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Ten of the Most Memorable Killer Creatures in Horror Movies

Throughout the history of horror movies, all different species of animals have bucked back against humanity. But rarely do these creatures succeed in the end. Human vs. creature is the simplest of movie formulas because as a writer, you really do not need to give the creatures a motive for doing what they do. We do not fully understand how animals really think, so it is plausible for them to act violently for no particular or specific reason.  Creature features also have a lot more leeway to be silly and fun, while also maintaining a serious and dangerous threat, often resulting in whimsical but also thrilling movies. See below for ten of the most memorable killer creatures in horror cinema…

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The Piranhas from Piranha 3D (2010)

Alexandre Aja’s campy spring break horror movie Piranha 3D is one of the most fun creature features ever made. Piranha 3D is jam packed with fun actors, party music, gallons of blood, tons of nudity, and plenty of laughs. The loaded cast includes Elisabeth Shue, Adam Scott, Richard Dreyfuss, Christopher Lloyd, Jessica Szohr, Eli Roth, Jerry O’Connell, Ving Rhames and Steven R. McQueen, who is the grandson of Steve McQueen. Not to forget the various Porn stars who get naked and are ruthlessly chomped to death. But the actual stars of this movie are the piranhas… 

One of the many great aspects of Piranha 3D is that the story is actually well conceived. These mutant piranhas, as it turns out, are around two-million-years-old and were trapped in a lake beneath Lake Victoria in Arizona. Seismic activity in the desert region destroyed the barriers between the lake beneath, and the actual lake. Hence, allowing the ancient piranhas to make their way into the general population, and wreak havoc. It’s spring break on Lake Victoria. And literally the worst possible time for these creatures to make their escape. These little bastards are angry, and very hungry, blasting their way through the lake and turning spring break into an absolute bloodbath. There aren’t many worse ways to die than to be ripped to shreds by a swarm of angry prehistoric piranhas. And the worst part of all, these were just the baby piranhas… 

The Lions from The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

The killer lions from The Ghost and the Darkness are the only animals from this list that are based on real creatures. The Tsavo man-eaters of East Africa were a real-life pair of lions that terrorized railroad workers in the late 1890s. We all know lions to be vicious, but these Tsavo man-eaters were actual serial killers. The estimates of people they killed range from 40-100. There are many theories as to why this pair of lions started to stalk and hunt people. Some say it was due to disease in the region and the lions were short of prey, causing fits of rage and anger, but I’m of the belief that just like humans, sometimes creatures can naturally be predisposed to violence. 

The Ghost and the Darkness, written by the great William Goldman, and starring Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas, is a semi-historical movie about the hunt for these Tsavo man-eaters, one lion being called the Ghost, and one Darkness, hence the title. Obviously, this movie takes liberties with the real story for the sake of entertainment value, but I like to believe that the real-life lions also had a cave where there were hundreds of human skeletons stacked up, like trophies.

I found this movie to be an effectively fun adventure film that had some horror elements by way of thrilling sequences involving the lions stalking and hunting prey… 

Gordy from Nope (2022)

Nope, the third horror movie from Jordan Peele, was just as ambitious as his previous two movies, Get Out and Us. It’s safe to say that Peele is incredibly comfortable and works well with stories that have deep racial and social subjects and themes. I found Get Out to be an absolute masterpiece, while Us had some decent scenes but for the most part fell flat for me. Nope was obviously not as groundbreaking as Get Out was, but I found many of the scenes to be massively effective. Specifically, the flashback segment of Steven Yeun’s character (in a flashback sequence) filming a TV show called ‘Gordy’s Home!’. ‘Gordy’s Home!’, in the world of Nope, was a sitcom starring a regular family that had a pet chimpanzee. And in one of the most harrowing and outstandingly filmed scenes I’ve seen, the chimp who played Gordy in the show snaps, exploding in a vicious spree on set, severely and permanently injuring cast and crew, even killing some. Steven Yeun’s character, who was a child at the time, and a star on the show, witnesses Gordy’s rampage firsthand while hiding underneath a table. Gordy hauntingly notices Yeun’s character and slowly approaches him, covered in blood. Gordy and Yeun’s character share a moment just looking at each other. It seems like Gordy was going to spare Yeun’s character, because Gordy seemed to understand that the character didn’t deserve that fate, like maybe the others did? Even giving Yeun’s character a fist bump, which was their trademark interaction on the TV show. It struck me that Gordy seemed to understand that like him, Yeun’s character was also propped up and exploited for the sake of spectacle, a common theme in this movie, both literally and figuratively. And in the most heartbreaking fashion, a gunshot rings and Gordy hits the deck, killed by a headshot, his blood spraying right onto Yeun’s character, damaging his psyche for the rest of his life… 

