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In Beast, the new survival thriller terrorizing box offices, Idris Elba and his two daughters must survive (and eventually fight) an enraged lion that’s stalking them and any other humans it can sink its claws into in the South African wilderness. It’s a great example of a “killer animal” movie. Many, many different types of animals have gotten their own chance to be a threat on the silver screen. Sharks, alligators, spiders — you name it.
However, there are many worthy animals that have not gotten a chance to stand toe-to-toe (or claw or hoof or tentacle) with an Idris Elba-type. In the wake of Beast, we’ve identified five animals that deserve a movie of their own, along with a quick pitch of what such a movie could look like.
What types of animals make for a good killer animal movie subject? Typically, they need to be a threat to a person. It’s my personal belief that the largest animal that an average person could fight with their bare hands is a coyote. A normal person might reasonably be able to kill a coyote, especially if they weigh enough, though they would 100 percent get f***ed up themselves and would need to go to the hospital immediately after the fight. Six percent of Americans think they could fight a bear? Seventeen percent think they could take a chimpanzee? Did they not see Gordy’s Home? Absurd. At best these fools could take a coyote. At best.
…Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, the point is, a good killer animal should be something that is big and imposing and powerful enough to easily defeat an unarmed human (or even an armed one) or, if they’re a smaller animal, there needs to be a lot of them. Here are the five beasts that should get their own Beast.
At first, you might not think that a bison — a herbivore — would make for a great candidate. But, think about it. These animals are gigantic, they’re distinctive-looking, and they are indeed dangerous when they charge. There’s a reason why Yellowstone visitors are explicitly forbidden from getting out of their cars or approaching wild bison. A charge could be deadly.
The best reason why bison would make for a great killer animal movie subject is that bison have been wronged. Many good movies in the subgenre go out of their way to make sure the audience has some sympathy with the attacking beast, and you need only look at old pictures of hunters sitting on a mountain of bison skulls to have sympathy for them. A killer bison movie could take one of two paths. One option is to set it in the present and have a bison go on a rampage of revenge when some tourists at Yellowstone disrespect nature. The other is to set it in the late 1800s and have a bison exact deadly revenge on a group of bison hunters that are driving the animal to near-extinction and destroying an entire way of life.
The world’s largest lizard, Komodo dragons are infamous for their disgusting, bacteria-filled mouths. One bite might not kill you, not right away, but the resulting infection almost certainly will without treatment. A Komodo dragon bite, therefore, adds a bit of a ticking clock to any encounter. A potential killer Komodo movie could make use of this. A group of tourists goes off the trail while hiking in some of the Indonesian islands where the lizards make their home. When they’re attacked by a Komodo dragon and one of them is bitten, they take refuge on a tall rock that the lizards can’t scale. However, one of them has been bitten, and they need to get him to help soon. Unfortunately, more and more dragons are now circling the rock, standing between our protagonists and safety.
In other words, it’s The Shallows with dragons. It’s perfect.
Despite what Beast would have you believe, lions are not the most dangerous animal in Africa. That award goes to mosquitos, thanks to the spread of Malaria and other diseases, but in terms of animals that actually do the killing directly, the humble hippo is downright deadly. Supposedly, they’re responsible for 500 human deaths every year. They’re massive, territorial, have gigantic mouths that could easily crush or puncture a human, and they’re speedy in water and shockingly fast on land, too.
The movie, here, is simple. Our heroes are adventure-seeking kayakers who want to make the first-ever successful kayak trip down some Congo river tributary. While they’re prepared for possible danger from the rapids, crocodiles, and even regional political strife, things take a turn when they paddle right into the realm of a furious hippo. Fiona, this ain’t.
There have been a few movies about giant squid or oversized octopuses. Jaws author Peter Benchley actually wrote a book that became a TV movie about a giant squid, and that work was also titled Beast. However, giant squid, for as iconic they are, are too close to being kaiju. The Kraken is a mythical animal, which makes any killer giant squid feel like something more than just a killer animal.
Luckily, (or perhaps unluckily, for the characters in our proposed movie), there are other types of squids that are plenty scary. Humboldt squid grow to be about 5 feet long and often weigh over 100 pounds. They are lightning fast underwater and they hunt in large packs. They have been known to be aggressive to humans. Our squid movie would be about a researcher who tags along on a fishing vessel because he can’t get enough funding for his own expedition to study giant squid. However, it turns out that giant squids aren’t what the people on this boat should be afraid of…
The mountain lion — or cougar or puma, depending on what region you’re in — seems at first blush to be too similar to a regular lion. We just did Beast, do we really need to see a smaller, comparatively less-exotic type of big cat attack somebody, too? Yes, because mountain lions live in our own backyard.
There’s a famous mountain lion named P22 that lives in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, which spans more than 4,000 mostly wild and mountainous square acres. P22 is a pretty cool cat, even if one time she did leave the park and venture down into Los Angeles proper where she was spotted within, like, five doors of where I live at the same time I was walking my small little dog. At the time I had no idea a predator was lurking nearby. Ha ha ha yikes!
Anyway, P22 is chill, but at the risk of ruining her reputation, what our movie presupposes is: what if she weren’t? Our protagonists are Los Angeles residents — perhaps an aspiring movie star? — who go off the trail in Griffith Park and find themselves trapped and hunted by an injured and frenzied mountain lion. They’re isolated, alone, and targeted by a deadly beast even though they can literally see civilization the whole time. Maybe a P22-type good lion saves the day at the end. Basically, it’s Beast in Your Backyard, a tight little thriller that reminds humanity that we’re never as far from nature as we think we are.
Beast is now in theaters.