In The beast, the box office-terrifying new survival thriller, Idris Elba and his two daughters must survive (and eventually battle) a rabid lion stalking them and every other human he can sink his claws into in the South African wilderness. . It’s a great example of an “animal killer” movie. Many different types of animals have had their own shot at being a threat on the big screen. Sharks, alligators, spiders – you name it.
However, there are plenty of worthy animals that haven’t had the chance to go head-to-head (or claw or hoof or tentacle) with an Idris Elba type. After The beastwe’ve identified five animals that deserve their own movie, along with a quick look at what such a movie might look like.
What kinds of animals make a good killer animal movie subject? As a rule, they must pose a threat to a person. I personally believe that the largest animal an average person can fight with their bare hands is a coyote. A normal person might reasonably be able to kill a coyote, especially if he weighs enough, even if he would screw up 100% and have 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? Haven’t they seen Gordy’s Home? Absurd. At best, these fools could take a coyote. The best.
…Where was I going with this? Oh yes, the thing is, a good killer animal should be something big, imposing, and powerful enough to easily defeat an unarmed human (or even an armed human) or, if it’s a ‘a smaller animal, there must be a lot of them. Here are the five beasts that should have their own The beast.
At first, you might not think a bison – a herbivore – would make a great candidate. But, think about it. These animals are gigantic, they look distinctive, and they are indeed dangerous when charging. There’s a reason visitors to Yellowstone are explicitly prohibited from getting out of their cars or approaching wild bison. A charge can be fatal.
The best reason the bison would make a great subject for a killer animal movie is because the bison was wronged. Many good films in the subgenre go out of their way to ensure that audiences have some sympathy for the attacking beast, and one need only look at old photos of hunters sitting on a mountain of buffalo skulls to get some sympathy for them. A movie about killer bison could go one of two ways. One option is to place it in the present and have a bison run amok for revenge when some Yellowstone tourists disrespect nature. The other is to set it in the late 1800s and give a bison exact deadly revenge on a group of bison hunters who drive the animal to near extinction and destroy an entire way of life.
The largest lizard in the world, Komodo dragons are infamous for their disgusting, bacteria-filled mouths. A bite may not kill you, not right away, but the resulting infection almost certainly will without treatment. A Komodo dragon bite therefore adds a little delay to any encounter. A potential Komodo killer movie could make use of it. A group of tourists wander off the trail while hiking in some of the Indonesian islands where the lizards call home. When attacked by a Komodo dragon and one of them is bitten, they take refuge on a high rock that the lizards cannot climb. However, one of them has been bitten, and they have to help him quickly. Unfortunately, more and more dragons are now surrounding the rock, standing between our protagonists and security.
In other words, it is The shallows with dragons. It’s perfect.
Despite what The beast would you believe, lions are not the most dangerous animal in Africa. That price goes to mosquitoes, thanks to the spread of malaria and other diseases, but in terms of animals that kill directly, the humble hippopotamus is downright deadly. Supposedly, they are responsible for 500 human deaths each year. They’re massive, territorial, have gigantic mouths that could easily crush or puncture a human, and they’re fast in water and incredibly fast on land too.
The film here is simple. Our heroes are adventure-seeking kayakers who want to take the first-ever successful kayak trip on a tributary of the Congo River. While they’re prepared for the possible danger of rapids, crocodiles, and even regional political strife, things take a turn when they paddle straight into the kingdom of an angry hippopotamus. Fiona, that’s not it.
There have been a few movies about giant squids 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 The beast. However, the giant squids, as iconic as they are, are too close to the kaiju. The Kraken is a mythical animal, which makes any giant killer squid feel like more than just a killer animal.
Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately, for the characters in our proposed film), there are other types of squid that are very scary. Humboldt squid are about 5 feet long and often weigh over 100 pounds. They are lightning fast underwater and they hunt in large groups. They are known to be aggressive towards humans. Our squid movie would be about a researcher who accompanies a fishing boat because he can’t get enough funds for his own expedition to study giant squid. However, it turns out that giant squids aren’t what people on this boat should be afraid of…
The mountain lion – or cougar or puma, depending on which region you are in – at first glance seems too similar to an ordinary lion. We just did The beast, do we really need to see a smaller, comparatively less exotic type of big cat attack someone too? Yes, because cougars live in our own backyard.
There is a famous mountain lion named P22 who lives in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, which spans more than 4,000 mostly wild and mountainous square acres. P22 is a pretty cool cat, although she once left the park and ventured into Los Angeles, where she was spotted five doors down from my house at the same time I was walking my little dog. At the time, I had no idea a predator was hiding nearby. Ha ha ha yuck!
Either way, P22 is cool, but at the risk of ruining her reputation, what our film assumes is: what if she wasn’t? Our protagonists are residents of Los Angeles – maybe a budding movie star? – who veer off the trail in Griffith Park and find themselves trapped and chased by an injured, frantic mountain lion. They are isolated, alone and targeted by a deadly beast even though they can literally see civilization all the time. Maybe a good P22 type lion saves the day in the end. Basically, it’s beast in your gardena tight little thriller that reminds humanity that you are never as far from nature as you think.
The beast is now in theaters.