I found this scene to be so outstanding for so many reasons. Nope is a spectacle of a movie that also hits on the harsh realities of those people that have to suffer for the sake of ‘spectacle’. Gordy is a creature that I will never forget. Just like Harambe… Check out this great review of Nope

The Zombeavers from Zombeavers (2014)

Zombeavers is far and away the silliest movie on this list. The best facet of this film is how self-aware it is. There is not one ounce of seriousness in this flick and that makes it a really enjoyable watch. Zombeavers is about a group of college students who go to a lake cabin for a little vacation. The classic setup for a horror movie. Although in this one, these kids are terrorized by a gaggle of beavers that were infected with toxic chemical waste that got into their water. The special effects used on these beavers are hilarious, and even though some of the killing scenes are still suspenseful, they are mostly just laugh out loud funny. 

Zombeavers flew under the radar as it was independently financed and received a small-scale release but it’s absolutely worth seeking out. The interesting thing about Zombeavers is that it is ‘critic-proof’. It is so self-aware and ridiculous that you can’t even pan it with a bad review. It might be stupid, but just sit back, laugh, and enjoy these beavers running around causing issues for these dipshit kids, and dumb locals…

Ben the Rat from Willard (2003)

Willard, starring Crispin Glover as the titular Willard, is the saddest movie on this list. Willard’s life is so depressing that it’s actually hard to watch. Crispin Glover was born to play this role. Willard is a down on his luck, social outcast, who gets bullied constantly by his boss (played by R. Lee Ermey). Willard befriends a white rat named Socrates and a large rat named Ben. Socrates the Rat is Willards best and only friend, and Willard proceeds to train a horde of rats to obey his commands. After Socrates the Rat is unfortunately killed by Willards boss, Willard breaks, and orders his legion of rats to kill his boss. Ben the Rat becomes the de facto leader of the rats because of his size and smarts, and when Willard’s guilty conscience overtakes him, he turns on the rats, and tries to kill them all. Ben the Rat and Willard get into a few standoffs and even though Ben seems to have Willard dead to rights on a few occasions, Willard survives and kills Ben the Rat with a knife in a weird but effective silhouette shot at the 3:02 mark of this clip. Willard isn’t exactly a memorable movie, but the final fifteen-minutes are pretty well done. Ben the Rat is no Stu Little. Ben the Rat was a little bastard of a troublemaker looking for problems…

The Alligators from Crawl (2019)

Surprisingly, there aren’t that many alligators or crocodiles who play the heavies in horror movies. Crawl is far and away the most effective of the existing alligator/crocodile movies. The premise is excellent, during a hurricane in Florida, a collegiate swimmer has to rescue her father from his flooding house, but her rescue attempt is thwarted by a gang of alligators who seem intent on killing everything in their path. Crawl was directed by Alexandre Aja (who has multiple movies on this list) written by The Rasmussen Brothers, and produced by the legendary Sam Raimi. Aja has a real talent for making horror movies both scary and fun. 

