Premise first: There are a million cinematic genres out there just waiting for you to find them. Within those genres are countless films ranging from atrocious to (hopefully) all time great. We care at OGR, so since 2012 we have been occasionally highlighting a different genre and identifying which films in your respective genre are;
The GOOD: 8 / 10 and above
They might not all be great, but we wholeheartedly recommend that you check these out, as they represent some of the best the genre has to offer.
The (NOT) BAD: 6.5 / 10 to 7.5 / 10
These films might have a few flaws and probably won’t blow you away, but they aren’t terrible, boast at least a few decent moments and who knows there might just find a gem or two in here that works better for you.
The UGLY: 6 / 10 and below
Films that are ordinary at best, and worse… not much joy to be found here I’m afraid.
For the most part I will let the full reviews in the links tell the story. Feel free to let me know what I missed or which of your favourites is ranked too low.
I don’t think that animals and various beasts eating moronic humans will ever not be entertaining.
For the purposes of this list though a line had to be drawn. I chose to draw it at ‘based upon real things’. Sure we can – and as you will see below, have often – include films where the primary threat is something super-charged due to either science, misadventure or calculated evil, but aliens, monsters and things rooted in fantasy can find themselves another list.
Sorry Grabbers – that’s two lists I’ve killed you off lately. Even sorrier that I can’t talk up Tremors again… Jurassic Park, nah. Godzilla, even less. Exists? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, but you don’t make it here.
Mother Nature is in some way responsible for everything deadly in the films below, and sometimes she can be a real bitch…
It’s really not great until the very end, and if Ice Cube didn’t call the snake a ‘bitch’ at the end it might not have made the cut at all, but come on, giant killer snakes! If you pause to take this even a bit seriously then you have already lost the battle, this is a film about giant killer snakes after all. And as a schlocky B movie it really does have a lot; Ice Cube’s snarl, Owen Wilson’s constantly inappropriate womanising (“Is it just me or does the jungle make you really, really horny?”); J-Lo’s singlet and Jon Voight’s audacious over-acting, all culminate in a sequence where a snake regurgitates the human being it just ate whole, and the recently eaten person winks at us!!!!! Sometimes there just aren’t enough exclamation marks to make your point.
A frump American spider finds love with a fiery South American female with curves in all the right places, leading to millions of deadly offspring who immediately swarm a small town. Happens every weekend where I’m from. Arachnophobia keeps the tongue firmly in cheek, keeps the action mostly PG, and lets the natural creepiness of the eight legged villains do most of the work. The sight of them emerging from every crack and cranny to instantly infest a new room will stop your next breath. Every scene with the dopey exterminator John Goodman will supply the laughs.
Hands down the funniest film among its peers at the top part of the list. I mean piranhas, snakes, sharks, spiders, crocodiles; everyone is already scared of them. But sheep!? Of course it’s up to the crazy New Zealand scientists to stuff up trying to engineer a new perfect breed of sheep. Before you can say ‘choice bro’ sheep have gone feral, and anyone bitten by them undergoes some of the more brilliant physical transformations in recent times. Not gory enough to disgust or appal, and too funny not to be laughed at, Black Sheep is almost the perfect mix of horror and genuine comedy.
A big budget hunt for jewels in a war-torn country. Broad characters spouting BIG dialogue. Danger coming from all angles and in every form. Elaborate chases. Close getaways. Crashes and conflicts. This is a lower budget, less inspired Steven Spielberg film, and is just great fun regardless.
Another popcorn special with giant fishies. In this one Sam Jackson and a bunch of nobodies pump a smart drug into the tiny brains of giant sharks. Within days they have escaped and are ‘working as a team’ to eradicate everyone in the offshore facility. It sounds stupid, and it totally is, but the action moves quick and the deaths are spaced out just enough to keep you amused – and ignoring the fact that super-sharks are now a thing.
