CLOSE

10 Crazy Animal B-Movies Worth Way More Attention Than Sharknado

If you're going to make an "animal attack!" movie, there are two ways to go: you can take the "serious" route and try to emulate at least a fraction of the cool class and calm intensity of Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975), or you can plant your tongue firmly within your cheek and try to be silly and scary at the same time. One would argue that the former approach is decidedly more difficult to pull off than the latter, and that you need only to switch over to Syfy for proof. That's where you'll find all the Crocosauruses, the Giant Octopi, and of course the Sharknadoes: frequently chintzy and sometimes willfully bad movies that ask you not to play along with a silly premise, but to actually laugh at the ineptitude being splattered across the screen.

With that in mind, let's shine a small spotlight on some of the crazier animal B-movies that, while frequently quite silly, all strive to be seen as legitimate comedic thrillers; films that ask to be laughed with, not at.

1. Squirm (1976)

Squirm, the directorial debut of Jeff Lieberman—a low-key horror hero who went on to helm Blue Sunshine (1978), Just Before Dawn (1981), and Satan's Little Helper (2004)—is about a small Georgia town that finds itself overrun by electrified, carnivorous earthworms. Yes, they pour out of shower heads, flood cellars, and get into the food supply. It's all pretty gross.

Although frequently quite straight-faced, Squirm seems to get a bit more silly and self-deprecating as the worm feast lurches on, plus you'll get to see some great early work from FX master Rick Baker, a few wonderfully over-the-top acting performances, and more worms than you'd ever want to experience in real life.

2. Piranha (1978)

When it comes to filmmakers who love movies, you simply won't find anyone like the genre-blendin', fun-lovin' child-at-heart known as Joe Dante. Long before he gave us matinee classics like The Howling (1981), Innerspace (1987), and both of the undeniably awesome Gremlins movies (1984 & 1990), Dante was hired by the legendary Roger Corman to do something kinda, sorta just like Jaws.

Fortunately the director was way too creative to construct just another tiresome rip-off. Backed by a clever screenplay by John Sayles, in which ravenous fish invade a summer resort, Piranha is clearly inspired by Jaws (and its massive financial success) but also has its own distinctly satirical edge. It's arguably the best of the Jaws copycats, specifically because it's already poking some fun at the genre's various tropes, themes, and cliches. Plus it's got some memorably creepy kills.

3. Prophecy (1979)

It would be an understatement to call the late John Frankenheimer an eclectic filmmaker, but it seems that the director of The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Seven Days in May (1964), and Grand Prix (1966) had a little trouble tackling the "animal attack!" sub-genre back in 1979. Although clearly intended as a dead-serious statement about pollution and the plight of Native Americans, Prophecy is a bit too stone-faced for its own good, and the result is an earnest but goofy monster movie in which an impressive cast is left wandering around in a forest while a freakish mutated bear picks them off one by one.

While the set-up is a bit slow, and the screenplay by David Seltzer (The Omen) often takes itself way too seriously, it's still sort of fun to see a basic B-level monster movie that was put together by Paramount, Frankenheimer, and a cast that includes Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Richard Dysart, and Armand Assante. Also there's a death scene involving a sleeping bag that you simply must see to adequately disbelieve.

4. Alligator (1980)

Although director Lewis Teague would go on to direct a considerably more intense killer animal flick with 1983's Cujo, it's the weird wit and sardonic tone of 1980's Alligator that elevate it beyond most movies of its ilk. Like Piranha, Alligator is both a full-bore nature-run-amok horror flick and also sly parody of horror movies in which nature runs amok, which only makes sense since both films were written by screenwriting demigod Sayles (he also wrote 1981's The Howling).

In addition to its colorful balance of nasty horror and wise-ass humor, Alligator also boasts some pretty decent special effects and an acting ensemble that includes Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Dean Jagger, and Henry Silva having a great time in the "Quint" role. Keep your eyes peeled for the infamous swimming pool sequence, which inspired nightmares in at least a million pre-teens throughout the 1980s.

5. Roar (1981)

Although best known for her work in a movie about killer birds, Tippi Hedren should also be remembered for producing a film that required her to live alongside wild lions for the better part of a decade. Although all but forgotten these days (though it's about to get a re-release), Roar was relatively notorious for being a monumental flop at the box office—but it's easily one of the most insane films you'll ever see.

