By Gen Terblanche19 October 2023
When animals attack: Cocaine Bear and 6 more terrifying creature features
While animals are a kid’s best friend in movies like Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, Alaska, or Two Buddies and a Badger, grown-ups are real scaredy cats. Whether they’re on land, sea, or air, nowhere seems safe.
The latest creature roaring into the movies is Cocaine Bear. This tongue-in-cheek horror comedy was inspired by a 1985 case in which a hunter found a dead, 79-kilogram black bear in the Georgia woods, surrounded by the remains of a drug-filled duffel bag. According to the medical examiner, by the time the bear died (alone, and either very happy or very unhappy), its stomach was crammed with cocaine. The bag was one of many dropped by dead lawyer-turned-smuggler Andrew Carter Thornton II, who’d landed with a splat himself (thanks to a malfunctioning parachute) after he abandoned his plane.
Cocaine Bear stars Matthew Rhys (Perry Mason S1-2) as Andrew Carter Thornton II, Keri Russell as Sari the nurse, whose daughter Dee Dee (Brooklyn Prince) is skipping school in the woods, Margo Martindale (Mother Superior in Mrs Davis – she also worked with Matthew and Keri on The Americans) as park ranger Liz, Isaiah Whitlock Jr (George in Veep) as local detective Bob, Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Peter, a wildlife activist, and Ray Liotta as underworld kingpin Syd (in his final film before his death in 2022). They’re all acting their hearts out as they run screaming through the trees.
The bear operates like a classic horror movie villain. When you think it’s dead, it’ll come back slashing with its gigantic knife-hands and eat your face right off. It drags people off to their deaths through bushes, doors and windows. It lurks in dark corners grinding its teeth and drooling. It rips hikers apart in seconds, tossing limbs left and right, or it’ll drop off for a nap right on top of a victim in mid attack. It’s unpredictable, unstoppable and insane on cocaine!
Eat or be eaten
Cocaine Bear isn’t the only animal terrorising actors. Welcome to the Showmax menagerie, home of some of nature’s most entertaining predators.
Shark: Deep Blue Sea
In an underwater ocean facility that would have a James Bond villain waving fistfulls of cash, a team of scientists is conducting Alzheimer’s research by experimenting on mako sharks. But scientist Dr McCallister (Saffron Burrows) has made them super-smart. And when one escapes, her corporate sponsors send a team to investigate including big boss Russell Franklin (Samuel L Jackson) and shark wrangler Carter (Thomas Jane). Soon, everyone, including hapless cook “Preacher” Dudley (LL Cool J), is fighting for their lives as the facility becomes a death maze filled with sharks who’re determined to chomp their way to freedom.
Deep Blue Sea’s creative “traps” and unexpected death scenes will sweep you into a viewing frenzy.
Shark: The Shallows
In this action thriller, medical student Nancy (Blake Lively) is surfing at her late mom’s favourite beach in Mexico, unaware that a whale carcass has lured a gigantic great white shark to the area. One encounter with the shark later, Nancy is stranded and bleeding on a small rocky outcrop without her board. She has to figure out its patterns to get to the shore, or outwit it and get rescued. But the deadly predator turns the shallow lagoon area into its personal buffet, almost as if it’s using Nancy as bait.
The Shallows will convince you that sharks get malicious when you look delicious. And like Deep Blue Sea’s Mensa-ready makos, The Shallows’ great white seems to be a gifted strategist.
Widowed father Dr Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) takes his teenage daughters Mae (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries) to South Africa hoping to show them the village where their mother grew up, and to visit his old friend Marti (Sharlto Copley), who’s now the manager of the Mopani reserve. But while they are on safari in the reserve’s restricted area, a rogue lion starts stalking them after wiping out an entire Tsonga community in revenge for poachers killing its pride. And unlike most lions you meet on safari, this maned maniac has figured out how to break into a Jeep.
An enormous amount of work has gone into creating believable CGI lions, and one of this action horror film’s most intense scenes sees Idris screaming and rolling around in the dirt as the lion (whose appearance was based on a famous Kenyan lion known as Scarface) sinks its teeth into his back, knee and legs while ripping him to mincemeat with its claws. Only one can be king of the movie jungle.
Crocodiles: Lake Placid
David E Kelley’s (The Calling and The Undoing) classic horror comedy starts with unsuspecting residents of Black Lake, Maine, falling prey to a nine-mile-long Asian saltwater crocodile. A crocodile? In Maine? Where it snows in winter? Yes, it is rather unexpected, especially to Fish and Game Officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), palaeontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda), and mythology professor Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt).
Lake Placid has a message about why we don’t feed wild animals. Alas, stubborn local hermit Mrs Delores Bickerman (Betty White) has been devoted to feeding whole cows to her “pet” … ever since it killed her husband, Bernie. Rest in pieces, Bernie.
Gorilla: Kong: Skull Island
In the 1970s, Bill Randa (John Goodman) leads a US government mission, including an military unit commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L Jackson), tracker Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) – to Skull Island in the South Pacific. There, the local Iwi people are said to worship a 31.7-metre-tall great ape called Kong who protects them from the island’s other giant animals, including massive reptiles and a local giant octopus. And a crazy pilot named Hank (John C Reilly), who’s been marooned on Skull Island since World War II, has his own tales to tell.
Kong: Skull Island takes a show-don’t-tell approach thanks to CGI effects that give Kong a real weight and massive scale on screen. And there are loads of disposable victims to get eaten, smashed and smushed when man refuses to live in harmony with nature.
Snakes: Snakes on a Plane
Samuel L Jackson is stuck with a bunch of out of control animals for the third time in this list … but he only has himself to blame since he signed onto this action horror film on the strength of the title alone.
Samuel plays federal agent Neville Flynn, who’s escorting witness Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) to testify at the trial of gang lord Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson). But Eddie arranges for bags of venomous snakes to be smuggled aboard and released during the flight. Cue taipan turbulence for flight attendant Claire Miller (Julianna Margulies) and the passengers.
When a slithering pile of reptiles drops into your lap instead of an oxygen mask, a freakout in an enclosed space with no escape is understandable – for both passengers and reptiles. It’s all so determinedly silly that the snakes could be played by people with their hands in socks with googly eyes, and it would still be a must-watch.
Read more about spooky season on Showmax.
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