Arriving smack-dab amid Liam Neeson’s late career reinvention as a geriatric action star, The Grey sees him attempting to ward off a group of savage and intelligent wolves hell-bent on nipping at his frostbitten toes, as well as the many toes of the fellow survivors all heading home on the same place from a remote Alaskan FiFo site. It’s taut, tense, well acted and quite rewatchable, perhaps all things that a movie about wild dogs eating people needn’t be.
The original and in most eyes the best. Spielberg’s angry fish film reinvented suspense and with minimal tricks and an apparently un-cooperative animatronic shark – which inadvertently helped matters as he could show the shark less, which added to the tension – managed a film that kept a generation in the shallow end. As with many of Spielberg’s best, the film has also dated quite well.
One of the first horror (albeit watered down) films to feature a bona fide Hollywood cast and whip smart dialogue, Lake Placid is far more than a mere giant crocodile film. Here is a rare occasion where the beasties are not supercharged in some way, but with giant crocodiles I guess that’s not too big an impediment. The cash-in sequels have dulled the simple joy of watching a smart-arsed group get picked off one by one, and the ‘elderly person cursing for comedy’ has been done to death, but this is a exceedingly rewatchable film with laughs and gasps aplenty.
Everything about this stretches credibility. First of all the cast includes a former Brady Bunch member and an 80s teen pop princess. Second, and more importantly, the cheesily animated super-charged piranhas don’t just grow – they never stop growing. With so many ludicrously stupid sequences it’s hard to pick one, but I will settle for the one where the piranha leaps from the ocean to swallow an entire helicopter in mid-air. There are many ‘so bad they’re good’ films; I would venture that in budget vs entertainment terms, none top this.
Don’t let all of the considerable evidence prevent you from watching this film. Sure it’s everything you think it will be; gross, silly, inane, cheesy and pandering to the lowest common denominator – but this is one time when all of those things work. In short, Piranha 3D is everything that Piranha 3DD is not.
A prime example of how a classic can be effectively rebooted with class and credibility. …’Apes takes the kitsch series and roots it in a plausible scenario – albeit an oft-used one. In these films (with more to come) the CG apes are the stars, the humans mere supporting cast, there to assist, impede and be cut down as the story demands. The first saw the arrival of Caesar the scientifically super-charged chimp and his release to the wild, with the second film fast forwarding to a time where humanity is doing it tough and effectively living in cages. I for one cant wait for the third and beyond…
The (not) Bad
So this is about a rogue chihuahua… psych. One of the prototypes for the modern day killer animal genre, Alligator takes the ‘baby gator flushed into the sewers’ and has a lot of fun with it. The cops look for it and the limited FX budget available in 1981 ensure that the ‘gator lies low for much of the film, only emerging in time to graze at the bystander buffet. This is quite dated and probably hard to find in any case, but a solid example of how the formula really hasn’t changed much in three plus decades.
It’s almost as if the filmmakers watched Jaws and said “well that’s all well and good, but the ocean is big. How can we ratchet up the tension and justify putting the predator and prey in closer proximity?” So Bait takes place in a flooded shopping centre and has the sharks swimming up and down the aisles, ‘browsing for bargains’ while the terrified humans huddle atop the shelves. The unexpected charm here though is that the stupidity elicits a few laughs, and at least they tried.
Bats isn’t all that far removed from anything in the ‘Good’ section, and truth be told doesn’t boast too many attributes that some of the “Ugly’s don’t have, but I will defend the entertainment value that comes with watching Lou Diamond Phillips battle the hordes of rubber bats that threaten his Texas town to the end. The key to surviving a shitty B Movie is first knowing you’re in a shitty B Movie.
*Emperor from Star Wars voice* “Yesssss. Gooooood. Embrace the stupidity. Envisage how cheesy and fun the giant spider will look on the screen. That’s iiiiittttt. Now imagine the stupid spider growing. Grooowing. Groooooooowwwwingggggg. Bigger. And Bigger. And biiiiigggggerrrrr.” *Snaps file closed* “And THAT Mr. Hollywood, is my pitch.” Hands are shaken furiously… Everyone goes back to playing Candy Crush.
