Book Review--When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals


When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals
Edited by Vanessa Morgan, B.L. Daniels
Moonlight Creek Publishing, 2016

In search of a light read, I came across When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals on NetGalley and decided to give it a try. It’s a collection of brief essays by an international array of authors with highly variable skills. This unusual read was often hard to put down, though not always easy going.

When Animals Attack covers flicks from the forties to the present day, but for the most part the essays are about films from the 70s through the 90s. The coverage hits where it should: classics like Them!(1954) get attention and the best of the 1970s nature’s revenge heyday is well represented. You get a good sense of the arc of angry creature features, as they evolved from paranoia to parody.

This is not a consistent read where quality is concerned. The writers run the gamut from student bloggers to award winning authors and filmmakers. Gems can be found along that whole range of experience, in addition to much lesser works.

For the most part it doesn’t seem meant to be terribly deep and the generally casual tone of many of the reviews is playful and much like a friend describing a good time at the movies. Still, several of these essays could have used a more thorough edit. There are also some unusual format choices here. My heart was racing by the time I got through the review in which every other sentence was punctuated with an explanation point.

The best of the essays are fascinating though. Among my favorites are those that share the films through a personal, nostalgic lens. I loved Erich Kuersten’s childhood memories of the TV movie Day of the Animals (1977), where he describes simmering with frustration in bed, not allowed to stay up as late as he wishes to watch the films he is curious to see. Warren Fahy shares amusing memories of his many times watching Jaws (1977) in the theater, including one viewing on vacation in Mexico where a theater employee frustrated him by putting a piece of cardboard over the screen during the gory parts in an awkward bit of DIY censorship. A few industry insiders also share their experiences. Beverly Gray worked for Roger Corman for several years, and her insights into of the production of Piranha (1978) provide great perspective on this unique filmmaker and the way he worked.

Ultimately I got the mixed bag I expected from When Animals Attack. There is a bit of wading through less than polished writing, but when the essays connect, they are immensely enjoyable. I was also satisfied to come away with a long list of films to see. In that respect the book is most successful.

Many thanks to Moonlight Creek Publishing for providing a copy of the book for review.

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