“Monsters” take many forms, especially in movies. Sometimes they’re otherworldly; frequently they seem to be superhuman. But movies like “Crawl” remind us that there are plenty of very real threats to our safety and security, even if the likelihood of an alligator getting trapped inside your own flooding living room isn’t very high. Of course, Alexandre Aja’s film is far from the first to pit man against beast in a battle for survival; but to commemorate the release of “Crawl,” we’ve assembled a shortlist of other entries in this venerated horror sub-genre (limited to creatures that either do, or at least plausibly could exist) to keep you frightened long after you’ve left the theater.
“The Birds” (1963)
Alfred Hitchcock was hardly the first filmmaker to explore “evil” animals, but his 1963 film starring Tippi Hedren elevated the menace precisely by never bothering to explain why they started attacking in the first place. Meanwhile there’s plenty of really traumatic action involving Hedren and some unhappy crows, which somehow only enhances the unsettling psychological drama unfolding between the human characters.
Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster building block changed movies forever with this tale of a local police chief (Roy Scheider) who discovers that a New England 4th of July celebration is about to serve as a buffet for a great white that only a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and professional shark hunter (Robert Shaw) know how to stop.
“Eaten Alive” (1976)
Tobe Hooper followed up his benchmark horror film “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” with this creepy film about a Louisiana hotelier whose guests check in but don’t check out, especially with a hungry pet alligator lurking in the swamp out front.
“The Food of the Gods” (1976)
Notorious schlockmeister Samuel Z. Arkoff produced this decidedly reductive adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel about a food product that bubbles up out of the ground on a remote island, transforming all of the local animals that feed upon it into giant monstrosities.
Pretty transparently inspired by “Jaws,” this film transplants not only its concept but many of Spielberg’s techniques into a national forest where an 18-foot-tall grizzly bear terrorizes campers.
In the fourth but far from last “deadly animal” movie of 1976, a surge of electricity drives legions of bloodthirsty worms out of their soil and towards the remote fishing village nearby.
Lewis Teague (“The Jewel of the Nile”) directed this movie written by John Sayles (“Lone Star”) that is more or less literally an urban legend come to life, about an alligator flushed from a toilet into the sewers of New York, where it grows to a monstrous size and starts preying on locals. Come for the alligator, stay for Robert Forster talking about his hair plugs.
“Alligator” director Lewis Teague also directed this Stephen King adaptation about a friendly Saint Bernard who gets bitten by a rabid bat and becomes a bloodthirsty threat to an unlucky family that, like in “The Birds,” is also dealing with some complex interpersonal issues.
“Of Unknown Origin” (1983)
Peter Weller (“Robocop”) stars in this oddball film from George P. Cosmatos (“Tombstone”) about a husband who sticks around to work on a business proposal after his wife and child go on vacation, only to find his life disrupted (and endangered) by an oversized rodent he becomes obsessed with destroying.
Frank Marshall (“Jurassic Park III”) directed this creepily relatable film about a small town doctor (Jeff Daniels) who’s forced to confront his fear of spiders after an entomologist discovers a new, deadly species of Amazonian arachnid and accidentally brings it back to the US.
Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube and scenery-chewing Jon Voight star in this pulpy thriller about a documentary crew that encounters more than they bargained for after the skipper hijacks their boat in order to hunt down a super-sized Amazonian snake.
“Lake Placid” (1999)
“Snakes on a Plane” (2006)
David R. Ellis directed this film that seemed like a meme before the internet knew what those were, about an FBI agent (Samuel L. Jackson) trapped on a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles with hundreds of deadly snakes slithering around.
Writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris (“The Game”) adapted the true story of a giant, man-eating crocodile named Gustave into this taught, bloody thriller starring Dominic Purcell, Orlando Jones, Brooke Langton and Jurgen Prochnow.
“Piranha 3D” (2010)
“Crawl” director Alexandre Aja delivered his first dose of animal-themed terror with this brutal, way-the-hell-over-the-top horror comedy about a group of bloodthirsty piranha that are accidentally unleashed into a lake during Spring Break, endangering co-eds by the hundreds.