‘Sleepy Korean town attacked by half-tonne killer pig!’ Count me in. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Too much of the action takes place offscreen, and too much of the onscreen action is taken up by long boring discussions regarding how to best deal with the Computer Generated Pork. As always the main ingredient in silly B movies is the silliness; one should not strive to make the ridiculous plausible, but to embrace the implausibility. When staring off with Razorback, Chaw is the vicious little piggy who should have stayed home…
It’s amazing how good and bad the same film can be. This has both David Arquette and a plot that sees spiders mega-charged with toxic waste leaping about the place, ignoring all plausibility and reality. Yet somehow it manages to just stay the right side of silly/ludicrous and firmly in the B Movie funhouse. ‘Freaks is a poor cousin to Tremors and Piranha 3D, but a cousin nonetheless.
Everyone falls asleep without warning. When they wake up; GIANT BUGS! Infestation is quite a disorganised and random film, and it is actually quite stupid (duh) but it ticks the requisite joke/nudity/gross out boxes that justify a ‘killing time’ rental – and find a woman who doesn’t find bugs totally gross and I’ll show you a serial killer.
Peter Jackson is the Master of ‘If some is good, more is better’. Sure the big ape might be on the poster and the marketing tried to sell the ‘love story’ (via implied bestiality) theme, but the monkey and his missus play supporting roles here to everything that ever creeped, slithered or stampeded. Dinosaurs, giant lizards, giant bugs (actually just add ‘giant’ as a prefix to everything here), birds, bats, etc. Because after the Lord of the Rings reinvented ‘epic’ for a new generation, Jackson decided to try to kill the concept of overkill with still more overkill.
Arguably the best of the Australian entries, rounded out by the Bait-sharks and the Rogue-crocodile, Razorback refers to the huge hairy giant wild pigs that run amok in the northern areas of Australia. This film takes things a stage further by setting up a personal vendetta between pig and the designated human target, a grizzled old bugger with a big gun. This one wins the prize thanks to the effectiveness of the low budget effects once old Porky is finally unleashed near the end of the film.
Originally classed as ‘worthwhile’, this was ultimately bumped down by my phrase ‘get’s the lazy video night mix about right’. That and a direct comparison to the far superior Lake Placid, sees Rogue resigned to ‘not bad’, merely another perfectly adequate but unremarkable film in which a giant beastie – this time once again a crocodile – gets to munching up and down an inland river system.
Imagine; you’re a young single male and three girls have taken the time to chat to you, either to kill a couple minutes or whatever. Regardless of the chat, the one that takes the most interest in you and seems more entertained and amused by you, will be the one you find most attractive. No idea where I’m going with this, but I wanted The Ruins to work so bad that I eventually nearly overlooked every ridiculous facet and non-working feature, and tried to pass it off as worthwhile. It isn’t but for some reason I wanted a film about killer vines atop an ancient South American ruin to work.
There is no joy here, only Gen Y wilfully stupid marketing. Occasionally, like in the case of the execrable Sharknado and the sequels, something can momentarily capture the imagination or the gullible and easily pleased. Just know that it is for the novelty value that we watch, the chance to tell the guy at work what you watched last night. Let’s not pretend it’s for entertainment purposes. This ground is sour. (In other news I’m amazed I never reviewed Boa vs Python…)
M. Night – I’ve given up trying to think of mildly amusing ways to misspell his name – Shyamalan, has tried his hand at ‘twisting’ just about everything into something else, with the only consistent factor being the decreasing impact of both the twist and the films. That should probably not be a surprise when the twist turns out to be *spoilers* that plants have turned on humanity and ‘attacked’ us with spores. If you’re trying to make plants even remotely scary, either shoot for the stars with ridiculousness a la The Ruins, or have the audacity to make ol’ Audrey the space-crocus sing…
A giant ape film in which the natural instinct and abilities of the huge beastie are kept at bay only thanks to the amazing nullifying effect of the Disney studio. Joe could tear you apart or pummel you into pulp, but you just know he never will. This is why this film never does much to maintain your interest beyond hoping Charlize Theron might get bored and put on a bikini… (She doesn’t, which is why it isn’t higher on the list.)
