Nature Runs Amok: Horror Film Subgenre
Created | Updated Apr 17, 2018
Come on Down Here and Chum Some of This...
Jaws is Steven Spielberg's seminal 1975 movie about a monstrous great white shark terrorising a small island community. It was very successful, grossing higher than anything else in the cinema at the time and causing a reduction in beach attendance as well as an increase in shark sightings the world over. It created a whole generation of children who were so afraid of the shark in Jaws that they would not willingly get in the bath. It is also the mother of Nature Runs Amok movies. These are horror films that exploit a particular type of (sometimes fictional) natural life, other than humans, as their main source of interest. Basically, they are films where a bewildering array of animals, and sometimes plants, kill people en masse. Scientific tampering with the 'natural order of things' is often what triggers the onslaught of killer critters in these films. This can take the form of radiation, toxic waste or genetic engineering. Sometimes it is a spiritual or mystical imbalance that causes the eruption of zoological violence.
Emerging in the 1950s, the subgenre saw its heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s but never really died out, with a steady flow of titles released since. Films in the subgenre often have a plot with a marked similarity to that of Jaws, where meddling officials hinder the fight against whatever mutant fauna/flora is causing all the bother.
You're Gonna Need a Bigger Boot (to carry all those DVDs)
The king of the subgenre is the shark movie. People really like to make horror films about sharks. There have been more than 20 shark movies released to date (2013) since the year 2000 alone. This seems understandable. Sharks can, and sometimes do, eat people. Shark films often suffer from a negative critical reception but do have wonderful titles. Some of the greatest are Shark, Shark Attack, Shark Zone, Shark Swarm, Sharks in Venice, Raging Sharks and Blue Demon.
The titles of Nature Runs Amok films are often refreshingly direct. Titles such as Bats, Frogs and Rats clearly inform the potential audience about the subject of the film.
You Yell 'Barracuda' - Everybody Says 'Huh? What?'
Sharks, bears, crocodiles, alligators, poisonous things and massive octopi aside, the subgenre has a tendency to get somewhat carried away with its choice of beasties. It doesn't seem to matter if the creature in question is actually capable of causing harm let alone killing a person or small town. The subjects of some of these films could probably only hurt you if you ate them. This is one of the more fascinating attributes shared by the films; what exactly is going on in the heads of a large group of people who spend a great deal of time and money making a film about psychic frogs? Mutant rabbits? Some of the more peculiar entries are as follows:
- Night of the Lepus (killer rabbits)
- Attack of the Crab Monsters
- The Nest (cockroaches)
- The Killer Shrews
- The Bees
- The Deadly Bees
- Razorback (wild hogs)
- Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People
- Cujo (rabid dog)
- Monkey Shines (psychic monkey)
- In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro (baboonsploitation epic)
- Squirm (earthworms)
- Attack of the Giant Leeches
Even if small-town police officials don't have enough to deal with fending off wave after wave of angry shrews, cockroaches and rabbits, nature also runs amok in the form of spiders (Spiders, Webs, Arachnophobia), snakes (Rattlers, Vipers, Anaconda), birds (The Birds, Kaw, Birdemic: Shock and Terror), ants (The Hive, Phase IV, The Bone Snatcher) and dinosaurs (Jurassic Park, Carnosaur,Pterodactyl).
King of the Bs
Roger Corman is a highly prolific and successful B-movie and TV movie producer. His filmography, and the list of respected actors and filmmakers who got their first job with him, is the stuff of legend. He is also responsible for perpetrating some of the finest Nature Runs Amok movies. He has produced many classics including The Killer Shrews, Piranha and Attack of the Crab Monsters. He has also produced many more recent efforts such as Sharktopus, Piranhaconda and Dinocroc vs Supergator.
Keep it Snappy
To sum up, the Nature Runs Amok subgenre is still going fairly strong. Recent films often focus on giant hybrids of reptiles, dinosaurs and/or sharks. Possibly the future will yield three-way hybrids.
A half-bear half-pterodactyl that can transform into a swarm of deadly chinchillas? I'd watch that.
- h2g2 Researcher