Meg 2: The Trench — out August 3 in theatres — sees Jason Statham returning to beat up a pack of giant megalodon sharks, as they race to the beach shoreline. It's the perfect kind of campy, unbridled chaos that lets loose a wild species long thought to be extinct, on the big screen for a playful experiment of pitting them up against humans. Films about rampaging beasts have always been fascinating horror movies to me, as they're filled with familiar animals that do exist in real life — most of whom we'd normally steer clear of. Meg 2 amplifies this fear to deliver a wildly elevated version of Jaws — an action blockbuster where Statham boldly harpoons sharks and whatnot. Yes, there are some other mystery creatures as well.
Animal attack movies are easy to plan conceptually, but hard to deliver since one must first figure out what tone to go for. If you go the campy route as with Meg 2: The Trench, it's important to realise that the audience generally wouldn't care for the events leading up to the colossal Meg's appearance. All the fluff needs to be gotten rid of fast if they're looking to provide mindless entertainment, which is essential to the idea of campy thriller films.
On the other hand, films like The Host and The Revenant are more focused on their characters, with the creatures merely serving as a catalyst for the events to unfurl in time. That's what's impressive about this genre — there are so many ways to interpret it, but it all hinges on how the animals' rage is presented.
Meg 2: The Trench to Blue Beetle, The Biggest Movies Releasing in August
As we await Meg 2's global release, here's a list of glorious animal attack movies worth sinking your teeth into.
Charting a tale about survival and revenge in the American wilderness of the early 1800s, The Revenant is easily Alejandro González Iñárritu's most breathtaking film, flush with expansive nature shots that slowly creep in, that one might mistake it for a documentary at times. In it, you follow a legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo Di Caprio), who on an expedition into the snow-capped forests, falls victim to a bear mauling, with the beast rigorously thrashing him around — biting him whenever he stops moving and heavily breathing and grunting in and around his face. It's a sense of fear heightened by a lack of music, with both man and beast taking a few seconds of break to compose themselves, as the audience prepares themselves for what's about to happen next.
It's hand down the best animal attack you'll ever see on film, all of which was captured in a continuous long take that took advantage of low lighting to make the best use of the CGI bear's imposing shadow and create the fear of imminent death. Director Iñárritu watched over ‘100 different bear attacks' as research, to best represent its movements and patterns, where it would briefly walk away to check on its cubs before slamming its weight down on Hugh again. Thankfully, he survives, albeit with deep wounds that render him unable to move and a case of severe fever creeping in. Left for dead by his comrades, he goes in and out of consciousness, often witnessing dreamlike sequences about his wife that motivate him to pull himself out of his grave and head on a path of revenge across a cinematic landscape.
The Revenant is up for streaming on Amazon Prime Video. You can also buy or rent it on Google Play Movies, YouTube Movies, and Apple TV.
If you've come across the ancient yet infamous clip of Quentin Tarantino listing his 20 favourite movies, you might have already heard about Bong Joon-ho's ‘wonderful' creature feature, The Host. Sure, it doesn't exactly fit into the category of animals, but it's a darkly comedic take on a tired genre that relies heavily on realistic, humane aspects of our society. A horrifying slug-like creature with tiny limbs and a slimy tail, formed by the vast amount of pollution in the local river, emerges within the first 20 minutes, kidnapping clumsy vendor Park Gang-du's (Song Kang-ho) youngest daughter. Just in that timespan, The Host has divided itself into two genres — one about killing the monster that's terrorising citizens, while seamlessly tying into an abduction thriller where a desperate family wants their child back.
Bong, who's known for inserting dialogue about social themes in his films, uses the titular Host as a metaphor for pollution and how it will eventually come back to bite humans. This is best represented in the scene where Park's family is quarantined by the American military for close contact with the monster, preventing them from searching for their daughter. For a 2006 movie, the CGI is serviceable, making good use of dark tunnels to hide some of its flaws, though it still looks scary enough — at times, desperate. The film also stars Park Hae-il (Decision to Leave) as Park's unemployed brother and political activist Park Nam-il, Bae Doona (Rebel Moon) as the child's gold-medal-achieving archer mother, and frequent Bong collaborator Byun Hee-bong as her grandfather.
The Host is currently available to stream on Netflix. A Hindi dubbed version is also streaming for free on MX Player.
