Insects have always been a major subject in horror. No matter the subgenre, even at their best, directors never ignore the opportunity for a good bug scare. And that’s simply because people have always been and will always be unnerved by the less cuddly corners of the animal kingdom. These phobias are not always unwarranted, but it’s interesting to think how many people fear bugs when there are so many billions of them in the world.
Bugs take up a massive portion of the planet’s animal population. And many of them are very dangerous to humans. It takes only a few details like these to get filmmakers’ imaginations running wild. That, if anything, is what has led to the creation of the bug horror subgenre. While animal attack/nature run amok movies have their own corner of the horror world, there are certainly enough features about bugs to make up their own niche.
Within said niche, there are actually quite a few interesting movies. From ‘50s creature features to schlocky straight-to-video affairs. Below are some of the most endearing horror films about bugs that will get under your skin.
Starring Gunnar Hansen, Mosquito is a fun, campy, no-budget romp that is probably way more entertaining than it should be. There are a few truly inventive kills and more than a couple of moments that will leave you gaping at the screen in total disbelief of what you’re seeing. That, I think, is the lasting charm of Mosquito. All these years later, I still can’t believe a flick about such a cheesy subject decided it needed to go as far as it did.
Probably the quintessential bug movie, Them! Is also—in my book—the quintessential monster movie. There’s so much about it that’s so fascinating, so reflective of the time and the cultural paranoia, even though it’s really just a film about giant ants running amok and causing all sorts of havoc on the poor citizens of the rural Midwest.
Earth vs. The Spider
Another classic from the ‘50s, this one also gets points for the dramatic title. Films like this, I’ll admit, have an extra impact on me because I’m a serious arachnophobe, but there are other entries on this list that will be harder to digest than the silly monster at the center of this still effective feature.
Because I have such a serious fear of spiders, I have a very masochistic relationship with Arachnophobia. It’s incredibly hard for me to watch. Sometimes I come across it and can’t even consider attempting to view it—but it’s a great movie. And it’s not compelling in a Last House or Cannibal Holocaust way, it’s just a genuinely fun film with a great sense of humor. It’s exactly the kind of horror flick I usually find myself gravitating toward and the fact that it’s about spiders doesn’t change that.
From the director of one of my personal favorite sequels, Hellraiser II, Ticks is a fun, campy and often brutal movie that has gained something of a cult following in recent years. It’s sort of an underground classic, but those who know of it usually seem to love it. In fact, I first discovered it through Fangoria’s 101 Greatest Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen.
This first season episode of Masters of Horror from director Lucky McKee was one of the show’s best. It allowed Angela Bettis to play a very different character from May and also showed that adult film star Misty Mundae had genuine acting chops. It’s a very cute rom-com about a lesbian couple navigating their respective weirdness together until one of them begins transforming into a bug.
Creepshow: “They’re Creeping Up on You”
While it’s only a segment out of the whole anthology, “They’re Creeping Up on You” is always one of the titles things that gets brought up when people mention Creepshow. As someone who loves that film to death and has watched it since childhood, it can still be hard for me to watch. There’s something genuinely unnerving about it, more so than any of the segments before it. There’s a dark, biting sense of humor that’s meaner in this episode than the others. No pun intended, but this one really gets under your skin.
“Now the dream is over and the insect is awake.” This is the reigning king of bug cinema. Cronenberg’s remake of the original classic is even better and is not just the best bug movie, it’s one of the best horror movies of all time, period. The effects are astounding and Jeff Goldblum gives a powerhouse performance. Worth watching again and again.