Sure animal horror movies can be scary (think ‘Jaws’), but sometimes it’s just hard not to laugh when animals attack the helpless, hapless humans of horror movies. So in honor of our slimy, feathered, and furry friends that aren’t exactly frightening, here’s a look at some of the worst animals featured in horror movies for having a good howl at:
The Killer Shrews (1959) – A shrew is a tiny, cute mouse-like critter with a mini anteater nose…until you blow it up to gigantic proportions. Then it becomes a venomous, man-eating monster! Of course this is by far one of the worst of the “when animals attack!” horror movies you’ll ever see, with a plot that involves a doctor’s plan to shrink humans to half their size in order to combat hunger (his experiments are what created the killer shrews). Fortunately, one filmmaker’s disaster makes a ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ treasure, and a little riffing makes it somewhat more bearable.
Pig Hunt (2008) – Obviously the filmmaker here got the idea for another of the worst animal horror movies from the film ‘Deliverance’, as this one is full of bad backwoods folk who have no problem with cold-blooded killing. But of course the star is “Pigzilla”, a giant boar with a taste for human flesh (maybe now you’ll think twice about having bacon for breakfast).
Night of the Lepus (1972) – When it comes to “when animals attack!” horror movies, this one is definitely competing with ‘The Killer Shrews’ for the title of the film with the least fearsome beast. Here the monsters are mutated bunnies, the result of an attempt to disrupt their breeding cycle through the use of a special serum. Instead of making the rabbits quit multiplying, the serum makes them super-sized, and they use their newfound stature to kill every human in sight. Of course there’s no way to make a rabbit terrifying unless the title of your movie is ‘Donnie Darko’, especially with the special effects budget this film apparently had. Maybe it was supposed to become an Easter horror classic with humans playing the role of Easter eggs? (Although I think I was actually more frightened of the Easter bunny as a kid than of this movie.)
Grizzly (1976) – And here’s one of the many animal horror movies that is an obvious ‘Jaws’ ripoff, replacing the shark with a guy in a bear suit; the water with the woods; and good actors with terrible ones. Not to say that bears aren’t scary (‘Grizzly Man’ proves just how frightening they can be), but even the Stephen Colberts of the world won’t be more afraid of going out into the woods alone after this one.
Frogs (1972) – This is one of the many “when animals attack!” horror movies with a message: don’t mess with Mother Nature. And frogs aren’t the only animals here that decide to get revenge on humans for trying to get rid of them; snapping turtles, birds, lizards, snakes, tarantulas, and leeches team up to form their own extermination team to try and rid the world of some of its most invasive species (even butterflies become baddies!). Unfortunately, the message in this precursor to ‘The Happening’ dies on the island with all the humans who were just so determined to have a frog-free Fourth of July (but at least Kermit’s brethren finally got revenge for being forced to play real-life Frogger all these years.)
Orca (1977) – I know ‘Free Willy’ didn’t exist when another of the “when animals attack!” movies here was released, but its existence (and that of Shamu) makes this blatant ‘Jaws’ ripoff even more laughable. But at least the movie tries to be a little unique with its tale of vengeance when a male orca targets the humans responsible for the death of his mate and baby (who is miscarried in a very bizarre birth sequence).
Cujo (1983) – This isn’t the worst of the animal horror movies here, but now it’s hard to see a St. Bernard as the bad guy, thanks to loveable movie mutt Beethoven (and those helpful hounds that carry barrels of medicine around on snowy mountains).
Strays (1991) – And if you think horror movies about man’s best friend are bad, you might want to check out this gem about man’s worst enemy. The killer cats here aren’t of the wild, large kind; nope, they’re just your average stray felines preying on a family sharing a house with them. You’ll really love the pussycat puppet paws used in some scenes, as well as how the cats seem more content to do cat things like attempt to take cat naps rather than to make the humans they’re supposed to be terrorizing take permanent naps (every now and then someone off camera will toss a cat at an unsuspecting human being for an attack scene, however). Looks like some kitties got hold of some bad cat nip (and the director here shared it with them).
Squirm (1976) – Okay, so worms are gross and they often have cameo appearances in horror movies, but these squirmy animals that make one macabre bowl of spaghetti don’t exactly have enough depth when they emerge from the depths to become horror movie stars. But, for what it’s worth, this movie does the most it can with its subject matter.
The Deadly Mantis (1957) – I’m sure I could do a whole other list of bad animal horror movies about some of the tiniest critters on steroids, but this is one of the more unique bugs to be blown up (plus the man-eating mantis is another of the animals here that MST3K has done battle with).
The Food of the Gods (1976) – Here’s one of the wildest “when animals attack!” movies, a tale of what happens when animals eat a marshmallow-y goo “from God”. The goo creates a KFC dream in the form of a giant chicken, but rats, worms, and wasps also partake in the foamy feast, ballooning into gigantic beasts. And of course human killing hilarity ensues. (When will filmmakers learn that simply making animals large doesn’t make them frightening?)
Monkey Shines (1988) – I’ll admit that monkeys can be pretty terrifying with their human-like features, opposable thumbs, and the calculating way the observe the world around them, but this movie just monkeys around too much with a crazy story to be all that creepy. A lab monkey seems to develop a telepathic connection with a paraplegic, whose angry thoughts lead the monkey to do the unthinkable. The monkey becomes disturbingly protective of her unwitting partner as he and his primate pal commit crimes with the dark side of his mind, but, like most of the animal horror movies here, even an original storyline can’t save this one from being laughable (maybe supersizing the tiny monkey would have made it scarier?).
Ticks (a.k.a. ‘Infested’) (1993) – Seth Green stars in this movie that features marijuana, sex, and giant, slimy ticks (and yes, you do get to see them explode). If you’re tired of vampires and looking for a different kind of blood sucking fun, you definitely won’t want to miss this one.
So what have we learned about when animals attack in horror movies? Well, in this case, fact is much more frightening than fiction, but it is fun to have a good laugh at these kooky critter depictions.