When Animals Attack

06 July 2016
From spiders and birds to sharks and lions, we look at ten animal attack movies and shows.
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Movies and TV series featuring animal attacks as their main plots often perpetuate damaging stereotypes about the animal kingdom. However, if you can be aware of the fact and take these fictionalisations at face value, you can revel in the often ludicrously enjoyable entertainment they offer.

Amongst the endless B-grade offerings - we're looking at you Sharknado 1, 2, 3 and 4 - there are a few stronger renditions of what happens when animals attack. From A to Z, B-grade to A-list, we take a look at ten examples below.

1. Arachnophobia (1990)

There are an inordinate amount of phobias in this world, but arachnophobia is one many are familiar with. If you’re afflicted with a fear of spiders, this eight-legged manifestation is best avoided. But if you decide you’re brave enough, you’ll get to enjoy John Goodman having fun as an exterminator, and a preposterous plot bordering on cliché as it waves goodbye to the ‘80s with a delightful blend of comedy and horror.

2. The Birds (1963)

You could give the master of suspense a cardboard box and he’d make it scary. In 1963 Alfred Hitchcock directed his third movie based on a novel by Daphne du Maurier, The Birds, making our “feathered friends” the frightening villains of the piece. The attacks are ostensibly sudden and inexplicable, but the tongue-in-cheek trailer, featuring Hitchcock, goes a long way in explaining just why they attack. 

3. Black Sheep (2006)

Sheep may look passive and peaceful munching on the verdant hills of New Zealand, but when it’s genetically altered sheep you’re dealing with then this movie begins to look more like an early Peter Jackson movie. Filled with plenty of fun and frights, you’re sure to be entertained and never look at lamb chops in quite the same way.

4. Black Water (2007)

From the farmlands of New Zealand to the mangroves of Australia, this Aussie outing is heavy on the horror. It’s also one of the few mildly realistic tales, and not only because it’s based on the true story of a crocodile attack. While spiders, birds, sheep and many other animals will generally leave you alone if you stay out their way, saltwater crocodiles have been known to attack all kinds of beings, including the human kind.

5. Cujo (1983)

It’s not only wild animals or livestock that attack in these kinds of films. Dogs have featured as ferocious beasts in many a story, but none is more famous than Stephen King’s Cujo. The author’s 1981 novel about a rabid dog was adapted into a movie two years later, becoming a cult classic. The title character is a St. Bernard, which is actually a rescue dog! Luckily the breed received a much friendlier depiction in movies like Peter Pan and Beethoven.

6. Jaws (1975)

You can thank Steven Spielberg and this seaside horror for giving sharks a bad name. Even though the film has contributed in maligning the species, there is no denying the taut thrills produced by the menacing yet barely-visible presence of the human-hungry shark emphasised by the trepidation of that famous two-note theme.

7. Piranha (1978)

Another reason to stay out of the water is this killer fish flick, which was created as a something of a send up to Jaws. Finding Nemo’s Bruce may have told us that “fish are friends” but these snappy fish have been known to attack humans. The film ups the killer ante by having them genetically altered and introduced into a summer resort. Cue holiday chaos. The film was remade in 1995, and while the first film was a hit, the remake was completely dismissed. The second remake, in 2010, hooked audiences (yes, we just wrote another awful pun) and spawned (and again!) a less successful sequel.

8. The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

Set in 19th century Kenya, this lions’ tale is based on the true story of the Tsavo man-eaters, a couple of lions that developed a taste for human flesh. The true tale becomes quite tall, thanks to the over-dramatisation of several aspects, in order to ramp up the action and suspense.

9. Snakes on a Plane (2006)

The best thing about this movie is that Samuel L. Jackson didn’t even read the script when he agreed to make it. He just read the title and said yes – and you thought he couldn’t get any cooler. As Sam Jackson – and the movie teaches us – this is not something to take seriously. It’s funny, frightening, Jackson-packed with action and delivers 100% on its title.

10. Zoo (2015 - )

This TV series based on the novel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge is kind of like The Birds, but with all animals involved. From domestic to wild, the animals have revolted and it’s up to a zoologist, a field guide, a reporter, a veterinary pathologist, and a French chic to figure out why.

Watch Zoo Season 2 every Friday at 20:30 from 15 July on M-Net.