There seems to be a general consensus that the killer animal genre peaked with Jaws. And that might be true, but I don’t abstain from watching werewolf movies because An American Werewolf in London exists. Just because Jaws is such a masterpiece doesn’t mean there aren’t a whole lot of interesting killer animal flicks out there. Right now, we only tend to get them on the SyFy Channel and now they’re usually combined with something else. But that wasn’t always the case.
Because Jaws inspired so many sharksploitation flicks, I won’t be counting any of those because they could easily fill their own list. Jaws inspired all sorts of other killer animal movies not related to sharks. And they get pretty inventive, too. There are animals in some of these I would never have thought to be afraid of. And that’s the genius of it. It’s great to take an animal that’s scary and make it scarier, but it’s even more interesting to try and take something that’s not inherently threatening and make it a genuine threat.
Both have been done with varying degrees of success. It’s easy to point out that there are way more bad horrors about killer animals than good ones—thanks, Asylum. I’m not even talking about great movies, necessarily. There are just a lot of killer animal flicks out there that are really fun and don’t get the credit they deserve. Read on for some that really stand out.
As I’ve covered before, this is a great movie, even though it’s barely feature length. From the great cast to the blend of amazing practical FX work and acceptable-for-the-time CGI. It’s for sure one of the most underrated titles Steve Miner ever made. It has a great monster, the crocodile feels like a real threat, even though it’s an outlandish one. But it’s also really, genuinely funny. Oliver Platt and Betty White steal the show.
Like Lake Placid, Prophecy is set in Maine. Even though it’s filmed in California, it feels very Maine-like in that all of the monsters are comprised of the likes of beavers and porcupines—with the central creature being a giant mutant bear. The film is, of course, absurd. But you get exactly what you’d expect going into a movie with mutant bears and it works. It’s really entertaining and the effects are great.
Alligator is so much better than it should be. The central character is full-fledged, genuine and really funny without distracting from the plot. It’s written by John Sayles, who would go on to write Joe Dante’s The Howling right after this. On top of that, it’s got an underrated director in Lewis Teague, who would also do Cujo and Cat’s Eye. There’s so much to enjoy here, from the gator rampaging through the streets to watching it take out an entire wedding.
Mosquito might not be a great movie. It might not even be good, to be honest. It never fools you into thinking it’s more professional and higher budget than it actually is. But it makes mosquitoes work. In general, mosquitoes are not frightening creatures. They’re kind of a mild annoyance. But this one takes that concept and it really turns them into something fun/scary. There are some sequences in here that are absolutely insane. You’ll be stunned by what you’re seeing and I think the filmmakers knew they needed that to make Mosquito memorable. It worked.
Cujo is a great movie. It’s frustrating that I can never really get people to watch it, even with Stephen King’s name on it. His name doesn’t seem to have the power that it used to. Most people think about Cujo, they know it’s about a killer dog and that sounds ridiculous, so they move on. And it should be ridiculous, but it isn’t. It works. This is just a rabid dog. It doesn’t even want to be doing what it’s doing. It’s just sick. A St. Bernard was a great choice for the animal, especially on film, because they have those big, sad eyes. Dee Wallace arguably gives an even better mom performance in this than she did in E.T.
This is not nearly as good of a Stephen King adaptation and I’ve talked about its failings as such before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. That doesn’t mean it’s not an entertaining monster movie. It’s about killer rats in an old mill, which is kind of a creepy concept despite its silliness. Then there’s a giant bat/rat thing controlling all of the lesser rodents that really does most of the killing. There’s no explanation for what it is and that’s probably the best part. Any attempt at an explanation would only have made it hokier.
I think you can track back to Komodo the template that every single SyFy Original Movie wound up following. But all of those features, for whatever reason, don’t have the charm or honesty that Komodo has. There’s not a lot of great acting, but it’s kind of par for the course for low-budget, late ‘90s stuff. The CGI is actually way better than I was expecting it to be, but luckily it’s balanced out with some amazing practical effects.
Razorback is an awesome Aussie horror about a killer boar. There’s another movie that feels very similar coming out, featuring Wolf Creek’s John Jaratt, called Boar. So now would really be the time to go back and check this one out. I haven’t seen a ton of Australian horrors, but most of those that I’ve seen have been really, really good so I’m always looking out for more. Razorback is one of my favorite discoveries, a dark 1984 creature feature with a great look and style.