No matter if you prefer Mary Lambert's original 1989 take on the story, or the recent remake by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, one element of Pet Sematary that always works is "Church" the cat: a smelly, reanimated feline and one of the spookiest parts of both the novel and films.
But Church isn't nearly the most dangerous, frightening, or disturbing animal in cinema. Below are ten other flicks featuring killer creatures that would have Stephen King's zombie cat messing in his litter box.
10 King Kong (1933)
This enormous gorilla from the roaring granddaddy of all monster movies may not have quite the same shock factor as he did in his day, but that first sight of his leering face emerging from the jungle canopy is still something to scream about, as Fay Wray could attest.
Designed by stop-motion pioneer Willis O’Brien to inspire both fear and empathy with its blend of animal fierceness and human features, King Kong was the first of his kind and every big cinematic monster that followed exists in his monumental shadow.
9 Wild Beasts (1984)
Notable for the fact that pound-for-furry-pound it features more killer creature mayhem than any other, Franco Prosperi’s Wild Beasts is a certifiably insane Italian exploitation flick in which a cavalcade of PCP-addled zoo animals escape and wreak havoc on an unspecified European city.
Featuring live rats, polar bears, elephants, tigers, cheetahs, and hyenas, this gobsmackingly whacky, irresponsibly made animal attack film is as impressively whacky as it is inappropriately hilarious.
8 Creepshow (1982)
The second Romero feature on the list, anthology film Creepshow features a vignette starring everyone’s least favorite insect: the cockroach! In the segment (titled They're Creeping Up on You) E.G. Marshall stars as Upson Pratt, a cruel businessman whose pathological fear of infestation keeps him hermetically sealed in his apartment.
As he tortures employees and competitors over his landline phone, a rolling-blackout threatens the security of his flat--leading to a cockroach infestation of monstrous proportions. Filled with enough live creepy crawlies to keep insectophobes itching for the better part of a year, Creepshow proves that sometimes quantity really does beat quality.
7 Willard (1971)
A shy young man (Bruce Davidson) who lives alone with his decrepit mother (Elsa Lanchester) develops an affinity for rats in lieu of making human friends. Lonely and outcast all his life, it isn’t long before Willard is siccing his horde of hairy friends on those who wrong him and using them to commit theft.
Playing on our natural aversion to rodents as ravenous plague carriers, Willard is both a sympathetic character study and unforgettably macabre exercise in obsessive, all-consuming (in every sense of that word) terror.
6 Cat People (1982)
Paul Schrader’s remake of Jacques Tourneur’s immortal classic about a foreign-born woman who fears that sexual congress will turn her into a bloodthirsty feline forgoes the subtlety of the original and doubles down on the good stuff: sex and violence.
Starring Nastassja Kinski at her most ravishing and a characteristically menacing Malcolm McDowell, Cat People is a tawdry thriller in a different vein than most animal attack films, bending the line between man and beast in a supernatural flurry of flashing claws and snapping teeth.
5 Razorback (1984)
Taking a page from the Steven Spielberg giant-animal-run-amuck playbook, this Ozploitation classic makes sparing use of its titular hairy beast--a ginormous, drooling boar--for a surprisingly effective Outback shocker.
Starring Gregory Harrison as a man on the hunt for his missing wildlife reporter wife, Razorback is a freewheeling, rough and tumble exploitation picture with oodles of style and plenty of brutal violence courtesy of its titular overgrown hog.
4 Monkey Shines (1988)
One of George A. Romero’s most underrated works, this slow-burning thriller sees a wheelchair-bound athlete, Allan (Jason Beghe) fight for his life after his hyper-intelligent service monkey, Ella turns murderously over-protective.
A ridiculous setup to be sure, but with Romero’s assured directorial hand it works exceedingly well. Ella (played by a capuchin named “Boo”) steals the show in what must easily be one of the finest non-human performances on film, and Allan’s near-helplessness at his pocket-sized caretaker’s hands is truly the stuff of nightmares.
3 The Birds (1963)
A central theme of the “natural horror” subgenre is nature’s cruel indifference towards the logic of man, an idea that Alfred Hitchcock tapped heartily from with his seminal tale of a seemingly coordinated and brutal attack by avian flocks against a coastal California town.
Using a mix of live birds and then-revolutionary special effects, Hitchcock created a seminal animal attack films that still reigns as one of the most disturbing classics of 1960s cinema.
2 Cujo (1983)
Stephen King’s pressure-cooker of a novel gave birth to one of pop culture’s most memorable dogs...and also one of its deadliest. When a sweet-natured St. Bernard turns rabid due to a bat bite, the massive animal traps an unlucky woman (Dee Wallace) and her son in their broken down car.
This tense standoff makes up the crux of a film in which man’s best friend becomes his worst enemy in this adaptation of a fairly middling King novel. Director Lewis Teague's tough-as-nails thriller makes fine use of live canines, makeup effects and puppetry to create one of cinema's greatest hellhounds.
1 Jaws (1975)
As the prototypical summer blockbuster and one of the greatest films of all time, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is an American classic where the myth of its creation is almost as well known as the film itself. Beset by production troubles and saddled with malfunctioning mechanical sharks, Spielberg made the game-changing decision to suggest the titular Great White’s presence with creative camera work and the oft-parodied John Williams score.
This suggestive approach made Jaws smash-hit upon release and is no less frightening almost 45 years on. Jaws proved that what’s unseen can be far scarier than what is, and gave audiences a movie monster to outlive all others.