Crawl stars Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper as the father and daughter duo. With their dog Sugar, they have to do everything they can to escape the flooding house and surrounding area infested with killer gators. These gators are absolute monsters. The technology used on these bad boys was spectacular. I would fold like a lawn chair if one of these gators came after me, but that’s just me. This movie was thrilling from front to back, and is one of the greatest creature feature action horror movies of the decade… Check out this great review of Crawl

The Shark from Jaws (1975)

Not much I can add here that hasn’t already been said in pop culture over the last nearly fifty-years since Jaws was released. Jaws was extremely captivating both at the time of release and then continued to captivate audiences ever since, becoming an absolute phenomenon that never goes away. The Shark from Jaws is probably the most famous creature in horror, and one of the most famous creatures on earth. How many people worldwide don’t know  Jaws? The creature is relentless, cunning, vicious and massive. A true monster. The scariest trait is his ability to move around in the water unseen, literally. This is thanks to Spielberg’s genius, but also lack of funds and a dysfunctional animatronic shark. Spielberg just had to rely on his ability to create suspense with brilliant camera techniques to go with an amazing original score from John Williams. Spielberg and Williams obviously went on to take over Hollywood. Unfortunately for the shark, he was blown up by a small-town cop. But he will remain infamous forever…

Anacondas from Anaconda (1997)

Anaconda was a critical darling, amongst Razzie award voters that is. But in all seriousness, Anaconda wasn’t a bad movie by any means, it was actually nominated for a Saturn award as well. The premise is simple: A documentary crew perusing the Amazon rainforest encounters a duo of killer Anaconda snakes. These anacondas were able to make light work of most of the documentary crew. Honestly, the least believable thing about this movie was that these Anacondas were defeated. They were swallowing people whole and jumping around in the trees and moving at light speed yet somehow, were bested by Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube and Eric Stoltz. That’s not exactly Master Chief, Jason Bourne and John Rambo. Yeah, it’s a movie, but still, that’s weak. Even though these Anacondas lost to the weakest protagonists, they were still great horror movie creatures, and even though the movie is the definition of average, the anacondas themselves make it a worthwhile watch…

The Wolves from The Grey (2011)

The Grey is a harrowing movie. Liam Neeson plays a bodyguard of sorts for an oil company in Alaska. Tasked with protecting the employees from wildlife, in particular, wolves. When a plane full of these employees, including Neeson’s character, crashes in the Alaskan wilderness. The group must survive in the worst conditions possible. It’s cold as hell. Dark as hell. And a pack of ravenous wolves are stalking them. It’s up to Liam Neeson to do his job and protect the employees. Well, spoiler alert, he fails. Without going too deep into spoiler territory, the finale is spectacular. Liam Neeson’s character is such a badass and squaring up with the Alpha wolf makes for the sickest possible ending. 

The wolves in The Grey were beyond terrifying. The way that Joe Carnahan, the director, and Masanobu Takayanagi, the cinematographer, shot this movie is nothing short of excellent. It is always so dark but with the low visibility brings so much tension at all times. The wolves are always stalking the group, and this shot in particular, from 2:35 to 2:49, is so scary. All those eyes appearing in the darkness makes for a perfect scene. It’s a real shame that The Grey wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar for cinematography. The Grey is a wilderness horror action masterpiece, and this pack of wolves is as scary as it gets.

The Snakes from Snakes on a Plane (2006)

Snakes make another appearance on this list, and I’m so tired of these muthafuckin snakes on this muthafuckin list!… If you’ve seen Snakes on a Plane, then you get it. Samuel L. Jackson is good in everything, but he is particularly hilarious in this movie. He plays an FBI agent who is tasked with protecting an important witness in a murder case involving a significant mobster ordering a hit on a prosecutor. Unfortunately for the passengers on this plane, who get unknowingly caught up in this whole ordeal, the mobster arranged to have a crate full of venomous snakes placed strategically on this flight with a timer for the case to be automatically opened mid-flight. Of course, when the snakes are released, there has to be the typical couple on board joining the mile high club in the bathroom. Needless to say, they get viciously attacked and killed by the snakes. The snakes at this point are wreaking havoc, taking out pilots and even killing the power at one point. They proceed to lay waste on unsuspecting passengers. 2:50 to 3:20 of this scene is nightmare fuel.

Pretty much every single kill is absolutely gruesome. So it goes with snakes. I liked how there was so much variance from snake to snake. There were so many different species of snakes, who all had different methods of killing people. I could have spent two more hours watching these snakes go to work. Very entertaining horror movie creatures in a very entertaining horror movie…

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