Produced by Hedren and her then-husband/thoroughly inept writer-director Noel Marshall, and starring all of their kids (including a young Melanie Griffith), Roar is a virtually plotless mish-mash of barely-connected sequences in which the filmmakers frolic, romp, and wrestle with a wild menagerie of lions and tigers and elephants. (Oh my.) Despite some beautiful cinematography, Roar frequently feels like a horror film that thinks it's a family film. The combination of good intentions, (mostly) bad filmmaking, and outrageously misguided tenacity make Roar one of cinema's most WTF!-worthy films.

6. Slugs (1988)

In the annals of Spanish cinema history, Jean Piquer Simón is a true original, as evidenced by this wildly unpredictable tale of garden slugs who suddenly turn homicidal. Of course it would be absurd to spin this type of yarn with a straight face, and Slugs does not disappoint in the over-the-top department.

Not only does the film offer the obvious threat—that being "slugs that eat people"—but it also features some truly disgusting moments involving slug salads, exploding heads, and all sorts of random carnage that has no logical place in this type of movie, but sure is fun to witness all the same. 

7. Man's Best Friend (1993)

Written and directed by John Lafia (Child's Play 2) and starring Ally Sheedy, Lance Henriksen, and a genetically-modified Tibetan Mastiff, Man's Best Friend plays a little bit like 1986's Short Circuit (which also starred Sheedy), only instead of a sweet-natured robot with a crush, the plot centers on a super-smart, super-strong, and frequently ferocious mega-dog who escapes from a lab, befriends a nice woman, and quickly starts eating people left and right.

The humor stems from a clever skewering of dog-related clichés and a slyly satirical tone that pops up in between moments of canine-related carnage. Man's Best Friend might not be the best killer dog movie you'll come across, but it might just be the most (intentionally) amusing.

8. Willard (2003)

Film buffs love to scream about how remakes are always inferior to the original film. Until you mention something great like The Fly (1986) or something good like Glen Morgan's stylishly nasty reboot of the (not very good) 1971 rat-laden Willard. Then they'll concede that, OK, sometimes remakes aren't all that bad.

What is it that elevates Willard beyond the trappings of a typical remake? Its dark sense of humor, fantastic Shirley Walker musical score, some nifty rodent-related visual effects, a supremely villainous R. Lee Ermey, and (of course) an admirably weird—but also sort of touching—performance from the patently unique Crispin Glover. The 1970s were rife with "misfit strikes back" horror movies (the original Willard even predates Carrie, which is sort of the template for this type of horror tale), but this unexpectedly clever remake adds a welcome dash of dark humor, which makes the admittedly bizarre premise feel just a little more accessible.

9. Black Sheep (2006)

Now here's a perfect example of a movie that strikes a balance between horror and humor: obviously it'd be impossible to make a "serious" movie about man-eating sheep, but that doesn't mean you have to deliver something overtly broad, stupid, or sloppily made. In fact, the New Zealand import known as Black Sheep was impressive enough to earn itself a spot in the Toronto Film Festival's prestigious "Midnight Madness" slate.

Writer-director Jonathan King strikes a great balance between character-based humor, sheep-related lunacy, and enough over-the-top gore to keep any horror fan appeased, but what works best about Black Sheep is its self-mocking tone and energetic presentation. It's all very silly, of course, but it's also very well made, and it stands as a great example of how to go broad, silly, and even ridiculous—without skimping on quality or treating viewers like imbeciles.

10. Big Ass Spider! (2013)

Although frequently (and erroneously) lumped in with junk-drawer movies like Mega Shark and Dinocroc, this low-budget, high-energy giant spider romp is actually an admirably on-point homage to a sub-genre that spawned The Giant Spider Invasion (1975), Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), and the still-fantastic Arachnophobia (1990). (If you haven't seen Arachnophobia, queue that one up immediately.) And feel free to toss Eight Legged Freaks (2002) onto the list as well.

Although obviously broad and frequently silly, Big Ass Spider! is also a B-movie in which a surprisingly witty cast tries to save Los Angeles from—you guessed it—a big ass spider invasion. And while it certainly shows a few budgetary constraints and typical low-budget glitches, Big Ass Spider! still earns a lot of points for asking the audience to laugh with its goofy antics, but never at them. Which is the main the difference between low-rent pop culture "product" and an actual "movie." (Also, the spider FX are really cool.)

nextArticle.image_alt|e
DreamWorks
arrow
entertainment
15 Educational Facts About Old School
DreamWorks
DreamWorks

Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Universal Pictures
arrow
entertainment
15 Fun Facts About Army of Darkness
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

On February 19, 1993, Army of Darkness—the third installment in Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead franchise—made its way into U.S. theaters. You probably know all about Ash’s boomstick, but on the occasion of the hilarious horror comedy's 25th anniversary, it's worth a closer look.

