Animal Attack Movies: Why Men Great ‘Til They Gotta Be Ate (Or Something To Watch After You Finish ‘Tiger King’)
If you’re like millions of other people, then you’ve inhaled Netflix’s Tiger King series some time within the last 3 weeks. But while the series was entertaining, it focused a lot on the people involved. The animals, on the other hand, got short shrift. That didn’t sit right with me, so I thought it was time to turn the tables. If you’d like to see the animals get their due, then you’ll want to check out these animal attack movies.
Note: While there are some very famous films in this category, like Jaws or Cujo or even Jurassic Park, I’m mostly going to talk about lesser-knowns. That’s because I have a soft spot for horror movies (check out my horror anthology series for the 20th century) that are dumb as hell. I’m also limiting this to movies where multiple animals attack.
Big Boy Time: Apex Predator Animal Attack Movies
Roar; image via Drafthouse Films
When Meghan suggested this movie in our work Slack, it took me a moment to remember it. And then I was like, “Wait, is that the movie where like, everybody got mauled?” YES. Noel Marshall, who conceived the film with wife Tippi Hedren, wanted it to be super-realistic. That meant that most of the animals were untrained.
Unsurprisingly, many cast and crew members sustained injuries. It’s estimated that the animals attacked up to 70 people in real life. That includes Marshall, Hedren, and their respective children, like Melanie Griffith, who needed 50 stitches. Jan de Bont, who would go on to helm movies like Speed, was even scalped. It’s not a great film by any measure, but it’s worth seeing just for its history. As Hitfix said, it’s like the “snuff version of Swiss Family Robinson.”
(Roar is available on blu-ray and screens through Drafthouse.)
The Pack (1977)/Dogs Of Hell (1983)/The Breed (2006):
When I was 6, a “funny doggy” knocked me down and dragged me out of our yard. Thankfully, I was left with no real after-effects, save the brief scarring of teeth marks on my foot and perhaps surprisingly, no fear of canidae. By this point, I’ve been attacked so many times that I don’t take it personally. I understand that’s not the norm, so that’s why we have movies like these. Whether gone feral or bred that way, these dogs ain’t your puppers anymore.
And this is just a sampling–there are many, many dog attack films out there. This, of course, doesn’t include a little movie about a Saint Bernard that also came out in 1983.
(Dogs of Hell, sometimes called Rottweiler: Dogs of Hell, is available on DVD, as is The Breed. The Pack is available for rental through Prime Video and iTunes.)
If you haven’t heard of this one, then it’s probably because it has identity issues. Sure, you could watch The Grey, which came out a year later, and got a lot more press. But that’s more of an action survival film and we’re in it to win it with horror. And no, this is not the other Frozen. This one stars Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore, and Emma Bell as a trio of friends on a skiing trip. Unfortunately for them, they get stranded on the lift when the resort closes. Yikes, right? They can’t stay up there–they’ll freeze–so they have to get down. Unfortunately times two, their plight attracts a group of funny doggies.
image via Anchor Bay Films
What a little angel.
(Frozen is available for free through Youtube, Vudu, and Tubi. You can also rent it through iTunes and Prime Video.)
Under The Sea, We Off The Hook: Water-Based Animal Attack Movies
Obviously, this is a stacked category. From Jaws to Deep Blue Sea to the Sharknado series to The Meg, there’s no lack of underwater terror. And that’s just sharks. If you like gaties—and Lord knows I do–there’s also Alligator, Lake Placid, Primeval, and last year’s Crawl. But most of the time, these movies are about one mighty meaty creature, not a lot of them. And since the fun for me about these movies is the swarm, that’s why those previously-named are getting only an honorable mention.
The first Piranha movie made its debut in 1978 and spawned—get it?—sequels and one reboot in 1995. But my favorite is the 2010 reboot Piranha 3D, which Alexandre Aja directed. It has a simple premise: an earthquake at a wildly popular spring break destination unleashes a cache of hungry, hungry piranhas. Cut to…lots of people being cut by razor-sharp fish teeth. And then stay tuned for the twist, one of my favorite aquatic horror tropes.
(Piranha 3D is available through Hulu, Sling TV, Showtime, and Prime Video. It’s also available for rent through Vudu.)
Open Water (2010):
When it comes to animal attack movies, which are also known as natural horror, I like a mix of the ridiculous and the serious. In this category, the Piranha series is the ridiculous. This movie is the serious. Based on the true (and truly horrifying) story of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who were mistakenly left behind on a scuba excursion, Open Water imagines what happened afterward. And it ain’t pretty.
(Open Water is available on Hulu and for rental on YouTube, Google Play Movies &TV, Vudu, and Prime Video.)
Attack Of The Cuddle Monsters: The Softest Killers Alive
Do you know what cat is the most efficient killer in the world? Is it the tiger or the lion or a slightly smaller cat like the cheetah? Well, it is a smaller cat.
