It’s man against beast in the animalistic action-thriller Primal as acting legend Nicolas Cage squares off against a ferocious white jaguar set loose on an ocean cargo ship. With a dangerous mercenary and various other exotic beasties also on board, our hero has no option but to go on the hunt against his deadly animal foes.
As we get set to see Cage face down the deadly jaguar with Primal’s release on digital download 10 February and DVD 17 February, we’ve taken a look back at the most epic Man Vs. Beast movies of all time.
THE BIRDS (1963)
Although killer animals had existed in the movies since 1925’s The Lost World, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds laid the groundwork for the classic animal attack thriller. Unleashed in 1963 in glorious Technicolour, audiences were warned to prepare for ‘suspense and shock beyond anything you have seen or imagined’ in the film’s marketing. Loosely based on a story by Daphne Du Maurier, The Birds tells of a sudden and violent attack by all the birds in a small town in California over a few days. For his film Hitchcock moved the action from the British town in Du Maurier’s story to California. The director was supposedly inspired by a story of a group of birds that turned on the townspeople of Capitola, California in August 1961. As the tale goes, those birds had eaten toxic algae which sent them into attack mode, but one of the strengths of Hitchcock’s film is its keeping the malicious motivations of the airborne beasts shrouded in mystery. Just before the credits role the violent epidemic begins to spread across North America… a truly chilling ending. The Birds is the master of suspense at his finest!
Arguably the greatest man against beast movie of all time, Jaws shattered box office records on its release in 1977 and has made generations of viewers afraid to go back into the water ever since. When bodies start washing on-shore at a seaside resort town getting ready for the summer season, three men take to the seas to hunt down the great white shark responsible. Due to deft handling of the suspenseful story by then up-and-comer Steven Spielberg, and the iconic John Williams score, audiences were left quaking at the thought of the terror lurking just beneath the waves… in reality the shark was just as much a terror behind the scenes as it was on screen, albeit for very different reasons. The life-sized mechanical puppet used, nicknamed ‘Bruce’ by the crew, would often malfunction and caused countless problems for the young director, forcing him to get creative and keep the beast out of shot, inadvertently resulting in a scarier film! ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat.’
From the golden age of Ozploitation, Razorback is the gory tale of a giant wild boar on a murderous rampage across the outback. The film is based on the novel by Peter Brennan and helmed by veteran director Russell Mulcah, whose other work includes Highlander, Highlander II, Hollywood sequel Resident Evil: Extinction and MTV’s Teen Wolf series. The film was written by renowned Australian genre screenwriter Everett De Roche whose other credits include Aussie hits such as nature-fights-back classic Long Weekend and Jamie Lee Curtis nailbiter Road Games. With a great team behind the camera, plenty of bloody gorging action front and centre and a fantastic practical boar hellbent on death and destruction, Razorback is a mega fun horror film with a large cult following. Recommended!
Anaconda is certainly no Jaws and is often assigned to the ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ category, but with a diverse cast of familiar faces hamming it up with the OTT dialogue and an exotic amazon setting, this entertaining actioner has managed to find a well-deserved cult following. The film stars a pre-pop star Jennifer Lopez as a documentary filmmaker looking for a rare indigenous tribe deep in the heart of the jungle. Journeying up the Amazon river via boat, with a crew including Eric Stoltz, Ice Cube and Owen Wilson, the expedition comes across sinister snake hunter Jon Voight who soon takes control of the craft and sets his own agenda – to hunt and capture the world’s largest anaconda! Cue some gloriously silly serpent shocks as the fearsome beast goes on the rampage, squeezing the life out of its victims, and in one fun moment, vomiting a recent meal onto poor J-Lo! Anaconda is an entertaining slice of 90s creature-feature action… and where else can you see rapper Ice Cube fight a giant snake with an axe!
THE GREY (2011)
Thanks to his role in Taken Liam Neeson was already on his way to a late-stage career reinvention as a grizzled man of action, cemented further by chilly man vs. wolves thriller The Grey. Directed by Joe Carnhan (The A-Team, Smokin Aces), Neeson plays a skilled marksman forced into leading the survival of a group of oil workers after their plane crashes in the Alsakan wilderness, deep in wolf territory. Isolated and freezing, tensions run high and internal conflicts consume the men and all the while the wolves, led by the clever ‘Alpha’ leader of the pack, are on the hunt… With its depiction of the wolves as pitiless and cunning hunters the film didn’t go down well with some environmental agencies, which wasn’t helped when it was discovered the crew had bought a pair of wolves from a local trapper to eat. Despite the controversy, its tense action and man-vs-nature philosophising impressed many audiences and critics whilst cementing Liam Neeson’s credentials as the action star we needed in 2011.
Horror fans rejoiced upon hearing French director Alexandra Aja (who helmed 2010’s Piranha remake) would be getting behind the camera for a Florida-set alligator creature feature. Following a violent storm, Kaya Scodelario (Effy from Skins) is trapped in the basement of her father’s house, with a particularly aggressive gator, as the chamber begins to fill up with water and even more of the scaly beasts! Crawl was the first film in many years to be produced by Sam Raimi without his old long-standing producing partner Robert Tapert, who Raimi made his Evil Dead trilogy with among many more horror hits. Despite lacking Tapert’s touch, the film garnered praise from critics and fans, even winning over Quentin Tarantino who said in November 2019 that it was his favourite film of the year. For a tense and thrilling throwback creature feature with plenty of teeth, look no further!
Primal is on Digital Download 10 February and DVD 17 February 2020 from Lionsgate UK.