The A-Z of killer animals

Why do filmmakers spend so long creating scary sets for horror movies? They should just find the nearest farm, because animals? They're scary...

Animals are scary. Horror movies (and books, and TV shows) said so. Here’s your handy cut-out-and-keep guide to all the evil animals out there:

A = Anaconda Reports exist of 150ft long anacondas, though these have been mostly rubbished. They are known to grow up to 30ft, though, which is still massive. In Anaconda and Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, lots of hapless explorers, including Jon Voigt, got eaten by them, often swallowed whole. Urghh. According to the IMDB, Snakes on a Plane went under the fake working title of Anaconda 3 for a while; there were probably some anacondas in it, somewhere, but I’m no expert.

B = Bees What is it about bees that causes even the most stoic of us to scream and flap our arms about? Well, probably the fact that they sting. And the fact that most of us saw My Girl when we were kids and never quite got over it. The rather fantastic Save The Green Planet has a killed-by-bees scene, too, and while bees don’t finish off Nic Cage in The Wicker Man, that doesn’t stop him bellowing about it for a long, long time. Argh! Not the bees!

C = Crocodile Apparently, crocodiles prefer the taste of women to men. So if you’re ever swimming in crocodile infested water, you’d better hope you’re carrying a Y chromosome. The most recent killer croc movie was Black Water, but… well, it’s a really boring film. Wolf Creek director Greg McLean has made a movie about a crocodile that eats people, though, so maybe that’ll be better.

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D = Dog The most obvious fictional killer dog is Cujo, a Stephen King creation that, typically, didn’t translate very well from the page onto the screen. Or from King’s imagination onto the page. Wes Craven sullied his good name a bit further recently by producing The Breed, which had mutant dogs; Resident Evil: Apocalypse had some zombie dogs. Dogs are one of the less scary animals, though, because, well, look at them. Awww.

E = Elephant Four letters into the alphabet, and already I’m cheating. Elephants are one of the most obviously scary animals – they’re huge!! – but there don’t seem to have been many films about them killing people. Probably because it’s expensive. An elephant did, however, get some people killed in Warrior King, because it was Tony Jaa’s elephant, and he wasn’t happy about getting it stolen.

F = Felines Cats tend to get associated with witchcraft and other such spooky things. Bizarrely, horror films about cats tend to be based on the same two stories – either Cat People, or Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat. (The definitive version of the latter being Dario Argento’s 1990 version, which formed one half of Two Evil Eyes.) The most film that’s most explicitly about killer cats is The Uncanny, an anthology in which a cat hater tries to prove that cats are evil…

G = Godzilla Exactly what Godzilla is isn’t clear, but it seems safe to say that it’s an animal of some description – albeit one mutated by atomic bomb testings. There have been so many different incarnations of Godzilla on the silver screen that it seems sort of daft to try to list them all – the original Japanese series incorporated at least 16 films – but then the name sort of speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

H = Horse Horses aren’t usually considered scary, but they are big and powerful and heavy and could probably kill you without even trying, so maybe we should rethink our irrational fear of bees and apply it to horses, instead. In the American remake of The Ring, some horses were inexplicably drafted in to provide a bonus scare, and while it didn’t entirely work, the bit where the horse goes mental on the boat is quite scary.

I = Insects Lumping all the killer insects films together seems like a bit of a cheat, but who’s making these rules, anyway? In the 1950s, atomic testing in Mexico lead to the development of killer ants in Them!; science screwed up again in The Fly (both versions); in 2006’s Bug, doing too many drugs saw Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon go insane because of invisible bugs they thought were biting them. Which just goes to show that insects are so evil they don’t even need to show up to kill you.

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J = Jaws Okay, most animals have jaws, but the word has come to be associated with sharks thanks to the 1975 movie of the same name. And surely no-one’s going to argue that sharks aren’t scary and indeed likely to kill you?

