In an attempt to confront our demons, we are compelled to drum up the worst we can imagine, images that terrorizes us in our dreams, and reproduce those in film for all to see. I am haunted by images of a man hurled into a pit of alligators, a woman’s head floating in a jar and a basement where evil lurks. Seeing these things doesn’t do us any good; it isn’t a relief to the images out, but instead raises the stakes, inspiring more horror to behold. As Cormac McCarthy wrote in The Road: Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever.
*No cartoons, animatronics, etc
- Orca, the Killer Whale (Michael Anderson, USA, 1977) This is pure camp, but I was born the year it came out. I’ll never forget when he bites off the broken leg – cast and all – of Annie (Bo Derek).
- Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner, USA, 1990) It is the cheesiest of films, I concede that, but the wolf, Two Socks, is awesome. It’s one of the saddest moments in film when those bastard soldiers shoot and kill him.
- Tarzan the Apeman (W.S. Van Dyke, USA, 1932) Cheetah is a star, but it’s really all the elephants and crocodiles that make this film amazing. (Not so much the fake hippos.)
- A Boy and his Dog (L.Q. Jones, USA, 1975) This is camp apocalypse – before apocalypse was hip – with Don Johnson and his bitter mongrel, who thinks profoundly and cruelly on humanity but remains loyal to the end.
- The Secret of Roan Inish (John Sayles, USA, 1994) The magic in this film is very real. The seals come out of the dark sea in a wonderful, terrifying way. They know more than you would think.
- Gorillas in the Mist (Michael Apted, USA, 1988) The gorillas are incredible, just incredible. I know this film has animatronics, but it was shot on location and there are incredible shots of the gorillas in their habitat.
- The Edge (Lee Tamahori, USA, 1997) Bart the bear is a force, not only in the way he flings that poor guy around but also in how he lowers his ears and pushes out his lower lip. He also dies the tragic death.
- Babe (James Cromwell, USA, 1995) I admit there are too many visual effects – puppets too – but there really is a border collie and a pig. And it’s a great pig. “That’ll do, pig.”
- Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, USA, 2005) The rogue bear is pretty horrifying – devouring Treadwell and his girlfriend – but that is what bears do. There are so many other great bears in this and Timmy, the fox.