In Monkey Shines a specially trained helper monkey is given the wrong injection, leading to it having homicidal tendencies and, furthermore, sharing visions with its quadriplegic owner. As I mentioned at the time the scare effectiveness depends on just how scary a small tick-ridden thing holding a scalpel is. I for one hate scalpels, but somehow if it’s a tiny jam jar sized monkey holding one, my trepidation actually diminishes. Just another example of how George Romero has been gifted ‘legendary’ status as a director despite the fact that his films are generally little more than half baked ideas.
Here is your argument for supercharging your creatures. Sure we know that being marooned in the middle of the ocean with no food, shelter or protection would suck. It would be even worse if sharks came to nibble inquisitively at your toes. we could have guessed that. Perhaps what we might not have guessed is – that at least as far as Open Water suggests – how boring the wait would be.
Troma called; they asked for their shtick back. Also; their lawyers rang and asked that you stop ruining their already awful name. Furthermore; the internet demanded I point out that it offers a billion fake boobs at call, without the drudgery of wasting 80 minutes. Then; alcohol purveyors complained that they couldn’t possibly create enough product to make this dross passable as ‘entertainment’. Finally, Piranha 3D openly lamented the fact that someone will one day mistake this film for it on a Netflix menu or similar. No-one deserves that.
The problem with giant crocodile flicks is that they only work when they are done super-serious or super-silly. If you keep a foot in both camps your project is usually doomed. Such is the case with the tale of Gustave the giant killer African croc. The film spends a lot of time building credibility and authenticity but failing, then when the perpetrator turns out to be a huge CGI beastie you wonder if he deserves more credit than the film in which he appears. It’s never a good sign when the computer effects in your B movie outshine the cast and plot.
Both films follow the equation: nubile young ‘uns plus silly beasties = gore & laughs. But knowing the equation is one thing, being able to carry out the calculation to at least decimal point is another altogether. Shark Night failed because it forgot that the basic premise of dodgy B movies is to have some fun. Zombeavers received a partial pass because it tried, even though it ultimately failed in every way beyond bafflingly gratuitous nudity. Some films spend more time on the titles than the plot.
At least this became famous for being ridiculous. A working title caught the eye of Samuel L Jackson and became a ‘go’ project. The project about snakes grew legs when the internet demanded that Sam Jax get to yell a line with the usual profanities in it. It was the world’s first big budget Choose your Own Adventure story, but as you’d guess with a million keyboard warriors having input – it wasn’t very good at all.
Same idea as Big Ass Spider. Same topic as Big Ass Spider. Same budget as Big Ass Spider. Essentially the same film as Big Ass Spider, but where that film embraced the limitations imposed by the genre, Spiders wallows in them and eventually drowns without so much as a splash. Even the name is the laziest of cop-outs. “Hey watch this, because Spiders.”
It isn’t so troubling that Willard the socially awkward shut-in finds friendship with a small furry rodent, it’s just how effortless and routine it all feels, all the way up to the point that thousands of rats cascade out of slow opening elevator doors. This is a dodgy fit for a list such as this, because here it is the human who is the creepiest-crawly in the film.
While it didn’t start out that way, this quickly turned into a land vs sea battle, with the wet stuff winning handsomely. I guess that should be more expected seeing as it covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface.
In any case sharks, crocs and piranhas account for over a third of the field here, with snakes and various bugs / spiders doing well also. Surprisingly, to me at least, is the fact that there are five monkey based films listed above.
If Family Feud had a survey about the scariest non-human living things, I would venture that – in some order – these would come up:
Not sure monkeys, plants, beavers or pigs would have made it, and pretty sure sheep wouldn’t have cracked the top 100…
Whatever the nature of the nature; animal, mineral or vegetable, various organic matter will continue to rebel against us, the vicious oppressor, in bloody, vicious, and – ideally – entertaining ways.
Long may it continue.