects for the time, viewers are left wondering what they could be missing after being denied even one season of an Anonymous Rex TV show. Alas, Law & Order: Special Dinosaur Unit remains only a pipe dream.
Also known by the far less catchy title of Mosquito Man, this 2005 film opens with the work of Dr. Jennifer Allen (Musetta Vander), who administers small doses of radiation to mosquitos afflicted with a fictional virus in hopes of finding a cure. Trouble is inevitable after a convict volunteers to help Dr. Allen with her research in exchange for a reduction in his sentence. The convict attempts to take a hostage in the lab and a shootout with police causes both the convict and Dr. Allen to come into contact with a deadly combination of the radiation and the infected mosquitos. It’s only a matter of time before they both start transforming into hybrid mosquito monsters.
Although Mansquito shares its DNA with the 1986 sci-fi classic The Fly, it really stands on its own as one of the weirder entries in the Syfy movie canon. Whereas the convict’s transformation is near-instantaneous, morphing him into ant-like being with large wings, Dr. Allen is slower to change, noticing subtle alterations such as excessive bleeding or the impulse to chomp down on her boyfriend in the middle of a makeout session. A large portion of the plot also revolves around the Mansquito attacking Dr. Allen with the hope of mating with her and spawning more bug-human hybrids, which (thankfully) doesn’t happen. And as is true with any bug, the Mansquito is felled by a few thousands volts of electricity, leaving viewers to wonder whether Dr. Allen just should have invested in one of those bug zapper lamps in the first place.
1. Mega Python vs. Gatoroid
A gatoroid, it turns out, is not an alligator crossed with a asteroid (although it doesn’t seem long until such a beast to turns up on Syfy in one way or another) but rather an alligator beefed up on anabolic steroids that build muscle mass and heighten levels of aggression. Sounds terrifying enough on its own without the addition of any type of snake, mega or not. Yet the 2011 film finds the two head-to-head after animal rights activists led by Dr. Nikki Riley (Debbie Gibson) release a species of exotic python into the Florida Everglades. When one of these insanely large snakes makes a meal of the husband of Park Ranger Terry O’Hara (played by ‘80s popstar Tiffany Darwish), she exacts her revenge by feeding steroid-laced chickens to a bunch of alligators in the Everglades, spawning the aforementioned gatoroids.
It doesn’t take long to an full-on war to begin between these two raging reptiles. And while they usually only have eyes for one another, it’s only a matter of time before a few (many) human casualties. As characters in these kind of movies are wont to do, Ranger Terry acts foolishly in refusing to cancel a huge benefit held in the midst of the monster action and pays the price. Former Monkee Micky Dolenz makes a brief and inexplicable cameo at the fundraiser as the official guest of honor before becoming reptile chow.