CAST VAL KILMER, MICHAEL DOUGLAS, BERNARD HILL, EMILY MORTIMER, TOM WILKINSON
DIRECTED BY STEPHEN HOPKINS
Based on the true story of two man eating lions who killed over 100 workers in Africa during the 1889 building of a bridge linking the Kenya-Uganda Railway, The Ghost and the Darkness is an ambitious yet flawed mix of David Lean epic and Jaws-esque thrills, featuring a fine leading turn from Val Kilmer, a scene chewing Michael Douglas, and some genuine scares from its two killer lions.
CAST RADHA MITCHELL, MICHAEL VARTAN, SAM WORTHINGTON, MIA WASIKOWSKA, JOHN JARRATT
DIRECTED BY GREG McLEAN
Greg McLean’s follow up to his international hit Wolf Creek was the grizzly creature feature Rogue.
Featuring a packed cast of local and international talent, along with one convicing looking CGI monster croc, Rogue focused on the plight of a group of tourists hounded by a fiercely territorial, gargantuan crocodile during a river boat tour in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Although reviews were positive, box office numbers were dispiriting, even though it was one of the better killer animal films to be released in some time.
CAST DEE WALLACE, DANNY PINTAURO, DANIEL HUGH KELLY, CHRISTOPHER STONE, ED LAUTER
DIRECTED BY LEWIS TEAGUE
One of the better adaptations of a Stephen King novel, Cujo starred scream queen Dee Wallace as a mother desperate to save herself and her son from a rabid monster of a dog, who has them trapped in a broken down car on a rural property.
King points to this film as having the most effective scare in all of his film adaptations, and indeed director Lewis Teague handled the tension, violence, and claustrophobia with a deft hand. Those afraid of dogs should look elsewhere.
OPEN WATER (2003)
CAST BLANCHARD RYAN, DANIEL TRAVIS, SAUL STEIN
DIRECTED BY CHRIS KENTIS
Filmed with a digital camera in shark infected waters (professional shark wranglers were employed to keep the cast safe), independent feature Open Water scared viewers and critics alike while making a killing at the box office, in its fictional retelling on an American couple who were stranded after scuba diving in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
With an emphasis on the real and a more than game cast playing along, Open Water was one of the few shark attack films which did not feel like a wasted opportunity.
BLACK WATER (2007)
CAST DIANA GLENN, MAEVE DERMODY, ANDY RODOREDA, BEN OXENBOULD
DIRECTED BY DAVID NERLICH, ANDREW TRAUCKI
Released in the same year as the much more hyped Rogue, this little Aussie croc attack thriller kept audiences on the edge of their seats in its portrayal of three friends stuck up shit creek without a paddle, as a monster crocodile picks them apart.
Taut performances and a great use of CG (not CGI) to superimpose real visuals of crocs in the wild helped Black Water become one of the best horror films of that year.
JURASSIC PARK (1993)
CAST SAM NEIL, LAURA DERN. JEFF GOLDBLUM, RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH, SAMUEL L.JACKSON
DIRECTED BY STEVEN SPIELBERG
A near perfect blend of sci-fi, horror, and ground breaking visual effects, Jurassic Park saw Steven Spielberg once again enter monster territory and deliver the goods as only he can.
Not only did Jurassic Park pave the way for the next generation of CGI blockbusters (Avatar, The Lord of the Rings), it made dinosaurs cool again and gave us the first “man eaten by T-Rex while on the crapper” shot.
CAST JEFF DANIELS, HARLEY JANE KOZAK, JULIAN SANDS, JOHN GOODMAN, BRIAN McNAMARA
DIRECTED BY FRANK MARSHALL
Those who have an affliction with creepy crawlies will do best to stay away from Arachnophobia, a horror/black comedy crossbreed that focuses on a country town under siege by a deadly new strain of spider.
Jeff Daniels does a solid job as the town doctor with an immense fear of spiders, yet it is John Goodman’s eccentric pest exterminator and a deluge of eight legged arachnids which steal the show.
It takes a genius like Alfred Hitchcock to take a bunch of birds and make them the most dangerous and deranged creatures on God’s green earth, swooping down and pecking away at unsuspecting towns folk, confused as to why nature would revolt in such a way.
If made today there is no doubt The Birds would be turned into 3-D exploitative trash, but in the hands of the great Hitch, this “animals attack” feature is all thrills and no schlock.
KING KONG (1933 & 2005)
CAST (1933) FAY WRAY, ROBERT ARMSTRONG, BRUCE CABOT, FRANK REICHER, SAM HARDY
(2005) NAOMI WATTS, ADRIEN BRODY, JACK BLACK, THOMAS KRETSCHMANN, ANDY SERKIS
DIRECTED BY (1933) MERIAN C. COOPER, ERNEST B. SCHOEDSACK
(2005) PETER JACKSON
Both the original and 2005 remake of King Kong meet the criteria of a great killer animal movie: a memorable “monster” running amok (in this case a colossal, prehistoric ape), characters worth investing in, and special effects which were ground breaking for both eras.
Yet unlike other films of its ilk, it is the relationship between the beast and the protagonist (played by Fay Wray / Naomi Watts) which has a notch above the competition, proving that love can sooth the most savage of beasts.
CAST ROY SCHEIDER, RICHARD DREYFUSS, ROBERT SHAW, LORRAINE GREY, MURRAY HAMILTON
DIRECTED BY STEVEN SPIELBERG
The mother of all killer animal movies, Jaws still stands tall as a chilling horror 35 years after its release.
Sure, ol’ “Bruce” (the shark, named after Spielberg’s lawyer) may seem like a rickety bag of bolts today, yet it is not the quality of the monster but how Spielberg uses it: seldom in the first half, only to scare the crap out of Roy Scheider’s police chief and the audience in breathtaking fashion during a pivotal moment in the second.
That this story of a monstrous Great White Shark feasting on the inhabitants of a small island community has yet to be bettered is a testament to Spielberg’s direction, and the spot on performances by Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss as the marine biologist out of his depth (the role which he whored in Piranha 3-D), and Robert Shaw’s obsessed hunter.
With its release the summer blockbuster was born, many patrons no doubt staying out of the water and filling the cinema.