Whether it’s terrorising a town or being responsible for a worldwide epidemic, animals aren’t always the cute critters we know and love.
In fact, when they aren’t playing second fiddle to some meddling humans, they make some of the most terrifying villains. And for damn good reason.
This article is sponsored by Paramount Pictures Australia’s new creature feature CRAWL, that’ll have you on the edge of your seat and remind us why we should all be afraid of snapping jaws. In cinemas July 11.
People say that in order for a movie or game to be truly scary, it needs to trigger a psychological recognition. You need to feel like the villain is human enough to empathise with, but twisted enough to be evil and terrifying.
But really, the truth is simple. We don’t love villains because they push the edges of humanity. We love villains because they eschew humanity, embracing their animalistic tendencies. The primal, ferocious and horrifying traits that we liken to wildlife.
So if the traits we so revere in our villains come from animals, it stands to reason that animals themselves are the superior villains.
If you’re faced with a human in a fight to the death, you can generally assume that you’ll both stick to a pretty standard formula. As a human you’re versed in the right places to attack, and you can gauge reasonably well whether or not you can land a hit. Protect the eyes, throat and downstairs, right? Humans are predictable.
Animals though? That’s a whole different kettle of fish (especially if we’re talking piranhas).
All we can get a read on for animal behaviour is what we’ve seen in the wild, and most of us have only seen it from a distance while narrated by David Attenborough. And even then, experts recognise that animals are unpredictable in nature.
By the time you can tell that an animal is about to strike, it’s probably too late. Good luck guessing what kind of move they’ll use next, because logic isn’t something they’re equipped with. It’s allllll instinct, baby.
What’s scarier than a villain you can’t predict?
At best, humans can use technology to give themselves the upper hand. They can augment their bodies (and we’re all keen to do so in Cyberpunk 2077), they can strap guns to their limbs (Planet Terror is a strange film), and in all other cases, they carry weapons.
A human, without all that, is simply four limbs and some inept teeth. Animals however, are built for a more aggressive existence.
By their very nature, pitting animals against humans leaves us entirely at a disadvantage. Our spit isn’t venomous (unlike the Toad Prince in The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone), our fingernails aren’t sharp enough to slash like claws, and our skin is soft instead of armoured (some even have tough skin AND a shell, sup Bowser).
We start on the back foot. It’s inevitable, animals are already indelibly better than us when it comes to a physical fight. So when you add in literal evil and the urge to kill?
They’re the perfect villains.
Adding a little extra
If you thought animals were scary enough with their characteristics, wait till you add in some of the worst of humanity as well. Pepper in some magic and fantasy on top and you’ve got a recipe for a seriously concerning foe.
Anthropomorphising an already terrifying creature is just a recipe for extreme villainy. Take Ganon in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess — he’s inherently creepier in boar form but he also has the capacity to exist in human form too. That’s literally the worst of both worlds in one evil package.
And sure, you could do the same to humans by adding animalistic elements. It’s how we got werewolves. But the order you’re layering is paramount here, because if you’re starting on a foundation of teeth and claws, you’re already scarier than a meat sack with an evil brain.
Plus, take into account that all the villains from our favourite fantasy games and movies are essentially animals too. Whether you’re more of a Skyrim fan battling Alduin or you’re a Zelda devotee prepping to face Volvagia, dragons are the biggest example.
No really, they’re bloody huge.
Sure, this could probably fit into the physiological advantage category, but this is such an important point of difference that it deserves it’s own. Big whopping gnashers are terrifying. Fangs are fucked.
Whether you’re facing King K. Rool in Super Smash Bros or evading alligators lurking in the depths like the upcoming flick CRAWL, animals with big teeth pack an extra dose of intimidation that will have you quaking in your boots.
But maybe you like that! If you’re keen to see further proof that animals (especially those toothy ‘gators) are the best villains, check out CRAWL when it hits cinemas on July 11.
And in the meantime, stay wary.