Whether it’s because of chemicals in the water, scientific experiments gone wrong, or mother nature taking revenge, animals running amok has provided cinema with an endlessly entertaining series of films over the years. The hit comedy horror Cocaine Bear, directed by Elizabeth Banks, is inspired by the true story of a bear going on the rampage in the Chattahoochee National Forest after ingesting a stash of cocaine, might just be the craziest yet!
To celebrate its release on 4K UHD and Blu-ray on 29th May, here we attempt to round up the best of the beastly genre, from super-powered piranhas and rabid St Bernards to panic-inducing giant alligators at large on the city streets.
Ants. They can ruin a picnic. Especially if they have been exposed to radiation during atomic testing in New Mexico, then they won’t just carry a sandwich away but the whole family. It might be time to call in the military and some big bazookas to knock out these mega-pests.
THE BIRDS (1963)
In Alfred Hitchcock’s classic chiller, based on the short story by Daphne Du Maurier, a small New England town is plunged into terror when the title creatures decide to start attacking the populace. Why, you might ask, do the birds go crazy? It’s a good question, and one that goes unanswered in the film, which makes it all the more frightening.
THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION (1975)
This 70s drive-in favourite sees spiders from another planet landing on Earth (Wisconsin to be precise), hatching out of rocks and growing to a tremendous size before threatening all and sundry. If you have an aversion to creepy crawlies, steer well clear of this – even if the giant spiders themselves aren’t that convincing, the idea of a spider’s leg reaching through the window to grab you might be too much to bear.
18 feet of towering fury! Yes, a big ole bear is at large in a National Park, making life hell for the campers – so it is up to the park ranger to step in and save the day. Naturally the powers that be don’t want to shut the park down – that’d be bad for business. As if a tonne of fur, claw and fang on the loose isn’t!
DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977)
A group of hikers – including Naked Gun’s Leslie Nielsen, keeping a straight face – get attacked by, well, just about every animal you can imagine that lives in a mountain forest. The creatures have been driven berserk by the sun’s rays, penetrating the forest due to the depletion of the ozone layer. Cue attacks by snakes, wolves, bears and rats. And wait… is that a killer chipmunk!?
EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977)
Ants again, this time in a corking Bert I Gordon B-movie. They’ve grown huge and nasty after snacking on radioactive waste, and attack a boatload of real estate investors who have ventured out into the swamplands. One of the group, Joan Collins, no doubt breathed a sigh of relief when she got a part in Dynasty a few years later.
In Joe Dante’s fish gone rogue horror, mad scientists have bred a strain of killer piranhas. Naturally, these wee beasties get loose and swim upriver to, you guessed it, a resort with plenty of people swimming and frollicking. Things get messy. As one of the characters succinctly puts it: “the piranha … they’re eating the guests, sir”.
What would happen if a pet alligator was flushed down the toilet, and ended up living in the city sewers, snacking on discarded laboratory dogs injected with growth hormones? Well, the chances are that it would grow to an enormous size itself, and start chomping on the citizens. It is up to dogged cop Robert Forster to track down the gator to its lair and put a stop to its taxpayer eating ways.
Another bit of animal mayhem from director Lewis Teague, director of Alligator, this time concerning a rabid St Bernard who traps a mother (the excellent Dee Wallace) and her sick son inside a car on a very hot day. Based on the Stephen King book, you’ll believe a loveable cuddly big ball of fur can turn into a drooling dangerous beast, after getting a nip on the nose from a bat.
COCAINE BEAR (2023)
An oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converging in a Georgia forest where a 500-pound apex predator has ingested a staggering amount of cocaine and gone on a coke-fueled rampage for more blow… and blood. The film, which caused a sensation when it was released, stars Alden Ehrenreich (Solo), Keri Russell (The Rise of Skywalker), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Margo Martindale (Hereditary), and Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) as drugs kingpin wanting to find his missing product.
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