Humanity has dominated the animal kingdom so utterly that we forget we were ever in competition against our mammalian and reptilian brethren. Many movies try to recreate that primal terror by inflating animals to grotesque proportions and removing our ability to defend ourselves or have the sense not to pick a fight with a giant spider. With Snakes on a Plane airing this month on IFC, we thought we’d spotlight some over-the-top animal attack movies. Look out! Things are gonna get really icky.
7. Arachnid (2001)
Arachnid may be the world’s first anti-horror movie. The “arachnid response” is our fundamental fear of anything alien, a terror fundamentally wired into the human brain, and this movie spends 95 minutes undoing everything scary about spiders. After watching this movie you’ll probably split up from your group and walk backwards into a genetic engineering institute built on a spider burial ground. The director is on record as saying the best thing about this movie was how he got to live in Barcelona while filming it, and we kind of can’t disagree with him. Barcelona is pretty nice.
6. Birdemic 2: The Resurrection (2013)
Birdemic‘s unintentional awfulness earned it a place in cult fandom. The sequel embraces its Z-movie status as an excuse to suck harder than an air conditioner connected to a septic tank. And the results are less pleasant, but still cult-worthy. You can’t help but think that everyone involved seems to know that they’re working on one of the most insanely wretched things ever made. You can almost see their fingers twitching to type “LOL” in every scene.
5. Beginning of the End (1957)
In the 1950s, someone worked out how to cheaply splice footage of people and close-up animals, and instead of using it for a single shot they spawned an entire genre. Cinemas were flooded with an entire ark’s worth of inflated animals, though that ark would still only have been the size of a houseboat because all the animals were small and unthreatening. Beginning of the End was notable for choosing one of the most unthreatening animals possible, as grasshoppers aren’t very intimidating unless you’re a blade of grass. The generic title doesn’t help matters — if they’d called the movie “Attack of the Grasshoppers” at least we’d know we were in for some sweet ‘hopper action amidst all the stock footage.
4. Snakehead Terror (2004)
In this C-movie extravaganza that presupposes that no one has ever seen Piranha, an inland fishing village finds that their lake has become infested with mutated omnivorous snakehead fish, which rapidly exhaust their native food supply and start walking on land and eating humans to avoid starvation. This is the only horror movie where the protagonists would be saved by going camping in the woods. Fish emerging from the water might be a miracle of evolution but they’re still much, much worse in the air than we are. Walking Mutant Terror Fish aren’t nearly as scary/awesome as a Snarknado.
3. Night of the Lepus (1972)
Making bunny rabbits look threatening is an amazing cinematic challenge, so it’s a pity nobody told that to the makers of Night of the Lepus. Every monster sequence looks like it was intended to be adored by four-year-olds, and sounds like it was written by those four-year-olds arguing over a crayon. The result is the cutest horror movie ever made.
We have to mention the Sharknado franchise as an example of a so-bad-it’s-kind-of-good animal attack movie, even though the filmmakers are a little too in on the joke at this point. (What forgotten ’80s or ’90s TV star will show up in Sharknado 4? Vicki from Small Wonder, maybe??) Sharknado knows the pleasures of absurdly awful movies which made its undeniably great premise (it’s in the title, come on) such a hit. But by the time Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! rolled around, we started to get a little tired of 90210‘s Ian Zeiring fighting a flying shark with a chainsaw, a sentence we never imagined we’d ever write.
1. Snakes on a Plane (2006)
The world’s first meta-disaster monster movie, Snakes on a Plane was an early example of the perils of viral marketing — its unprecedented Internet meme success translated into about 20 cents at the box office. But that’s what makes the movie even better, since it lets you enjoy every kind of movie disaster in one motherf-ing package. And that package is a plane. Full of snakes.