It’s times like these I’m glad I don’t have pets anymore… lately, the zeitgeist’s been all about animals attacking! On this week’s Inside Horror (a live chat show I co-cost for theStream.tv) we will have John Gulager as our guest to discuss his latest film Piranha 3DD and one of the topics we’ll be mulling is the best ‘when animals attack’ movies of all time.
At the press junket for the film (video interviews coming soon!), I asked actors Danielle Panabaker and David Koechner what their faves were – she said The Birds (1962), and he said Sssss! (1973) Very cool answers but especially his, because a) I love that little-known movie, and b) I was reminded of it a few days before. So spot-on.
Also, I just saw The Grey Blu-ray DVD, and wow… there are some amazing wolf attacks in that one. (Liam Neeson is great, too – while it’s a bit talky at times as the plane-wrecked men get picked off one by one in the snowy, isolated mountain range, I recommend it… and do stick through the end-credits, because there is a little surprise at the very last.)
Since the subject has been so much on my mind lately, I figured I’d let the imagery flow from my fingertips and share some of my favorite attack-animals movies with you guys. (And I’d love to know what yours are, too – click on the comments link and go for it.)
As I said, The Grey is a great new one, and I concur with Danielle and David on their picks. I also dug the fatal fish in Piranha 3DD (they’re three times the size now, and are learning to survive on land… yikes!). As for fairly recent films, Deep Blue Sea had some shocking shark bites (especially everyone’s pick, the Samuel L. Jackson speech/swallow). Frozen’s ferocious fur-bearing mammals were wicked indeed, and so were the horrifying (and hilarious) hybrids in Sharktopus and Camel Spiders.
But my true favorites are the oldies but goodies. When I wrote my book “Animal Movies Guide” a few years back, I delighted in doing the research on all kinds of flicks, but had an extra soft spot -- not in my heart, mostly my head -- for the really schlocky, out-there ones from the 1970s.
In no particular order, here’re a few funny ones I really think you should see before you die (hopefully that’ll be peacefully in your sleep and not at the claws of a giant, mutant bunny rabbit).
Night of the Lepus (1972)
Schlock-staple and erstwhile cowboy Rory Calhoun stars with a passel of perturbed ‘eater’ bunnies in Night of the Lepus, one of the most hare-brained movies ever made about giant man-munching cottontails. Um, make that the only movie about bunnies gone bad. The so-called special effects were handled in two ways: 1) Real rabbits filmed in slow-mo, hippity-hopping over miniature homesteads, or 2) Stuntmen in bargain-bin “Bugs Bunny” costumes. Believe it or not, a bona fide author actually sat down and wrote a whole book on this premise — Night of the Lepus is based upon the novel The Year of the Angry Rabbits by Russell Braddon. (I guess the film budget couldn’t afford the whole year.)
Day of the Animals (1977)
Leslie “Airplane!” Neilson plays forest ranger Steve Buckner, who winds up in a world of trouble in the mountains of the Sierras after a tear in the ozone layer starts messing with the minds of animals who live in high altitudes. Wolves, bears, dogs (every dog has his day!), and even an addled owl pose terrible (and unintentionally comical) threats.
It’s Gentle Ben as imagined by Clive Barker in this cautionary tale about what can happen when pollutants get into the forest animals’ water supply. One big bear, in particular, is very angry about the whole thing and tries to eat Armand Assante, Talia Shire, and Robert Foxworth in one big bite. A notable scene includes a vicious attack by some cute little raccoons.
Food of the Gods, The (1976)
Learn it… live it… gnaw it. When they break into earth’s forbidden cookie jar, several species of animals miraculously grow to gargantuan sizes and develop an appetite for human flesh. After engaging in hand-to-wing combat with a mutated chicken, a local football star (played by Marjoe Gortner) thinks of a way to blow all the animals up at once — but not before an army of rapacious rats gets their licks in. The rats are real-life critters filmed scurrying over miniature sets and toy cars, then intercut with close-ups of oversized rubber rodent heads ostensibly attacking their puny human prey. Gnaw: Food of the Gods II chewed its way free in 1989. Based on a novel by H.G. Wells.
Uncanny, The (1977)
Writer Wilbur Gray (Peter Cushing) believes that the feline race is made up of supernatural creatures, and as a warning to the world decides to prove it by authoring three horror stories while illustrate the truth about cats. This trilogy of terror also stars Donald Pleasance, Samantha Eggar, and Ray Milland.