Sam Raimi’s Crawl and the strange appeal of animal attack movies

Paramount’s most recent trailer release is for a horror film based on alligators attacking during a hurricane. While Gators In The Storm would’ve been a much more interesting title, the film is called Crawl and is produced by Evil Dead creator Sam Raimi. The film will also be directed by Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes). Check out the trailer below:

Aja is no stranger to animal horror, as he produced 2010’s Piranha 3D. While that film knew what it was and poked some fun at the genre, Crawl looks to be a serious attempt at a bottle concept thriller. A Category 5 hurricane raises water levels and alligators find their way into this family’s basement. It has a simple enough premise, as do most of these type of films. So, what makes these ideas so appealing to studios? Why do they bother to churn these out every once in a while?

I think it’s a safe assumption to say that this trend was popularized by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. It is said Hitchcock had over three thousand trained birds on the set. Some were supposedly fed a mix of wheat and whiskey to get them to linger and behave in unusual ways. The film is based on a book from the 50’s, but turned into an Oscar nominee for special effects. It spread a fear amongst viewers. Imagine what it would be like if animals turned on us for no reason at all. Birds are everywhere and we would never be able to escape them. There is an unconfirmed story that audience members at a United Kingdom screening of the film where shown out by speakers inside of bushes and trees playing bird noises as they exited.

When we think of these types of movies, one cannot help but remember Anaconda. Sure the idea of an alien attacking you in space like in Ridley Scott’s Alien is terrifying, but what if the same happened with a very real animal here on Earth. This film expanded on so much of the horrifying imagery these movies come along with. People being dragged underneath the water, heads being bitten off, giant snakes choking the life out of people and a kiss between Angelina Jolie’s father and Jenny from the block. Anaconda is one of the genre’s quintessential entries, no matter how bad the actual film was. Looking back, people tend to see the lamer, funnier side to these projects but it is said that the pricing for CGI was around $100,000 per second for the on-screen water snakes. If you thought this movie was rough, I strongly urge you to watch the sequel Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid.

The risk is always worth it for the studios because one is never sure if they’ve struck a gold mine. Back in the 1970’s, a little director known as Steven Spielberg was called upon to direct a movie called JAWS. A film that went on to win 3 Oscars and gross 470 million dollars world wide in the box office.This is 1975, mind you. It placed Spielberg firmly on the map and has one of the single most recognizable movie scores, composed by the great John Williams. Now, JAWS isn’t so much a horror as it is an attack thriller. Nonetheless, it is the reason studios are still pushing out films like The Meg. Shark attack movies are probably the most well known of these type of films. It has spawned offspring in several sequels and similar features like Deep Blue Sea and 47 Meters Down. Once a concept is frequently used, however, it will fall victim to the parody producers of the world. JAWS is responsible for the single most insane film concept in the world with the Sharknado movie series. It is a wildly popular, overtly terrible series of films based around tornadoes lifting sharks out of the water and throwing them at innocent bystanders. It is probably SyFy’s single most profitable venture and has stuck around for 6+ years at this point.

There are always the films that take the concept less serious. For example, Snakes on a Plane and Piranha 3D. Then there are the ones who fully dedicate to a firm horror premise like Cujo and the upcoming Crawl. Whatever the approach, studios want to catch that new wave. They want the latest animal attack frenzy to start with their property. The chance I see this film in theaters is super low, but quiet weeknights in your living room is prime animal horror time. That’s gotta count for something.

What is your favorite animal based horror? Are these the kinds of movies you see in theaters?

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