I love animals. As a matter of fact, I am one of those people that prefer animals over people for the most part. There are all sorts of animals in the world. Some are cute and cuddly while others aren’t so much. In fact, some animals can be pretty damn terrifying under certain circumstances. Horror filmmakers are aware of this fact as well and as such there have been a slew of killer animal movies over the years. Some of them are quite awesome and actually pretty scary while others have just been ridiculous and a complete waste of time. I am always up for a good killer animal movie and usually find myself rooting for the animal in question as it goes on a bloody rampage, so as such I thought that I’d put together my list of the top ten horror film animals.
Read on, but be aware that there may be spoilers at certain points…
10. The Grizzly Bear from Grizzly
I first saw Grizzly on TBS one night back in 1984 or so and to be honest it scared the living hell out of me (I’m not sure why because I didn’t live in an area that had grizzly bears so my chances of ever coming into contact with one out in the woods was pretty much non-existent). Playing out sort of like Jaws on land the movie (which was directed by the late, great William Girdler) is pretty awesome in a lot of ways and has a great cast, but the star of the film is without a doubt the killer bear. The bear is freaking huge as it stands at over 15 feet tall and is as vicious as they come as it enjoys ripping people to pieces before it eats them. In addition to being enormous and hungry the bear is fast, intelligent, and almost unstoppable for the most part (until it is finally taken down with a bazooka at the film’s conclusion). I had a lot of nightmares about being attacked by the bear after I saw the movie and think that it is without a doubt one of the scariest animals to ever appear on film. This bear definitely isn’t anything like Yogi and Boo Boo, and if Ranger Smith ever hassled it about stealing picnic baskets it would respond by smacking his head off and then devouring his body.
9. The Orca from Orca
Even though a lot of people say that Orca is just a rip off of Jaws I have to disagree as I think that there is a lot more going on in this movie than most people realize. The film revolves around the title character going on a murderous rampage after his mate and unborn offspring are killed by a hunter, and in my opinion you can’t help but root for him as his actions are totally justified. He’s pissed off and looking for revenge due to the death of his family and I really can’t blame him. In a lot of ways it isn’t really clear as to whom the protagonist of the film is (is it the whale or the hunter?) and I have always been a big fan of the movie as it goes a little bit deeper than most killer animal movies. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s still a fun movie about a killer whale eating people left and right (gotta love the scene where he bites Bo Derek’s leg off), but there’s also a deeper meaning behind it in general as well. I’ve always loved the ocean and have been fascinated by sea life (especially the ones that can eat you) for as long as I can remember, so I always thought that this movie-and the killer whale that stars in it-kicked all sorts of ass.
Nothing scares me more than clowns, robots, and monkeys (God help me if I’m ever attacked by a robot clown with a pet monkey). I know a lot of people think that monkeys are cute (and I’ll admit that some are) but I’ve always had a irrational fear of them due to the fact that they could rip your face off and there is pretty much nothing you could do about it. I always thought that Ella from Monkey Shines was creepy as hell and when I first saw the trailer for the movie when I was a kid I always covered my eyes or left the room because it creeped me the hell out. Yes, Ella is cute in a way but she’s also pretty psychotic and dangerous, especially if you mess with Alan, the quadriplegic she takes care of in the film. I always thought that this film was quite underrated as it is actually pretty damn good thanks to the fact that Ella is quite terrifying, especially during the last half hour or so after she basically loses her shit and starts killing off those around Alan in a number of different ways (what she does to Alan’s annoying, overbearing mother while she is taking a bath takes the cake). Ella is quite unstable, and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be around her.
Did I mention that I’m not exactly fond of rats either? I’m not, and I think it is because I saw this movie when I was a kid. Deadly Eyes is all about a bunch of rats eating contaminated grain and then growing to the size of small dogs (the filmmakers actually dressed up dachshunds as rats for the movie) before going on a killing spree, munching on any poor soul they happen to come into contact with. These rats are hardcore and just scary as hell in general. This movie really bothered me when I was a kid (especially the scene where they eat a baby) and if I ever hear scratching in the walls somewhere I automatically think about this film. There is a whole army of them in the movie and they are basically insatiable when it comes to food which causes them to eat a whole lot of people. They are big, ugly, and nasty-looking and to this day I am still a little freaked out when I think about the last scene of the movie as it really sticks with you after you see it. Do you have a problem with rats? Then take my word and stay as far away from this movie as possible or you will be scarred for life.
