If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise – and a teddy bear’s picnic is the least of your problems if the upcoming man-versus-beast epic Cocaine Bear is to be believed. It’s the final, violence-addled days of an American black bear, absolutely gacked up to the eyeballs after ingesting a duffle bag filled with coke and hell-bent on destroying everyone and everything unlucky enough to get in his way.
In honour of this poor, drug-fuelled beast and his merciless killing spree hitting cinema screens this week, here are some of the other animal antagonists who paved the way for his frankly implausible levels of villainy.
10. The piranhas from Piranha (1978)
A B-movie cult classic loosely inspired by Jaws, Piranha had a special effects budget of just $50k, and with all the affection in the world, you can really tell. Terrifying as they may be with their razor-sharp jaws, the film’s genetically-modified mutants don’t require much ingenuity at all to carry out their multiple killing sprees at a US holiday resort – most characters in the film have an alarming tendency for leaping into bodies of water the moment they find out it’s swarming with murderous piranhas – but on on the other hand, who knew that there were so many horrifyingly inventive ways for a fish to kill somebody?
Most likely nemesis: Mortimer & Whitehouse would make light work of rounding this lot up, and all without releasing a single gram of toxic smelt into the US riverways.
9. The ants from Empire Of The Ants (1977)
As with all of the best conflicting villains, you can also feel a shred of misplaced sympathy for the Dreamland Shores Ants. When obnoxious Marilyn Fryser (played by the iconic Joan Collins) tramples all over their habitat and sets out to make a quick profit on some worthless beachfront houses on a shore contaminated with radioactive waste, she’s quickly thwarted by a band of giant telekinetic ants with a festering dislike for landlords and bogus property developers. And in light of surging rental prices and dodgy, dangerous new-builds being sold off to the highest bidder nowadays, maybe they were onto something all along?
Most likely nemesis: Though the Ants are surprisingly nimble at times – just watch them clambering onto a speedboat – it’s hard to imagine them navigating a spiral staircase with much ease.
8. The birds from The Birds (1963)
From arsonist seagulls to killer crows, Alfred Hitchcock’s chilling horror The Birds has the whole lot. Very loosely inspired by real-life events – a freak spate of bird attacks in California, to be exact, fuelled by poisonous, aggression-inducing algae – Hitchcock’s own army of violent birds is motivated by something a lot more existential; humanity’s complete disregard for nature. And as anybody who’s ever feasted on fish and chips in close proximity to a hungry gull can attest to, there’s something particularly menacing about facing off with a flying antagonist.
Most likely nemesis: Bill Oddie would make for a formidable opponent.
7. Lucifer from Cinderella (1950)
While most of our antagonists so far fizzle with a very specific hatred for humanity, Cinderella’s cruel-spirited enemy Lucifer hasn’t even got a plausible motive – he’s just really, really mean. Named after the devil himself and too cunning for his own good, the creepy cat happily collaborates with wicked stepmothers to get ahead in life, destroying mice, dogs, and pretty much every other creature or person that gets in the way of his opulent lifestyle.
Most likely nemesis: Famously terrified of horses, however, Lucifer would be no match for Parks And Recreation’s Li’l Sebastian.
6. The lion from Beast (2022)
Starring Idris Elba, the utterly ridiculous survival thriller Beast veers between exactly two modes: raucous, overblown lion fighting, and Elba’s recently widowed character Dr. Nate making poorly-timed emotional speeches in between lion fights. Beyond a couple of allusions to the film’s titular beast being sad because poachers killed all of his mates, we don’t really get inside this monstrous creature’s psyche; instead, we’re treated to dust-up after dust-up, and a pride of inexplicably benevolent lions who step in to try and finish him off. Oscar-winning cinema, no notes.
Most likely nemesis: Carole Baskin.
5. The alligator from Alligator (1980)
Forget about fatbergs made of discarded wet wipes; far greater horrors lurk in the sewers of indie horror flick Alligator. After a teenager (who of course ends up cropping up again as a zoology specialist later in the film) is somehow able to procure a baby alligator on holiday in Florida, her dad reacts in a completely logical way and flushes it down the toilet, accidentally creating a giant, flesh-craving monster after it gorges itself on the corpses of genetically modified livestock over the course of 12 years. As usual, scores of naive victims decide to venture down into the sewers the minute they hear about this 36-feet-long mutant, and a reptilian all-you-can-eat buffet unfolds from here.
Most likely nemesis: Peter Pan’s Captain Hook – apparently a delicious feast for all manner of ‘gators and crocs – would’ve at least offered some temporary distraction.
4. Shere Khan from The Jungle Book (1967)
The Jungle Book’s resident petty king, Shere Khan has it in for Mowgli – lest we forget, a very small child who managed to evade his clutches once before when Shere killed both his parents – from the very beginning. A ferocious tiger with an insatiable appetite for destroying human life, his smooth old-timey villain’s voice is the work of the late voice actor George Sanders – and like all great boss level enemies, it turns out Shere’s got an Achilles’ heel…
Most likely nemesis: A couple of Yankee Candles might help to see off this otherwise unbeatable foe – his single weakness is that he hates fire.
3. The bear from Cocaine Bear (2023)
Though the film’s tagline “inspired by true events” should be taken with a paw-sized handful of salt, Cocaine Bear did really exist, even if there’s no evidence that he headed out on a merciless killing spree after ingesting 40 kilos of Class As. Can bears really scale enormous trees after hoovering up a huge bump of the white stuff? Do they really enjoy gyrating around on the floor to Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel’s ‘White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)’ after indulging in a couple of nose-beers? To be quite frank, it hardly matters – our furry pal could just as easily gain the power of flight and swoop upon his helpless victims like a flying squirrel, and the correct response would still be: “Yeah, sounds about right, that.”
Most likely nemesis: A Henry Hoover in the right place at the right time would eliminate his stash in one powerful huff.
2. King Kong
Though this giant prehistoric gorilla was a modest 24 feet tall in his original 1933 monster horror classic – which came out right before the Hays Code put a brief stop to US films depicting sex, extreme violence, profanity, and homosexuality, among many other things – one of the greatest things about King Kong is that nobody can seem to agree on his actual height. Over the course of multiple franchises and face-offs with Godzilla, our guy changes stature more often than a five-feet-something bloke on Hinge. Admittedly, he’s more of an anti-heroic protagonist than a villain, but we’ve included him on this list anyway.
Most likely nemesis: The presence of a model village would reduce him to an easier-to-defeat height.
1. The shark from Jaws (1975)
A genuinely terrifying classic, Jaws doesn’t just tap into one of people’s greatest fears at sea – it also touches on human hubris, cover-ups galore, and a local mayor who cares more about the economy than the murderous Great White surging towards his beaches. Thanks to a collection of mechanical sharks who often didn’t play ball during filming, director Steven Spielberg was forced to take an alternative approach to drumming up terror, and Bruce (named after Spielberg’s lawyer) ends up being at his most terrifying in the scenes where you can’t actually see him. And who else but this New England super-foe could carry off a theme song with just two notes?
Most likely nemesis: The Jaws theme just wouldn’t hit the same with a tambourine in the mix.
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