There are tons of horror sub-genres, some more prolific than others, and some nearing extinction. Slashers had a boom in the 80’s and are still going strong today. Demon possession and cult movies really kicked off in the 1970’s and have been a strong part of horror since. But some appeared, provided tons of content and then disappeared as quickly as they came. Found footage for example came out of nowhere and was gone within the blink of an eye. There are often forgotten sub-genres like Hag Horror from the 50’s and 60’s and the legendary nun-spoliation films of the 1970’s. A big favorite in my household of these forgotten sub-genres is natural horror famous for their simple premise of When Animals Attack. My youngest daughter’s favorite horror movie is Jaws and because of that we watch tons of shark movies including all the ones that are released on Sy Fy, some of which are surprisingly good. I highly suggest Trailer Park Shark and Nightmare Shark.
For some reason these types of animal attack movies are her absolute favorite so when Charlotte, the editor here at Horror Bound, was looking for someone to do a Top 10 Animal Attack Movies, I jumped on the opportunity. I tried to only include “normal” animals in this list, avoiding movies with human animal hybrids like Ssssss, mutant animals like Slugs or otherwise non-natural animals like Monkey Shines besides, Monkey Shines is a slasher, but the killer just happens to be a monkey.
Without further ado, the Top 10 Animals Attack Movies
10. Night of the Lepus
I had totally forgotten about this movie until I noticed the poster in the background of an episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. This is an amazingly campy movie from 1972 which feels like it was made in the early 1960’s about giant killer bunny rabbits. Now I know I said I wasn’t going to include any mutated kind of animals, but this movie is just so amazing. It’s about a small southwestern town overrun by a rabbit infestation where a few scientists try to genetically engineer the animals to sterilize them to get them to stop producing. The side effect being the rabbits grow to tremendous size and become carnivorous for some reason. Campy film with a goofy premise and fantastic special effects make this a must watch especially if you plan on sharing with children. My middle daughter said upon watching it “Oh no dad, you’re gonna make me afraid of bunnies”.
Staring a very young Sam Elliot, this movie also released 1972 is a bit scarier than Night of the Lepus which is why I am ranking it a bit higher. Don’t let the title fool you though, not only do frogs attack but also snakes, birds, lizards and the occasional butterfly. Yup, attack of the killer butterfly. Being eco-friendly and taking interest in our environment is super popular in 2019 but it’s the entire premise of Frogs. Basically, animals are taking revenge on a wealthy land owner for his misuse and abuse of nature. Perfect film to watch on Earth Day and a great double header with Night of the Lepus.
You would think with how closely bats are tied to vampire lore that there would be tons of killer bat movies but there isn’t. The only one I can think of is the Bela Lugosi classic The Devil Bat about a scientist who makes aftershave balm that makes his bats hungry for blood. Yup, that’s a real thing. Google tells me there are a few more but to call them obscure is an understatement. It’s too bad this movie was released in 1999 as poor early CGI caused this movie to be universally panned by critics and movie-goers. If this movie was made 20 years earlier or later, it would be an instant horror classic. Bats is a fun 90’s film that you’ve probably seen before and is worthy of another viewing.
7. Piranha 3D
You know what makes a low budget horror movie better? Making it in 3D. You want to know what makes it even better? Super obvious 3D. Personally, I don’t watch 3D movies as there is always that one scene where they just have to make it clear that this is a 3D movie. The main character points in your face or a monster reaches at the camera. It makes me think about that scene in Friday the 13th 3D where Jason stabs out that guy’s eyeball and the eye comes right at the screen. Don’t get me wrong, Jason in 3D is one of my favorite horror movies of all time for exactly that reason. Piranha 3D is very similar, and I love it for the same reason. It’s cheesy 3D that’s super obvious and gives the viewer a fantastic experience which I really love about this movie. Also, the gore is over the top which is a bonus to the 3D experience.
Did you know there are 3 sequels to this movie and a crossover with Lake Placid? Me either. Anaconda is an awesome movie that, although it is about the big snake, the villain is a human. John Voight plays the villainous snake poacher who is really the focus of this fantastic big budget, main stream film. The snake is a sneaking, hidden terror that provides the right amount of jump scares from the water while John Voight provides the gritty psychological terror from aboard the boat adrift on the Amazon. The most disappointing part of this movie is that Jennifer Lopez, other than her role in The Cell, didn’t continue in the horror genre. She would have made a fantastic scream queen.
Have I ever told you how much I love John Goodman? He steals the show in every movie he is in. From playing Big Dan Teague in O’ Brother, Where art thou? And Gale Snoats in Raising Arizona to Death Sentence when he famously asked, “Which one of you wants to bleed to death in the trunk of my car” AMAZING. His small role in Arachnophobia as the exterminator earned him a Saturn Award Nomination for best supporting actor. Arachnophobia is top notch family friendly horror movie that was common in the late 80’s and early 90’s. This movie really lingers with you after watching it and will have you checking your shoes every time you put them on, I know I still do.
This is probably the grossest movie I have ever seen and what else would you expect from a movie about killer worms? With special effects by Rick Baker of American Werewolf in London fame, Squirm tells the tale of a rural Georgia town cut off from the outside world after a big storm that gets overrun with worms that burrow under your skin and devour you from the inside out. Nasty, Slimy, Gross! A fantastic 70’s horror film that does an excellent job of not insulting the country folk by not portraying them as complete idiots. A word of advice, do not eat while watching this.
3. The Birds
A list about animal attacks would not be complete without the Alfred Hitchcock classic, The Birds. Some of my favorite things about this movie are, unlike Psycho with its famous score, this film builds tension without one. Also, there is never a clear explanation as to why the birds attacked in the first place which is rare for horror in general but was extremely rare in the early years of horror. While this is one of the greatest horror movies of all time, it doesn’t really translate well to the modern audience which is the only reason it doesn’t rank higher on this list.
“Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies” How good is the character Quint? Natural Horror and animal attack movies were the big thing in the 1970’s and some folks attribute the rise of the slasher flick as what killed this subgenre, but I believe it to be the mere existence of Jaws. The release and success of Halloween and Friday the 13th led to tons of slashers being released but the release of Jaws was not followed by a large amount of new animal attack movies but a decline. Sure, there were Jaws rip-offs like Piranha, Barracuda and Orca but for the most part, animal attack movies died after Jaws hit the theatres. While Jaws may be one of the greatest horror movies of all time and my youngest daughter’s favorite, it pales in comparison to one animal attack movie…
When I was a kid I was attacked by a dog and almost lost an eye, so the first time I watched Cujo it really freaked me out. Now Cujo was a St Bernard and not a German shepherd like the dog that chewed on my face but it’s terrifying none the less. Everything about this movie was meant to induce fear and dread. Trapped in a car on a hot summer’s day, the fear for the life of the child, the remoteness of the location. Couple that with the dirty, nasty, slobbering dog and you get a horror classic. The side story about the troubled marriage works like the Hitchcock MacGuffin as it is almost irrelevant to the story but moves the plot along directly to where it needs to go and is mostly ignored for the rest of the film. Maybe it’s my own personal experience with an animal attack, maybe its Dee Wallace’s outstanding performance, but Cujo is the #1 Animal Attack Horror Movie ever and in my opinion the best Stephen King adaptation.
Honorable mentions and flicks that didn’t meet my list criteria because of mutant animals include Monkey Shines, Man’s Best Friend, Orca, Bear, Grizzly, Snakes on a Plane and Slugs. Although, I highly advocate for everyone to watch Monkey Shines, it is one of the most unique horror movies in history from horror legend George A. Romero. If not for his involvement, it may have never seen the light of day.
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