The recently released beast is a survival thriller featuring the ever-talented Idris Elba as dr. Nate Samuels, a recently widowed man who visits an old family friend at a South African game reserve with his two teenage daughters. Soon, a ferocious, man-eating lion, a survivor of deadly poachers, begins attacking them and the fight for survival is on. beast is the latest in the long history of the critic-proof anims attack movie genre. You name the animal, and you can virtually guarantee someone’s made a film where that animal gets the munchies, from phobia-heavy spiders in Arachnophobia to cute little bunnies in Night of the Lepus. (Just donuts turn on us in Attack of the Killer Donutsfrom the less-known pastries attack genre).
The Day of the Dolphin (1973)
Scientist Jake Terrell (George C. Scott) and his wife Maggie (Trish Van Devere) are working on training dolphins to communicate with humans. They’ve successfully trained one, named Fa, to speak simple English, and introduce a female, Bea, who learns to understand English too. Their work is being undercut, however, by a member of the team who is secretly training the dolphins to assassinate the President of the United States by placing a bomb under his yacht. The only film on the list where the animals do the right thing and place the explosive under the conspirator’s boat instead.
Cujo, a sweet and lovable St. Bernard who is the family pet of mechanic Joe Camber (Ed Lauter), chases a rabbit and ends up with a rabid bat bite on his nose. Signs of infection are small at first, but when Cujo goes full-rabid it’s not pretty. He kills the Cambers’ neighbor and attacks Camber as well, before turning his sights on Donna (Dee Wallace) and her son Tad (Danny Pintauro), who picked the wrong day to bring the car in for repairs. Cujo traps the two inside Donna’s Ford Pinto (which, let’s face it, is the real horror here), where the sun makes conditions unbearable, and the rabid dog thwarts any attempt to escape. One of the better Stephen King adaptations, especially the scenes taking place in the confined, embattled Pinto.
An American journalist, Pete McKell (Michael Vartan), goes on a crocodile watching river cruise in Australia for a piece in a travel magazine. He and a host of other tourists are underwhelmed with the experience and coerce their tour captain, Kate (Radha Mitchell), to steer into a secluded, unexplored area. When the boat is hit by something below, Kate has to beach the boat on the nearest spot of dry land, a tiny mud island. Well, there’s a pretty solid reason why the area hasn’t been explored — it’s the domain of a 25-foot-long, man-eating crocodile. Now the sun is setting, the tide is rising, their little piece of real estate is going under, and mister crocodile is hungry.
Night of the Lepus (1972)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail‘s Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog isn’t the only deadly bunny of film. When a horde of rabbits wreaks havoc on the ranch of Cole Hillman (Rory Calhoun), zoologist Roy Bennett (Stuart Whitman) is called in to control the critters safely. So in an effort to disrupt the rabbits from reproducing, he begins injecting them with hormones and genetically mutated blood. Perhaps little mini-rabbit condoms would have been a better solution, for once one of the rabbits escapes, it results in the creation of large, bloodthirsty, ravenous bunnies. oops. If only they had the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
Calling the movie frogs is either a masterful misdirect or simply a poor title, but regardless it’s an entertaining nature-gets-revenge movie. On the Island Estate of Jason Crockett (Ray Milland), an old, cantankerous, wheelchair-bound millionaire is hosting a large, annual family celebration. It’s learned that Crockett has been spreading all types of pesticides and poisons to control the animal population on his island, in particular a recent surge in the frog and toad population. Soon, members of the family and employees of Crockett’s are being killed by, in no particular order: snakes, tarantulas, lizards, leeches, alligators, seagulls, alligator snapping turtles, water moccasins, and, of course, frogs.
The Breed (2006)
When one of their crew inherit an isolated island home (which should always be the first clue), a group of friends spend a couple of days partying at the place. When a dog attacks Sara (Taryn Manning), they remember there’s an abandoned dog-training facility on the other side that was shut down due to a rabies outbreak. Having clearly not seen cujo, they walk toward the facility but are chased back by a pack of hounds. But not just any hounds, no sir. These were genetically altered, becoming a breed of murderous puppies. At least they’re not in a Ford Pinto.
A mix-up results in a black mamba being taken to the home of wealthy Howard Anderson (Sterling Anderson) instead of the harmless pet snake of his grandson Philip (Lance Holcomb). Mistakes happen, right? Unfortunately, the two are held hostage in the home by terrorists, and the snake is inadvertently released, heading into the ventilation system where it attacks and kills the terrorists one by one. While not a critical hit, there are things in its favor that make it better than it ought to be: a Jaws-like treatment of the snake, counting on POV views and glimpses; a clever final scene; and an offscreen feud between actors Klaus Kinskic and Oliver Reed that drives up the tension onscreen.
Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
before Arachnophobia came Kingdom of the Spiderswhere Arizona veterinarian “Rack” Hansen (William Shatner) investigates the death of a prize calf. The blood samples he takes are analyzed, prompting a visit from scientist Dr. Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling). Since we already know doctors never show up in person to deliver good news, Ashley discloses that the calf was bitten by spiders — yes, plural — and killed by their venom. Hansen is skeptical, naturally, but not so much after he and other townspeople are trapped in the local lodge, surrounded by killer spiders.
Pushing the boundaries of belief is 1976’s squirm. Two Words: Carnivorous Earthworms. A storm knocks down a power line in the small town of Fly Creek, Georgia. The resulting release of enormous amounts of electricity underground electrocutes millions of worms, turning them into man-eating earthworms. Because, you know, electricity does that. They come to the surface and, lo and behold, start eating the townspeople. The movie is absolutely preposterous, but for kitsch factor and some pretty decent effects, you’re not going to do much better than this.
The Swarm (1978)
Another entry from the animal attack Golden Age in the 1970s. Soldiers investigate an attack on a military base, which turns out to have been a swarm of African killer bees. This is confirmed by two helicopters before they are destroyed by the same bees. After a failed firebomb attack on the hive, the bees attack nearby Marysville, where they kill hundreds of people. En route to Houston, they destroy a nuclear power plant (?), but Dr. Bradford Crane (Michael Caine) devises a plan to lure them away where they can be destroyed. A bomb in every sense of the word, The Swarm does get props for a pro-ecological message and its tagline It’s more than speculation… it’s a prediction!, playing on the real, highly unlikely but real, fears of it actually happening. The final movie of acting legend Fred MacMurraywho died in 1991 at the age of 83.
The Shallows (2016)
young Nancy (Blake Lively) is surfing on a secluded beach, alone, when a great white shark attacks her, opening a gash on her leg. She makes it to the safety of a large rock, but the mere 200 yards to the shore might as well be miles as the shark circles. With high-tide coming in, Nancy has to use everything in her to get to safety. The Shallows is excellently crafted, keeping up the tension throughout the film, and it’s arguably Lively’s best performance, an uneasy feat given she is left to carry the bulk and emotion of the movie herself.
Not only a great animal-attack film but one of the greatest movies of all time. A man-eating great white shark terrorizes the residents of a summer resort town, forcing police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) to head out to sea and kill the beast. The film, which single-handedly created the summer blockbuster and a sharp rise in galeophobia (fear of sharks), has so many pieces that work in its favor it is the undisputed pinnacle of the genre: the direction of Steven Spielberga fortuitous decision to minimize actually seeing the shark, and stand-out performances from its trio of leads, in particular Shaw, who delivers one of the greatest monologues in Hollywood’s history.