Brute Force

Animal Horror Movies

By Dominic Lennard

Subjects: Film Studies, Cultural Studies
Series: SUNY series, Horizons of Cinema
Ebook : 9781438476629, 276 pages, November 2019
Hardcover : 9781438476612, 276 pages, November 2019
Paperback : 9781438476605, 276 pages, July 2020
Ebook (EPUB) - Unavailable

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: Welcome (Back) to the Jungle

1. Going Ape: King Kong

2. Out of Our Depth: Surviving Marine Monsters

3. Man versus Wild: Bears, Wolves, and the Men Who Fight Them

4. Creepy Crawlies: Intelligent Ants, Sickening Spiders, and Other Ill-intentioned Invertebrates

5. Mad Science Makes for Cranky Creatures

6. In Their Sights: The Gaze of the Predator

7. Snakes Alive

8. Bad Dog! The Rogue Hounds of Horror

9. Beast Mode: Becoming the Wolf Man


Works Cited

Considers how dangerous beasts in horror films illuminate the human-animal relationship.


It's always been a wild world, with humans telling stories of killer animals as soon as they could tell stories at all. Movies are an especially popular vehicle for our fascination with fierce creatures. In Brute Force, Dominic Lennard takes a close look at a range of cinematic animal attackers, including killer gorillas, sharks, snakes, bears, wolves, spiders, and even a few dinosaurs. Lennard argues that animal horror is not so much a focused genre as it is an impulse, tapping into age-old fears of becoming prey. At the same time, these films expose conflicts and uncertainties in our current relationship with animals. Movies considered include King Kong, Jaws, The Grey, Them!, Arachnophobia, Jurassic Park, Snakes on a Plane, An American Werewolf in London, and many more. Drawing on insights from film studies, art history, cognitive science, and evolutionary psychology, Brute Force is an engaging critical exploration—and appreciation—of cinema's many bad beasts.

Dominic Lennard is Associate Lecturer at the University of Tasmania and the author of Bad Seeds and Holy Terrors: The Child Villains of Horror Film, also published by SUNY Press.


"…a wonderful book. Lennard's compositional flair, in combination with his keen interpretive vision and his command of the relevant science, makes this book a real gem—eminently readable, full of insight, and suffused with good sense." — Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture

"The brilliance of Dominic Lennard's Brute Force is not only that it is long overdue, but one didn't realize it was due in the first place! Yet upon reflection and, of course, through Lennard's engaging book, one realizes not only the ubiquity of animals in horror, but their utter centrality to so many classic horror films. In reading this, we can hear the distant rumble of footsteps of a genetically reborn Tyrannosaurus or the hurried pounding of our beloved Rover who has decided that he wants more than kibbles and bits for dinner—and we look mighty appetizing. 'Groundbreaking' is often overused, but in this case it truly fits." — David Desser, coeditor of Tough Ain't Enough: New Perspectives on the Films of Clint Eastwood