6. The Piranhas from Piranha (1978)
When I was a little kid I had no idea what a piranha was so I was confused when I saw the trailer for Piranha until my mom explained to me what they were. Since I was a demented child I thought “Cool! Fish that eat people? I’m in!” so I was very eager to see the movie. I thought that it rocked after I saw it and the main reason was due to the fact that it had a bunch of hungry little fish chowing down on unsuspecting swimmers. The piranhas in this movie are bloodthirsty little bastards that strip the flesh off of people in mere seconds, and I definitely approve. For years after I saw the movie I was a little leery about swimming in lakes and rivers because I was worried that that if I did so I would become lunch for a school of hungry piranhas, and even though in reality they are nowhere near as aggressive as they are in the film I still don’t think that I would like to be anywhere near them while I’m taking a dip.
5. The Alligator from Alligator
I absolutely love Alligator and think that it is one of the best killer animal films of all time thanks to its witty script, the cast, and of course the title creature. I first saw it on broadcast television when I was a wee little lad and immediately wanted my own pet alligator. In a way I always sort of felt sorry for Ramon (the alligator) as he was flushed down the toilet when he was just a little baby and was left to fend for himself in the sewers. Thankfully he survived and went on to grow to immense proportions after eating the corpses of lab animals that were injected with experimental growth hormones and thrown into the sewer. He goes on quite a bloody rampage after escaping from the sewers and happily gobbles down anyone who gets in his way. Whether he’s crashing a wedding or hanging out in a swimming pool waiting to eat a little boy dressed as a pirate who has been forced to “walk the plank” by his friends Ramon always delivers, and no matter how many times I see this movie I never get tired of it.
My wife and I are both big Hitchcock fans, and without a doubt my favorite movie of his is The Birds. The film scared the hell out of a lot of people back in the day (it scarred my sister for life after she saw it) and it still holds up pretty well even now despite the fact that it was made in 1963. There are a variety of birds in the movie and all of them (with the exception of Tippi Hedren’s lovebirds) are pissed off and ready to peck your eyes out. There are so many classic scenes from the film that I don’t even know where to begin, but the one that always really stood out for me was the bit toward the end when Tippi is violently attacked by a whole bunch of birds and barely escapes with her life. I know a lot of people that are bothered by this movie and I really can’t blame them. Think about it for a minute, what the hell would we do if the birds did decide to revolt like they did in the film? Being attacked by a flock of crows and having my eyes pecked out doesn’t sound like much fun to me, so let’s hope that what happens in the movie never becomes a reality.
I have always loved cats and think that they are the best pets ever (we currently have two calicos, one named Buffy and one named Willow that we absolutely adore and spoil rotten). However, I know that there are some people out there that don’t particularly care for them. Some people (like my mom) are actually scared of them for some reason, and if they saw Pet Sematary (or read the book) they were most likely terrified of Church, the Creed’s pet cat, after he returns from the dead. While he is pretty damn scary after he comes back to life I still think that he’s cute despite the fact that he would probably claw your eyes out if you got too close to him. He doesn’t actually kill anyone in the movie but he is still quite intimidating and he isn’t exactly the kind of cat that you would like to have hanging out in your lap.
I love dogs as much as I do cats (we actually have a miniature wiener dog named Cujo) and as such I always felt sorry for Cujo in the movie because he can’t help what he becomes. He starts out as a friendly, loveable Saint Bernard but that all changes pretty quickly when he is bitten by a bat and gets rabies which leads him to attack and kill anyone who happens to cross his path. He’s a big, powerful dog and is actually pretty scary after he becomes rabid because he’s just so damn vicious. I saw this movie with my family in a theater when I was in the 4th grade and I’ll admit that it scared me quite a bit and I didn’t look at dogs in the same way for quite a while afterward. If you have a phobia of dogs then I suggest that you skip this movie.
Jaws was the first real summer blockbuster and managed to scare the shit out of a lot of people back in the day. I saw it when I was very young and loved every minute of it. Thanks to the movie I developed a love and fascination with sharks that have lasted my entire life, and the first movie I ever saw at a drive-in movie theater was Jaws 2 at the tender age of four-years-old. The shark in this film is nothing short of monstrous and even though some people today may argue that it is cheesy-looking I think that it looks awesome. It scared a generation of moviegoers and made a lot of people have second thoughts about going swimming in the ocean, and as such I believe that it deserves the top spot on this list.
There you have it folks, my list of the top ten horror film animals. Let me know what you think, and feel free to add your own animals to the list that I might have missed.
The Snakes from Rattlers
The Wolves from Wolfen
The Octopus from Tentacles
Ben from Willard
Inside Out Bear from Prophecy
Stanley from Stanley
The Cat from Hell from Tales from the Darkside: The Movie
The Baboons from In The Shadow of Kilimanjaro
Max from Man’s Best Friend
Great article! Spiders from Kingdom of the Spiders (but I guess, technically, they’re not animals). The pigs from Evilspeak or the boar from Razorback. The alligator from Lake Placid. Just to name a few…