This is gonna be fun.
For the past 3 years, I’ve been working at the city zoo. Now that I’ve left said job, I think I can finally focus on this one. I wanted to do a post about horror movies based around animals. My job at the zoo worked directly but indirectly with animals. I was not a keeper but some positions, we were around animals at a close enough range. Aviaries, shark & ray touch pool, maybe even sloth at some points, my department was with Attractions. Rides mostly but feeds or life-guarding animals.
This idea came to me about a couple of months ago and I never had time to do it but now that I have all this free time, I want to tackle it.
So we’re gonna talk and suggest “wild” horror.
How do I define wild horror? If an animal of sorts is the antagonist by basically what they are: animals.
Some of these films will be fun, cult, maybe taken more seriously but overall, entertaining.
First one I want to throw out there is The Birds. We know this film, a classic Hitchcock film form 1963, based off the novel by Daphne Du Maurier (also wrote Rebecca, I need to finish reading it as well as Don’t Look Now, which became a film adaptation). There aren’t a lot of films based around animals and flight. Maybe Bats, but I wonder why that is… I’m very curious about why. I’m not expecting “Killer Butterflies” or anything that Syfy will throw out but it’s like you hit big with The Birds and then, that’s it.
From the sky, let’s head into the deep oceans. Sharks are essential to our ecosystem, especially the ocean. There is a reason why they have evolved and stayed present. Very smart creatures, they are intimidating and for good reasons, except smooth dogfish sharks. They are so cute! Jaws and its many sequels, The Meg, Deep Blue Sea and for kicks, I’m throwing in Orca, too. No one talks about Orca. I know it isn’t a great movie, this isn’t Shakespeare but if you can have Jaws: the Revenge where the shark goes on a revenge trip, why can’t you give the respect to Orca that did it first! All I do remember about this movie is when the orca’s partner is killed, and we notice that she was pregnant and then that scene with the young falling out and then… when Richard Harris is on that ice sheet towards the end and the whale is right there waiting for him. I guess I need to rewatch Orca.
Land creatures is tricky. I would highly recommend 2019’s Crawl. I think that was one of the best creature/animal horror films I had seen in a long, long time and it was a serious film. At the core, a young woman (Kaya Scoldelario) is searching for her father during a hurricane which then throws hungry alligators into the mix and it was genuinely frightening. I was rooting for the family and their dog, Sugar to make it out alive. Crawl was an unexpected watch but I was happy to have seen it. Alligator, the film, is a cult favorite, a little dig at the idea of alligators or crocodiles in sewers, coming through your toilet. Lake Placid is fun, though the writing is really not great considering the writer actually created both Ally McBeal and Big Little Lies. Clearly, a paycheck but the highlight is Betty White and Stan Winston’s team on creating the creature. 1997 brought us Anaconda which, I know this movie took itself seriously in some areas but Jon Voight, I… sighs.
By the way, Jurassic Park will counts, too.
And finally, we come to the end where the animals who we welcome into our homes or simply invade our homes. We love having animals as pets, it’s been a part of human living from the beginning. However, what would it be like to have an animal that we trust turn on us? Animal Planet answers that with a series called Fatal Attractions, but film wise? Pet Sematary comes to mind. Yes, the dead are still haunting the living throughout that film but Church? CHURCH. The ever present guilt and terror trapped in four paws. The film is about constant regret and guilt, tied up with a “resting place” for your lost and loved pets. If you don’t like cats or not interested, perhaps you’d like Cujo, another Stephen King adaptation.
THEM! is a great classic, a 1954 film that started the bug/insect genre. Tarantula and Arachnophobia continue the pathway for eight legged creatures that I still shudder at. The Nest, a 1988 film that I just saw this February in its entirety is great special effects and gore, tons of insects that’ll make you shudder. And staying on the insect train, Dario Argento’s Phenomena (or Creepers) does an interesting job of a small coming of age with a young girl having special powers and insects.
I do want to ask you guys a question: how would you define The Fly? Both iterations. Or Wolf/Wolfen? Does Dog Soldiers, Ginger Snaps and An American Werewolf in London fall there, too? Films where man becomes the animal/creature. This is a good place to end. A thought about how far the “wild” or “nature” horror genre can go? Or has gone? Or does it have yet to reach a fuller potential?
I’m stumped by my own question anyway. Let me know what you think of this post, these films, any recommendations that I hadn’t thought of!