'Animal's Attack Movies'
There is something primal about humans being pursued by a deadly animal, it takes you back to the dog-eat-dog mentality of the African savanna. Alfred Hitchcock famously gave us murderous avians in The Birds (1963), but it was Steven Spielberg who really caught audiences imagination with 1975’s Jaws, this resonated with people, as it showed how vulnerable they were. Humans have used advanced technology to become the dominant species but when we are placed in a shark’s environment, we are as helpless now as we have ever been, and at the mercy of a beast with murderous intent. To up the stakes the animals became mutated or genetically engineered to increase how deadly they were. In 1980’s Alligator, the titular creature had been flushed down the toilet and eaten growth hormones in the sewer, we had carelessly caused our own downfall. Then it wasn’t just large vicious creatures that were a threat; Slugs (1988) feeds into our worst fears of something plentiful and slimy turning on us. The genre become sillier, with increasingly ridiculous situations that groups of characters who are asking to be torn to shreds, find themselves in. Of course the true skill is how you show your creature, with increasing use of CGI as we entered the 2000’s, the best in class uses a mix of both, presenting a fun scenario, obnoxious fools you want to see eaten and some great deaths. Depressingly we are destroying animal species at an astonishing rate, so sometimes it’s satisfying for nature to bite back.
Wild Beasts (1984) is an Italian exploitation film, with a delicious premise. The water supply of a large zoo is contaminated by PCP, driving the animals crazy. It is low budget and nasty, with a range of animals, breaking out and attacking people, from a large tiger to a lovely supply of rats. The human/animal interactions feel authentic, probably because the filmmakers used real animals in, inhumane ways that would rightfully appal people living in modern times. The film is a unique relic, and a skilful depiction of animals based horror, with a scene in which a guide dog turns on its owner particularly memorable. It has a bizarre ending that suggests, we are the real villains. I guess we already knew that.
There were certainly no animals harmed in the making of King Cobra (1999), just a wonderful looking giant model of a cobra mixed with a diamond back, a genetic experiment that has escaped from a lab (bloody scientists)! Unfortunately this coincides with a beer festival in a small town - its a hell of a lot of fun, many drunken victims and a great looking antagonist, but what sticks out is Pat Morita of Karate Kid fame as a snake expert, brought in to take out the reptile. Amazingly the snake does get dropped kick in the head, but disgracefully not by Mr. Miyagi himself. In a Mandela type moment, I always thought he was responsible, but it is a younger cast member, must have been an alternate universe.
Blood Surf (2000) has to be awarded for its ludicrous concept; a group of daredevil surfers travel to a secluded island to ‘Blood Surf’, which consists of throwing animal entrails into the water and surfing among giant sharks. Of course it does. But unfortunately for the thrill seekers there is a giant salt water crocodile that is interested in eating the sharks and the humans alike. The film encapsulates everything great about the 2000’s, rock music, flashy titles and a desire to ‘flip the script’. Main character Jeremy, complete with bleached blonde hair, is so annoyingly obnoxious, you are supporting the crocodile (which looks surprisingly decent) every step of the way.
One to avoid
Mega Shark VS Giant Octopus (2009) was the start of low budget rip off artist; Asylum’s obsession with computer generated creatures, attacking each other. What is a fun idea boils down to boring dialogue in a cramped set, doubling as a submarine, while poor CGI sequences play themselves out, as due to the size of the creatures, humans can’t interact with them. It loses the fun of an animal trying reclaim its place at the top of the food chain.