The genre of horror films has been around for almost a hundred years. However, the modern horror film with its startling and macabre depictions started with Nosferatu in 1919, a silent film about a lurking vampire with a deformed head out to stalk and kill his enemies. Its iconic scene of vampires shadow climbing up the staircase still sends shivers down your spine.
Horror films dwell upon a viewers most primal fears, invoking them by the use of terror inducing elements such as an evil force, a supernatural being or simply demons. The films depicting animals as formidable terrors is a separate branch of horror films, often called natural horror films, where nature in the form of a ferocious beast or a voracious carnivore runs amok.
One of the first American movies depicting an animal turn into a cold blooded horror movie killer was The Wolf Man where an unsuspecting buyer of a walking stick tranforms into a werewolf after he uses it to kill a wolf. The film portrays this mans transformation into a wolf like creature and shocking killings before being overpowered. Though not the first werewolf movie, The Wolf Man established Lon Chaney, Jr as the only actor to have played the character in all its versions.
Animals have been used to scare the hell out of you in a lot of other good horror movies. Who could escape the deadly Jaws, the Steven Spielberg film from the 70s which shows man-eating white shark attacking and brutally killing beachgoers on an island. The film was a huge commercial success and set the trend for many subsequent horror films based on terror inducing animals such as Orca, Alligator and the Day of the Animals.
Some other good horror movies belonging to the genre of natural horror enough to make you shudder in fear include Birds which depicted a young socialite being suddenly attacked by birds, attacks which remain inexplicable till the very end. Godzilla explored the bloody exploits of a giant monster mutated by nuclear radiation out to ravage Japan. While Anaconda depicts the adventures of a film crew with a giant and deadly snake, The Lake Placid is a cult film about man-eating crocodiles.
Archanids (Arachnophobia), Canines (The Hound of Baskervilles) and Mammals (Bats), the list is endless where different animal species have been used over the years as horror movie killers, seeking revenge with man in a struggle for survival, frightening us to death in the process.