Birds aren't scary. I don't see many ways to make birds scary on any level. That is proof of Alfred Hitchcock's genius when he not only made birds scary but did it in one of the best horror movies ever created. Of course, the story is simple and to the point. A young couple meets and ends up on a vacation island where they are, suddenly and without reason, attacked by birds of all kinds. Suddenly, one of the most tense and terrifying films of all time plays out and it proves that Hitchcock could find suspense in anything and make even average birds frightening.
The movie was so scary that it made people afraid to go into the water. Rumors are that it ruined island vacation destinations for a couple of years. Oh yeah, it was also the very first summer blockbuster and is the genesis of what we love about summer movies today. Jaws was great because it took a very scary creature that could come in and kill anyone at any moment – if they went into the water. It also added some great character moments where officials delayed getting people out of the water until more died and then built around three of the most interesting characters in horror movies to hunt it down. Also, the idea of rarely seeing the creature was used to great effect here. There were more Jaws movies where the shark played a bigger role. This movie proves why a little might be better when it comes to scaring an audience.
3. Deep Blue Sea
There are some movies that are just plain old simple guilty pleasures that make me smile and that I can watch anytime it comes on TV. Deep Blue Sea is one of those movies. The sharks are kind of silly, being super strong and super smart mutant sharks, but damn if this movie doesn't entertain in spades. Thomas Jane is great as the loner who sets out to save everyone, Samuel L. Jackson is on great form and there is nothing better than watching him get bitten in half, and L.L. Cool J was amazing as the chef with the parrot. This movie wants to be nothing more than fun and succeeds on every level.
2. Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
I told myself I wouldn't use a cartoon. I had already said that no matter how much I love The Fox and the Hound, Lady and the Tramp and Finding Nemo, I would keep this as live action choices only. Then I remembered Wallace and Gromit and said screw it. Of course, these Aardman creations were around for many years in Oscar winning short films but when Aardman decided to bring them to the big screen, they just knocked it out of the park. In this story, Wallace and his best friend Gromit the dog are exterminators who specialize in stopping rabbits from eating the town's vegetables. When a giant monster rabbit shows up and sends the town into a panic, the duo set out to solve the mystery. The movie is smart and funny and damn near brilliant.
1. Lake Placid
I absolutely love Lake Placid. I think the best parts of the movie for me are Oliver Platt and Brendan Gleason trading some perfectly timed comic barbs at each other. This was also where I felt Betty White proved she could be absolutely hilarious. To be honest, the only thing about the movie I didn't like was Bridget Fonda, who was so unlikeable that I wanted her to get eaten by the giant crocodile. The effects were good, the tension was good, the water scenes were good and this is one of the best animal attacks movies I think I have ever seen. Honestly, it is a guilty pleasure, but it is a damn good one.
I know that this short lived NBC TV show is considered one of the worst shows of all time and that admitting to liking it unironically is very uncool, but I don't give a hoot. I like Manimal. It's a show about a college professor (Jonathan Chase, as played by Simon MacCorkindale) who can change into various animals so he can then help solve crimes and mysteries and whatnot. Chase could change into a panther, a hawk, a horse, among other animals (I always loved it when he changed into a panther). I don't remember how often we got to see, if at all, Chase changing into those animals, but then I haven't seen the show in years so some of the specific details are fuzzy. The show was cool and fun and, yes, ridiculous, but why is that a bad thing? I'd imagine that if someone tried to do this show today it would be all dark and grim and gory, which would be cool and all but it wouldn't be the same. It wouldn't be Manimal.
4. MAN'S BEST FRIEND (1993)
Man's Best Friend is about a genetically engineered big ass killer dog that accidentally gets released from the lab of a whacked out scientist played by the great Lance Henriksen. The big ass killer dog, Max, becomes the companion of the person that let him out, a news reporter played by Ally Sheedy. At first it all seems like a happy relationship. Max was abused at the lab, Sheedy let him out, and now he's going to thank her by protecting her from harm. Sounds like a great deal for everyone involved, except Henriksen, as he wants his big ass killer dog back. But then Max starts going after animals and people (he kills a mailman, he swallows a cat whole, he attacks Sheedy's boyfriend, among other things) and suddenly it looks like Henriksen was right. Max never should have been let out. Max is just too damn dangerous. The dog is huge, strong, impervious to mace, can climb a goddamn tree, is super intelligent, and if he decides that he doesn't want to be your buddy any more, well, you're done. Better hope he doesn't try to multiply (ha!). Why hasn't anyone tried to do a sequel to this?
3. ARACHNOPHOBIA (1990)
This is the horror comedy starring Jeff Daniels as a small town doctor that has to stop deadly mutant Venezuelan spiders from taking over said small town. Of course, no one wants to believe that there are deadly mutant Venezuelan spiders in the town, even though the dead bodies keep piling up. Hey, people die from spider bites all of the time. What's so damn special about that? But then more and more mutant spiders start showing up, so Daniels, along with a funny exterminator played by John Goodman, take the spiders out. There are plenty of cool suspense moments throughout the flick, but the section where the spiders take over Daniels' house is the best out of all of them. The movie still holds up today. And I still laugh when I think of the scene where Goodman sprays the one spider with poison several times but it won't die, so he walks over to it and steps on it. "Yeah, that's right. I'm bad." Hilarious.
2. THE BIRDS (1963)
Lots of people like Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds because absolutely nothing is explained. At the end of the movie the birds have stopped attacking people but we have no idea why they started attacking people in the first place. This ambiguity is also why a ton of people can't stand it. I disagree with that assessment but I can certainly understand why the lack of an explanation for the bird onslaught would be annoying. The movie is chock full of suspense and we get several classic Hitchcock set pieces, like the car exploding on the dock and the phone booth scene (the final sequence in the bedroom could also be considered a set piece). And then the attacks just stop. The birds have essentially taken over the world, but they're not doing anything anymore. They're just standing around. What the hell did I just watch? I would urge people who aren't too keen on the movie to give it another shot and watch it again. You may end up with a different opinion.
1. JAWS (1975)
When it comes to Jaws the thing I remember most about it, besides the scene where the big ass great white shark attacks Quint's boat and slowly eats Quint, is how the mayor of Amity, the resort town under siege by the big ass great white shark, doesn't want to close the beaches despite the presence of a big ass great white shark that eats people. Closing the beach, as Roy Scheider's Chief Brody wanted to do, would have been the wise thing to do. Close the beach, keep people away from the water, no one gets eaten. Problem solved. But then the mayor, brilliantly played by Murray Hamilton, can't let that happen. There's just too much money to be made from vacationers and whatnot. If they're scared of going to the beach they won't come and spend money. So the shark is going to have to be captured and killed. Again, it would have been easier to just close the beach and let the shark go away, which is what it probably would have done eventually. But that's not how resort towns do business. I've often wondered if anyone in the town government freaked out when they heard about what the shark did. What if Quint's relatives sued?
Ridiculous thought? Absolutely. But then that's what classic movies make you do. Think about weird things.