We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
With this weekend's impending release of Shark Night 3D, we at The Scorecard Review thought it appropriate to take a look back at Hollywood's best in the killer beast department. As a note to the reader: We've taken King Kong, velociraptors, and all the other fantastical creatures of H-wood, out of the running -- this list is to feature killer animals that populate films of a certain degree of realism. Yes, this stuff could actually happen! Really! I swear!
7. Anaconda (1997)
Recap: A "National Geographic" film crew is taken hostage by an insane hunter (Jon Voight), who takes them along on his quest to capture the world's largest - and deadliest - snake. Reason: This movie is truly awful. But it's also hilarious, and fun to watch. The cast is as ridiculous as the fakey-as-all-get-out snake. Jennifer Lopez shows off her acting chops (kidding) and Ice Cube has my favorite line, still leaning on his N.W.A. era 'tude. I don't even know how to type this line, but it's something to the effect of, "Dehr snakes out dehr dis big?" To the uninitiated, "Dehr" doubles for "there are" and "there." Gotta love it.
The cast is pretty deep actually, for how bad this film is, but most of the acting is substandard. A pre-famous Owen Wilson is about the only shiny object in the film that actually works. My personal favorite part of the film is when the waterfall in the background flows upwards (no, this is not supposed to happen). I believe what happened during production was something like, "Oh, shoot...we forgot to film a shot of the boat moving out of the inlet," ... "Oh, don't worry about it, we'll just use the shot of the boat moving into the inlet, and we'll play it backwards," ... "perfect, you're brilliant!" The anti-grav waterfall in the background must have gone unnoticed until it was too late. I'd advise you to keep your eyes peeled for this magical Hollywood moment. I'm not sure why, but it brings a certain degree of pleasure, reminding one full-on that, yes, you're watching a movie. A low-budget, dumb movie, but still a fun watch.
6. Primeval (2007)
Recap: A news team is sent to Burundi to capture and bring home a legendary 25-foot crocodile. Reason: I've always been a sucker for killer animal films, and I rented this one back when I was on a Crocodile/Alligator bender. It wasn't my favorite of the bunch (see #3 below for that), but it was good enough to make this list. I enjoyed the setting a lot, and Brooke Langton is definitely someone I'd like to spend some time with in the Burundi bush. That's not a double entendre, I'm dead serious. If I had my choice of female companions while hunting a 25-foot croc, Langton would be my pick. She's tough, confident, strong and skinny -- everyone knows that crocs like their human meals FAT. The rest of the cast here is OK, but I felt Langton really held this film together. All in all, it's a fun romp into the African wilds -- well, as much fun as one can have with a ridiculously dangerous indigenous beast always lurking exactly where you hope he's not.
5. Open Water (2003)
Recap: Based on the true story of two scuba divers accidentally stranded in shark infested waters. Reason: My girlfriend, at the time, was nuts about this film. I enjoyed it a lot, but she took a crazy liking to it, wouldn't stop talking about it, and I do understand it's got a certain infectiousness to it. It did very well at the box office, was a runaway (surprise) smash-hit. With a budget of just a half million dollars, it raked in $30 million domestically, and another $24 million overseas. AKA Open Water was a really huge hit, considering how truly indie this film was. It even spawned a sequel, which I have vowed to never see.
As a certified and semi-experienced SCUBA diver myself, I found myself relating the situation presented, and I believe that's a big part of why I got so into it, however, I wouldn't say it's a film that requires such. Ultimately, it's a film about survival and about mortality and about spending the last few moments of your life super wet, super thirsty, super tired and super scared. It was a very well-done film, considering what the filmmakers had to work with. I was pleased with the filmmakers' decision to cast regular old civilians as the leads. I found the characters of Susan and Daniel both extremely obnoxious, and that served as both an apertif and digestif of sorts. It made all the trauma that much easier to handle (it's easier to say goodbye to people you don't like, right?). Had it starred Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, I would have been weeping in the aisles.
4. Grizzly Man (2005)
Recap: A biopic on grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed in October of 2003 while living amongst grizzlies in Alaska. Reason: This was a very well-crafted film, a true documentary (if such can even exist) on a truly messed up dude (Treadwell) and his tagalong (Huguenard). Obi Wan put it best, "Who's the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?" In all seriousness though, this film was a pretty somber one. In quite similar fashion to Open Water, I found I had great disdain for the "protagonists" here, but as this was real life, I didn't find myself taking any pleasure in their demise. Quite the contrary, this was a very sad tale. Directed by Werner Herzog, masterfully put together.
3. Rogue (2007)
Recap: An American journalist (Michael Vartan) on assignment in the Australian outback encounters a man-eating crocodile. Reason: Michael Vartan, not really known for much outside of Alias, puts on a great performance here. It's a fish-out-of-water tale of a white-collar softie who's thrown for a hellish loop in Kakadu National Park, Australia -- a remote place known for it's gargantuan crocodiles. The ensemble cast of tourists who accompany him make for excellent sociological observation, and the tour guide in Radha Mitchell, well, what more could you ask for? How about a good-ole-boy appearance by Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans). Directed by Greg Mclean (Wolf Creek), this film is a really fun ride. I believe it's been greatly overlooked -- which makes sense, with all that films have to compete with nowadays. But it's time for that to stop, it's time for a Rogue re-birth.
2. The Birds (1963)
Recap: A wealthy San Francisco socialite (Tippie Hedren) pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people. Reason: OK, it's not one of Hitchcock's best films, but it is certainly one of the best killer animal films ever made. The creepiness with which Hitch gradually psyches out his audience is just excellent, seeping into each scene like evil molasses. Tippie Hedren is fantastic as the damsel in distress, and the shooting locations, cinematography, sound design and score are all top notch. It's pretty incredible if you think about it, that Hitchcock pulled this one off, after all, how scary can birds really be? Watch the movie, and you'll see.
1. Jaws (1975)
Recap: When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief (Roy Scheider), a marine scientist (Richard Dreyfuss) and grizzled fisherman (Robert Shaw) set out to stop it. Reason: The general writing community has a hefty 36-year head start on me here -- so much has already been written about this classic -- I'm not really sure where to begin, other than by saying, this film certainly deserves any and all praise/attention it's ever received. This was such a no-brainer for number one on this list, and all six films listed before it pale in comparison (like albino pale).
Jaws would most definitely be in my top 25 films of all time (if I were ever brave enough to try to actually attempt such a list). It's just magnificent craftsmanship, through and through. In all ways a film can succeed or fail, Jaws succeeds. Scheider, Shaw and Dreyfuss make for an amazingly volatile threesome, all bringing heavyweight acting talent to the table, fleshing out each remarkable character to the tens.
Jaws presents one of my favorite Hollywood scenes of all time, and in place of a long-winded description of it, let me just leave you with:
Show me the way to go home I'm tired and I want to go to bed I had a little drink about an hour ago And it went right to my head Where ever I may roam On land or sea or foam You will always hear me singing this song Show me the way to go home