Despite the fact that it’s clearly a snuggly wuggly, that little cat means business. And so do the other angel babies in this category.
Night Of The Lepus (1972):
This movie hits the trifecta of things I love about animal attack movies: wooden writing/acting, absurd effects, and an implausible animal. Sure, apex predators are scary, but that’s it. They’re not usually fun or funny when they attack. They’re no giant bunnies terrorizing a small farming community. The plot of this film is silly enough, but the effects—placing regulation-size rabbits in dollhouses, f’rinstance—are what really tips this movie into greatness.
(Night of the Lepus is available for rental on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, and Prime Video.)
Black Sheep (2006):
On the other hand, if you’d like something a bit higher-quality, there’s this movie. In a nutshell, genetic experiments turn little lambs into a big problem. This film’s billed as a comedy-horror, but like another in that genre—Shawn of the Dead—it plays things straight, so the end result is more effective.
(Black Sheep is available for rent on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, and Prime Video.)
Creepy Crawly Animal Attack Movies: Personal Space Invaders
Many people have seen Arachnophobia, but that’s far from the only movie in this category. In fact, outside of water-dwellers, this may be the most crowded group of animal attack movies. Probably because it’s much easier to fake a bug attack than conjure up a herd of bears or whatever. Bees are an obvious choice. However, despite my love for The Deadly Bees—“The dog’s meat—have you seen it?”—I’m excluding them. Most people have probably sustained a bee sting. It’s much more fun when it’s something you don’t expect.
Like worms. In the small (fake) town of Fly Creek, Georgia, a thunderstorm has disastrous consequences. Instead of the usual storm damage, though, downed power lines are pumping electricity into the ground, riling up the local worms. Although this is obviously a doozy of a plot, decent effects (by the legendary Rick Baker) make this a campy classic.
(Squirm is available on Tubi and also as a tenth season Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode.)
Empire Of The Ants (1977)/It Happened At Lakewood Manor (1977):
Not only did both of these movies make their debut in ’77—an auspicious year for cult film—but they’re also both about ants. Their approaches, though, are very different. Empire is loosely based—very loosely based–on the H.G. Wells story of the same name, for example. It was part of a whole trilogy of Wells stories American International Pictures was doing at the time. 1976’s Food of the Gods also involves animal attacks, by the way, but it’s more of a menagerie movie. Anyway, Empire goes in for the eco-terror twist, as toxic waste causes ants to grow real big. If you’ve ever had one or many bite the fire out of you, then you can imagine the results. They’re not friendlier the bigger they get.
image via TV Guide
TV movie Lakewood Manor, also known as simply Ants!, on the other hand, is more realistic. Construction at the titular Lakewood hotel unearths a colony of little meanies. They’re like fire ants on performance-inhancing drugs. (If you don’t live in a part of the world with fire ants, then consider yourself blessed. Like wasps, they hate your guts.)
Once loosed, they do what aggressive ants try to do: bite the hell out of everyone until they’re dead.
(Empire of the Ants is available on Prime Video for rental. Ants! is available on DVD and on YouTube.)
I’m not sure I can think of a creature less threatening than a slug. I mean, my sister was terrified of them, but that was when she was young enough to call them “slurms.” Nevertheless, as with all of these movies, anything is unnerving enough in large numbers. Even slugs, I guess. Like Squirm, this flick focuses on a rural community. Toxic waste strikes again, turning ordinary black slugs into killers. Only a local health department employee, Mike Brady—yes—realizes the danger. Fun fact: The Spanish title is Muerte Viscosa, which translates as “Slimy Death.”
very real image via New World Pictures
(Slugs is available on Tubi for free and for rental through Vudu, Prime Video, YouTube, and Google Play Movies & TV.)
This movie doesn’t have the B-movie roots of many of the others here. Guillermo del Toro directed it, after all. However, I’m still including it. It fits the parameters, for one thing. And for another, despite its pedigree, it’s been forgotten by most folks. That’s a shame, because it has a good hook and some spine-tingling scenes. And it’s timely. See, an epidemic is spreading across New York City, killing hundreds of children. Little cockroaches are the ones carrying it, so an entomologist genetically engineers a predator. The “Judas” breed will mimic roaches, slipping into their groups, while releasing a toxic enzyme. It works, yay. Unfortunately, it works too well. The Judas breed starts leveling up, mimicking larger animals. Ahem.
(Mimic is available for rental on YouTube and Vudu.)
And that was some of my favorite animal attack movies. Again, this isn’t exhaustive, so I probably left your favorite off the list. I’d love to hear your suggestions, here or on social media.
(And another note: Although I really wanted to have a “Death from Above” category, I haven’t seen any bird attack movies outside of, well, The Birds.)
featured image via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at email@example.com.