When it comes to dominating life on our planet, man seems to have it all: the ability to think and reason, self-awareness and, of course, a nifty little featured called “opposable thumbs”. Yet for all our advantage, it seems that, entertainment wise, we’re always being pitted against so-called lesser life forms. From top action movies to horror, even comedy – we’re always fighting with something on land, air or water. Even if we usually come out on top, it serves as a reminder not to underestimate any animal we could meet.
Man vs. Bear – Okay, obviously man is at a disadvantage here. Size, strength, appetite and a great sense of protection when its young are threatened – I can’t think of anyone who wants to go up against those teeth and claws. In something like The Edge the bear is just as much a threat as man is to himself. Of course, you have the aptly-named Grizzly about a rogue bear making life hell for a state park. But, out of all the films that really get the point across that bears just aren’t human, look no further than the documentary about the late Timothy Treadwell, whose attempts to connect with these animals ended in tragedy, Grizzly Man.
Man vs. Dog – Often referred to as “man’s best friend” there are usually two ways to turn a loveable member of the family into a would-be killer: rabies and genetic engineering. The quintessential “killer” dog has to be Cujo, and while I think there are better Stephen King adaptations out there, watching a sweet. friendly St. Bernard turns from pet to monster is unsettling to say the least. And, looks for this to show up more than once on this list, man is never happy with nature and are always trying to play God. So in Man’s Best Friend a mutant dog is unleashed from the a lab and goes from friendly to ferocious without much though. Proving that man doesn’t need science to twist the actions of a dog, Samuel Fuller’s White Dog gives us the chilling vision of a dog trained to be violent against a specific race.
Man vs. Felines – Cats come in small package, and they come in quite larger sizes as well. Again, stories based in truth tend to scare me much more than anything Hollywood can cook up, which is why The Ghost and the Darkness is so unnerving. Yes, I’m sure they embellished things, but two man-eating lions, who seem to kill for pleasure, aren’t anything to take lightly. Black cats have some superstitious stigma attached to them – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t entirely innocent. I’m thinking specifically about The Cat from Hell featured in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. Let’s just say, if you have to take a hit out on a cat, make sure you have a back-up plan as well.
Man vs. Insects (and Arachnids) – You never think much about insects, no matter how pesky. Swat fly, smash a mosquito, step on an ant, squash a spider – but it’s easy to forget how many different terrible things mosquitoes carry that can kill you or how damaging termites can be to a house. Movie like to make things as terrifying as possible – swarms and invaders. Arachnophobia gives us a new, unknown species that hitches a ride to rural America and transforms it to its own hunting ground. While the B-movie-tastic Kingdom of the Spiders gives us a horde of tarantulas (and William Shatner!). Ants come in all sizes, from really, really big (Them!) to just small and insatiable (Ants). And, of course, man’s meddling leads to some terrifying insect implications in The Fly and Mimic. Meaning, maybe we should just leave bugs off the table when it comes to experimenting.
Man vs. Rodent – As the incomparable Indiana Jones put it: “Ah, rats.” No one likes disease-carrying vermin. I mean, they didn’t exactly cause the Black Death, but they were sure happy to carry it around wiping out a good chunk of humanity. But enough history, Willard (both original and remake) deal with a creepy dude with an unnatural attraction to the furry horrors. While Ben (known better for Michael Jackson’s song than the movie itself) acts as kind of sequel to Willard. All of these movies feature way too many of these things.
Man vs. Shark – Man has a distinct disadvantage in the water. Despite our many advantages, breathing underwater and swimming aren’t out strongest points. This list is dominated by Jaws, a movie that spawned a vendetta against great white sharks, and even if the sequels weren’t nearly as good, they made a boatload of them. But, as said earlier, man can’t help but tinker with what is already pretty much perfect, but in Deep Blue Sea, the noble effort of seeking a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, instead leads to creating a mutated super-smart shark. Excellent idea.
Man vs. Snake – Snakes get a pretty bad rap – when you’re portrayed as the bad guy in the Bible, you know you’re not going to get it easy. Yet, for the most part, I think they just want to be left alone – you have to provoke them, just like the many varied poisonous variety in Snakes on a Plane. It may have disappointed at the box office, but as ludicrous as the premise was, it was worth it just for Samuel L. Jackson. If sheer numbers don’t scare you, how about size? Anaconda makes even the largest snake look small by comparison. However, the main lesson learned is not to pick up strangers – especially in the middle o the Amazon.
Man vs. Wolf – It’s like a dog, only bigger, meaner and wilder. Having just seen The Grey, I can tell you even with Liam Neeson by your side, your chances of coming out on top are not guaranteed. Although not just about wolves, The Day After Tomorrow gives us not just an Apocalyptic swing in weather, but really hungry wolves who escape their man-made habitation only to turn back to sweet freedom and hunting – and humans make such temping targets.
There are plenty of other tempting targets out there: a killer crocodile in Lake Placid, the worst spring break ever interrupted by Piranha and even The Dude getting interrupted by a marmot in The Big Lebowski. It seems everywhere you look, we’re just getting bit, scratched, mauled, eaten and otherwise punished by animals of every stripe. When man decides to meddle with nature, it only gets worse. It doesn’t matter how much more advanced we are, sometimes we just can’t win.
Chris Kavan is the Community Manager of FilmCrave.com and he’s convinced the cuter something looks, the more insidious their plan to dominate humanity must be.