Elizabeth Banks' latest Cocaine Bear revels in its absurdist premise and never goes beyond that — creatively, at least. This can be a good or bad thing depending on what you're trying to gain out of this movie, where the premise is exactly what the film's preposterous title promises, with the added edge of it being a true, recorded event from the mid-1980s. It explores the drama and fight for survival surrounding an oddball group of tourists, cops, and criminals — whose lives converge in a Georgia forest — after an American black bear unintentionally consumes a bag of cocaine and goes on a hell-ish rampage. If you're here to see the beast itself, it is only seen sparingly — almost as if the entire script was based around budgetary restrictions for CG.
When it did appear, it looked very convincing, but all of it is set in a darker colour palette. It's pretty common knowledge that filmmakers use darker environments to hide imperfections in CG, which isn't a problem by itself. It's just that Cocaine Bear's entire sequence of events is set in overcast lighting — even during daytime sequences — so even when it did appear (and looked scary), the tonal aspects were thrown off. Regardless, the film is a fun watch if you weren't looking into the technical aspects of it, promising a wild bear that behaves nothing like its species, with severely heightened abilities and speed. Cocaine can do insane things to you. The film stars an ensemble cast including Keri Russell (The Diplomat), musician Ice Cube, Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), and Ray Liotta (Goodfellas).
Cocaine Bear is available to stream on JioCinema, as part of its newly-forged partnership with NBCUniversal. You can also rent or buy it across Google Play Movies, YouTube Movies, Apple TV, and Zee5.
Cocaine Bear Review
Following the success of Piranha 3D, director Alexandre Aja is swapping the carnivorous fishes for some reptilian rampage, by way of alligators. Crawl is a purely entertaining animal attack film wherein Haley (Kaya Scodelario), a competitive swimmer, gets trapped underneath her father's (Barry Pepper) flooded house during a Category 5 hurricane, stained with bloody handprints that point toward something sinister. At a brisk 87-minute runtime, our characters can't catch a break, as they are pitted against nasty alligators chomping down everything that moves, escalating into a pure creature feature fun — a survival horror that also puts the poor family dog in trouble.
The tension in Crawl is heightened by intense stealth segments, rising water levels, and the discovery of several other alligator eggs that would eventually come to pose trouble for the family. Some of the events might come off as overtly goofy — Haley surviving a death roll and all — but it understands and fully utilises the ruthless nature of these reptiles to invoke the best shock value. Hailed by Tarantino as his favourite movie of 2019, the film also stars Morfydd Clarke (The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power) and Ross Anderson (The King's Man).
Crawl is available to purchase and rent for home viewing across Google Play Movies, YouTube Movies, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video.
The cultural significance of Jaws to animal attack blockbusters — and more importantly, cinema — is immeasurable, propelling director Steven Spielberg into the forefront of Hollywood. When a young woman is washed ashore after being killed by a shark in the tourist beach town of Amity Island, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw assume the duty of hunters who head out into the sea to get rid of it. But kickstarting the shark-hunting mission isn't that easy with the mayor involved, who doesn't want to close down the beach for the Fourth of July celebrations, out of fear that the revenue loss would cripple the town. So a good half of the film is actually set on land, exploring the absurdist ideals of its characters and understanding the level of danger citizens are exposing themselves to due to ignorance.
At the time, Jaws broke ground with its special effects, using an animatronic shark (nicknamed Bruce) that would bite onto the team's little ship, with the fear accentuated by it remaining unseen for the majority of the film's runtime. You see, the shark malfunctioned during filming, causing Spielberg to adopt other methods to convey an invisible, unprecedented terror — such as the opening segment where the camera is used to simulate the POV of the shark that only rises in tension with composer John William's iconic score. It's a haunting film that still resonates among film lovers as one of Spielberg's greatest works.
Jaws is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and JioCinema. You can also rent or purchase it for home viewing on Google Play Movies, YouTube Movies, and Apple TV.
Following a violent plane crash landing, a group of unruly oil workers are stranded in the remote wilderness of Alaska, with no sense of direction or a way to contact officials for help. Among those survivors is an experienced hunter and sharpshooter John Ottway (Liam Neeson), who leads the pack through the icy conditions and a vicious pack of grey wolves that are circling them. Heavily wounded and with the stench of blood wafting through the air, the group must head south, hoping they aren't picked off one by one.
In addition to it being a good man vs wild film, The Grey often veers into philosophical subjects, fleshing out its characters' beliefs in God and lack thereof, alongside exploring Ottway's suicidal tendencies. It's also got some beautiful low-light cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi, relying on natural lighting from vampires and such. Joe Carnahan — best known for The A-Team — helms the film which also stars Frank Grillo (Billions), Dermot Mulroney (Secret Invasion), Dallas Roberts (The Walking Dead), and Joe Anderson (Hannibal).
The Grey is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video via a Lionsgate Play add-on channel subscription.
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