K = King Kong Like Godzilla, the big monkey has starred in so many movies that it’s not worth naming them all, because he’s now a fully fledged cultural phenomenon. And a giant killer monkey.

L = Lizards There are tons of lizard movies, but my favourite is Lizard Woman, a Thai movie in which supernatural geckos kill people. Awesome.

M = Mutant cowsIn Isolation, genetic modification goes wrong on an Irish farm, leading to … well, mutant cows. That kill people. You’ve got to admit, that’s something you don’t see every day. Unless maybe you work on a mutant cow farm.

N = Nessie The Loch Ness Monster probably hasn’t ever killed anyone, because it probably doesn’t exist. If it does exist, though, and it turns out to be a dinosaur, it probably will kill people, and calling it something cute like “Nessie” won’t help.

O = Owl In the dark! With an owl! Filming owls in horror movies is almost as cliched as filming the full moon, and neither symbol usually has anything to do with the rest of the movie; filmmakers just think it’s spooky. And it would be, if it weren’t so overdone. There’s a random owl in Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, and David Bowie turns into one in Labyrinth. Neither kill anyone, but, um, yeah. Moving on…

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P = Pigs I hate pigs. They scare me. Something about their eyes – “piggy eyes” isn’t a compliment, for a good reason – and the horrible squealing noise they make… urghhhh. In Evilspeak, a young Clint Howard summons a herd (flock?) of devil pigs, which attack and eat a girl in the shower. I’m still traumatised.

Q = Queequeg I know, I know. You thought there was no way I’d think of anything for Q. But I did! Well, sort of. Queequeg was a character in Moby Dick, and it was also the name Scully gave to her dog in The X-Files. It wasn’t a killer dog, though – it was a Pomeranian. And it got eaten by a sea monster called Big Blue. 🙁

R = Rats Although they didn’t kill him, rats were the final straw in breaking Winston’s will in Nineteen Eighty-Four, and to be quite honest with you I can’t entirely blame him – I wouldn’t fancy rats eating my face off, either. Rats also caused the Black Death. Bastards. There have been loads and loads of horror films about rats, and they also seem to turn up in just about every disaster movie ever. Because they’re bastards. And never more than about 6ft away from you.

S = Sheep Like horses, sheep aren’t animals you’d immediately think to be scared of. But in Black Sheep, genetic engineering gone wrong turns the cute and fluffy lambs into flesh eating monsters. Apparently sheep don’t actually have the right kind of teeth to eat meat, but what’s to say they won’t have a go?

T = T-rex I toyed with “t for tiger” and “t for toad” but ultimately, the scariest animal ever that begins with the letter T is the tyrannosaurus rex. As seen in Jurassic Park, and happily, not in real life any more.

U = Undersea … thingy Specific, I know. But I needed somewhere to dump the monsters in films like Cloverfield and The Host. No-one knows what they are, what they want, or why they’re running about killing people: all we know is that they come from under the sea, and they’re pissed off. And that’s why human beings should stay above water. Plus, sharks.

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V = Vampire bats It’s fairly obvious why vampire bats are scary – they bite. And drink blood. Usually not human blood, but, look – there’s a reason Batman chose to dress up as a giant bat.

W = Werewolf The best werewolf movie ever made is American Werewolf in London. There are lots of other good ones out there, and hundreds of bad ones, but American Werewolf in London is the best. Fact. There are all sorts of scary associations with wolves – they’re connected with Dracula, and there’s the big bad wolf of fairy tales (incidentally, don’t ever watch the film of the same name, it’s terrible) – but they do occasionally look a bit too much like puppies to be really scary. Awww, puppies.

X, Y, Z = Zombie chickens Just to finish up the full farmyard of terror, Troma Entertainment presents Poultrygeist, a movie about zombie chickens and the fast food industry. With singing and dancing, and Lloyd Kaufman in a tutu. I’m not sure what the scariest part is, but the fact remains: chickens, like everything else on Earth given half a chance, will kill you.

So eat them first.