Here are nine personal “favorites.”
JAWS WITH BUNNIES. Night of the Lepus (1972) – Genre powerhouses DeForest Kelley and Janet Leigh aren’t enough to make giant mutant rabbits scary. Their rampage is depicted via forced perspective, terrible green screen, and having the bunnies hop around a model set that would make Godzilla embarrassed. Having said all that, it certainly falls into the “So bad it’s good” category.
JAWS WITH BUFFALOS. The White Buffalo (1977) – If you’ve been waiting your whole life to see Charles Bronson battle an albino buffalo, great news! Your wait is over. Wild Bill Hickock (Bronson) teams up with Crazy Horse (Will Sampson, who also played Chief in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) to battle the beast. It’s a fun way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon if you don’t have to scrub your grout or massage your cuticles.
JAWS WITH SLUGS. Slugs: The Movie (1988) – Causing audiences to say “ick” instead of screaming for their lives, Slugs fails to deliver on scares, and only moderately delivers on laughs. With a trailer that advises “steer clear of the sewers,” (admittedly good advice), and the promise of carnivorous slugs, the movie struggles mightily to be audacious. But in the end, your blood pressure is more likely to be raised by the table salt used to dispatch slugs than by Slugs.
JAWS WITH WORMS. Squirm (1976) – Did you know that electricity can summon earthworms to the surface? Sounds like a dream come true for fishermen everywhere. But hang on there. The downside is that they are also bloodthirsty monsters with a taste for human flesh. And they arrive by the millions. Writers, if your inciting incident is a totally random lightning storm, it’s time for a rewrite. Unfortunately, the creators of SQUIRM never got that note.
JAWS WITH GIANT MUTATED SPACE-MOSQUITOS. Mosquito (1995) – When space-litterers dump some space-garbage and space-corpses in an Earth-swamp as they pass through (bad form!), the local mosquitos have a nibble on the detritus, and grow to the size of vultures! Totally ignoring the relatability of JAWS, MOSQUITO devises a contrived backstory and amps up the jumps. The result is about as appealing as a night spent with actual mosquitos.
JAWS WITH BEES. The Swarm (1978) – American disaster-movie director Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno) directed this oddly-effective contribution to the genre. Much like his previous efforts, he brings a very deep bench to his cast. Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, Richard Widmark, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Fred MacMurray, and Henry Fonda are just the starting line-up. Magical anti-bee-venom is just the tip of the ridiculous stinger, but the bee attacks are still terrifying, and though it is lesser Allen, if you like his brand of epic-scale disaster, give it a look. For what it’s worth, The Swarm won an Oscar for costume design. An award guaranteed to make you say, “Wha…?”
JAWS WITH A DOG. Cujo (1978) – Remember how you felt when you first saw the fate of Old Yeller? Well, here’s an idea of what might have happened had they shown mercy to the best doggone dog in the west. Cujo (based on a novel by Stephen King) is actually a very fun horror/thriller that holds up more than three decades later. It’s a sweaty, cringy, claustrophobic film that feels like a thrill ride (despite the fact that a disabled car plays a major role. Recommended.
JAWS WITH GRABOIDS. Tremors (1990) – Replacing JAWS’s sense of foreboding with a kinetic fun, Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward lead the charge against man-eating subterranean monsters. How can you run when the monsters can hear your every footstep? The effects are just grisly enough, the chemistry between Bacon and Ward is the best since Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfus in the original, and Michael Gross’s turn as a well-armed survivalist adds just the right frisson of insanity. TREMORS is (finally! Fifteen years later!) the JAWS sequel we always deserved, and continued to carry the JAWS torch by spawning several disappointing sequels.
JAWS WITH BEARS AND COUGARS AND BIRDS AND COYOTES, MAYBE? Day of the Animals (1977) – We can all appreciate the audacity of this one. When faced with the question of what kind of animal should replace the shark attacking these mountain-climbing victims, the producers responded, “Why choose?” You thought the depletion of the ozone layer was bad before? Well, check out what it does to every animal living higher than 5000 feet above sea level. Another snoozer, ultimately. But if you want to check several boxes at once, DAY OF THE ANIMALS is the answer.