1. ARMY OF DARKNESS ISN'T THE ENTIRE TITLE.

The film’s title is stylized onscreen as Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness. This phrasing was Sam Raimi’s homage to the defunct Hollywood tradition of putting stars’ names in movie titles (like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein)—but the studio feared the long title would confuse moviegoers, so it was shortened for official purposes to just Army of Darkness.

2. EVEN THE SHORTER TITLE WASN'T RAIMI'S FIRST CHOICE.

Army of Darkness is the third installment of the Evil Dead series and the first to take place during the Middle Ages. Raimi’s original title for Army of Darkness was The Medieval Dead.

3. BRIDGET FONDA FINALLY GOT TO WORK WITH RAIMI.

Bridget Fonda makes a cameoas Ash’s girlfriend Linda during the beginning flashback sequence. She is the third actress in three films to play Linda (following actresses Betsy Baker and Denise Bixler). Fonda—a huge Evil Dead II fan—had originally auditioned to be in Raimi’s previous film, Darkman, but didn’t get the part.

4. ASH'S CAR HAD A LOT OF SCREEN EXPERIENCE.

The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 allegedly appears in all of Sam Raimi’s films.

5. DARKMAN MADE ARMY OF DARKNESS POSSIBLE.

Raimi wanted to make Army of Darkness immediately following 1987’s Evil Dead II, but he struggled to find funding to finish his trilogy. The financial success of Raimi’s 1990 film, Darkman, eventually convinced Universal Studios to split the $12 million budget with executive producer Dino De Laurentiis.

6. A SUBTLE SCIENCE FICTION REFERENCE PLAYS A KEY ROLE.

The words Ash must utter to safely retrieve the Necronomicon (“Klaatu verata nikto”) are actually a variation on a phrase from the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that film, “Klaatu barada nitko” is the phrase one must say to stop the robot Gort from destroying Earth.

7. THE SKELETON DEADITES WERE AN HOMAGE.

Their design is a tribute to visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

8. THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN MAKES AN APPEARANCE.

Billy Bryan, the actor who portrays the second monster in the medieval pit, also portrayed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

9. SAM RAIMI'S BROTHER WORE A LOT OF HATS.

Ted Raimi—who makes cameos in all of his brother’s films—appears as three different background characters in Army of Darkness. He is first seen as a sympathetic villager, then as a dying soldier during the final battle, and, finally, as an S-Mart employee in the last scene.

10. RAIMI HAD TO FIGHT FOR AN R-RATING.

In keeping with the gory first two films in the series, Army of Darkness received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. It was subsequently bumped down to an R rating after the filmmakers pointed out that the ostensible gore in the film was happening to skeletons.

11. PLAYING EVIL ASH WAS TOUGH FOR CAMPBELL.

It took makeup artists three hours to get Campbell ready for shooting.

12. RAIMI STORYBOARDED EVERY SINGLE SHOT IN THE MOVIE HIMSELF.

About 25 shots in the final battle are taken from storyboards originally used in the 1948 Victor Fleming film Joan of Arc, which were brought to Raimi’s attention by visual effects supervisor William Mesa. Mesa got them from a friend, who got them from Fleming himself.

13. THERE'S AN EASTER EGG FOR TREKKIES.

Star Trek fans will recognize the location where Ash learns the “Klaatu verata nikto” incantation. The scene was shot at the iconic Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California, where the famous “Arena” episode from Star Trek was also shot. The movie also shot in the Bronson Canyon area of Griffith Park in Los Angeles that served as the Batcave for the 1960s Batman television show.

14. THE STUDIO CHANGED THE ENDING.

Bruce Campbell stars in 'Army of Darkness' (1992)
Universal Pictures

The original conclusion of the film—which Universal Studios deemed too negative—featured Ash taking too much potion to get back to the present day and waking up in a future, post-apocalyptic London. The ending can be seen on subsequent director’s cuts of home video versions of Army of Darkness.

15. EVEN AFTER YEARS OF TRYING, A SEQUEL NEVER MATERIALIZED.

Beginning in 2015, Bruce Campbell reprised his role as Ash in the Ash vs Evil Dead TV series. While fans of the Evil Dead franchise love it, Raimi spent years trying to get a sequel to Army of Darkness off the ground. On the commentary track for the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Raimi even shared a few of the discarded ideas he had for the film.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios