You know what scared the living f*ck out of me as a kid? Giant spiders. Giant sharks. Giant squids. You know, anything that was massive that attack us lowly humans. Now this was way before the SyFy channel cheapened it and added the crap CG with actors winking to the camera. In fact, the on-screen talent seemed to take it all seriously. Hell, the beasts didnít even have to be ridiculously gigantic. Did you see JAWS or TENTACLES? Quite possibly if you were out at sea, a ginormous octopus might grab you with one of its arms and pull you down deep into the depths. It COULD happen! But if the ocean didnít scare you, how about that damn pool sequence in ALLIGATOR? F*ck playing pirate like ever again after that. And what about when you are on land. Well then you had THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION or a little TV-movie called The Curse of the Black Widow with Donna Mills and Patty Duke! Come on nowÖ massive beasties are scary.
So what the hell happened. Over the past few decades this type of creature feature has become a rare thing indeed. On the big screen we have had PIRANHA 3D (2010) - hey, it had a big fish at one point - which was a pretty solid remake. Last year we had a surprisingly good flick called BACKCOUNTRY (2014) about a grizzly bear. If you are looking for giant apes, who could forget Peter Jacksonís KING KONG back in 2005. And of course weíve witnessed a few massive spider attacks - including a couple big ones in KING KONG. David Arquette battled jeep sized arachnids in EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS (2002) and you could find a few of these big creepy crawlies courtesy of the LORD OF THE RINGS and the HARRY POTTER movies. Giant spiders can be respectable dammit! Unfortunately, you couldnít get away from this stuff on cable, and it is mostly really terrible.
The modern day equivalent to big bug or terror on the seas in features is now generally regulated to the small screen. Youíve got CAMEL SPIDERS, ICE SPIDERS or ARACHNID. If killer Piranhas werenít enough, you had MEGA PIRANHA or PIRANHACONDA. And of course there is no shortage of killer sharks, a few with more than one head. Watch out for the dismal spectacle of 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK, 3-HEADED SHARK ATTACK, DINOSHARK, JERSEY SHORE SHARK ATTACK, JURASSIC SHARK, MALIBU SHARK ATTACK and of course MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS. Sadly, not a one of these features knew how to really scare the audience, generally they attempted laughs. Not that it isnít occasionally fun to see a bunch of sharks flying down from a SHARKNADO, but sometimes it would be nice to have a little bit of the old scares that they tried out years ago.
Can a film about a disturbance in nature really be great? Well, in addition to the above examples, Iíd say hell yes it can. The 1982 anthology CREEPSHOW - and to a lesser extent itís 1987 sequel CREEPSHOW 2 - both gave fine examples of nature gone wrong. The cockroaches in the original are super creepy - although not gigantic so there is that. But in the sequel, that big black mass in the lake made me not want to go swimming in any lake anywhere. And while they werenít the size of jeeps, the main spider in ARACHNOPHOBIA certainly had audiences squirming in their seats. One of the best examples of giant insects on the loose of late has to be the 2007 adaptation of Stephen Kingís THE MIST. Taking this kind of horror seriously was truly effective and yes, downright horrific - still disturbed by the ending though. And of course, one of the greatest motion pictures of all-time is JAWS (1975) about a shark terrorizing Amity Island.
There is hope for fans of man vs. nature flicks on a larger scale though. This month alone we have the giant whale from IN THE HEART OF THE SEA - although word of mouth is not nearly as good as it could be. And better still, we have a bear attack in the upcoming Academy Award contender THE REVENANT which will leave audiences in fright. However, what I would love to see is a return to this big budget massive mammal/shark/spider/ant adventure. Thankfully, we will soon see a return with KONG: SKULL ISLAND featuring none other than Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston. Thatís one hell of a good cast. And then, if all goes well, Eli Roth will be bringing the much anticipated - at least by me - Steve Alten novel MEG to life. Hopefully Roth will create something seriously scary on screen, because letís face it, how awesome would it be to once again be afraid to go in the water?
Maybe itís the booze talkiní, but letís bring back big budget giant killer animal movies to the silver screen. Sure we get a ton of it on the SyFy channel, but it is mostly hokey crap. Itís been way too long since weíve seen something even close to the magnificence that was JAWS. Hell, Iíd be happy with another DEEP BLUE SEA or EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS. At least movies like THE REEF - a highly underrated shark flick - and BAIT 3D are keeping the killer animal movies alive in a more satisfying way. Gigantic sharks, snakes, rodents, spiders, whateverÖ bring them on! Letís let nature loose on man once again without pandering to the so bad itís good entertainment level weíve grown accustomed to.