This summer killer fish return to the multiplex—no, not Jaws, or any of his giant B-movie spawn—but…piranhas. In the real world, piranhas are enough to make you swim quickly to shore, but we are talking about swarms of tiny killer fish, after all. Even though the prehistorically enhanced baddies of Piranha 3D are an entirely different beast, stack them against Jaws and I’m hedging my bet on Bruce (Spielberg's nickname for his killer shark).
It’s the third outing for these hungry fishies after 1978’s Piranha from director Joe Dante (Gremlins) and 1981’s Piranha Part Two: The Spawning from none other than king of the world James Cameron. When director Alex Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes) brings the fish into the third dimension on August 20th, he’s certainly in good company.
Piranha got us thinking about other oddball killers from movie history. The ones that generally bring chuckles rather than shudders. With some mood music, decent effects and a good scream queen, you can make just about anything seem scary in the dark of a movie house. Take a look at our list of the Least Fearsome Movie Killers of All Time and let us know if any of these had you sleeping with the lights on—or giggling your way out of the theater.
The Movie: Ants! (aka It Happened at Lakewood Manor) (1977)
The Killer: Yep, ants.
The Verdict: Suzanne Somers, Brian Dennehy and Myrna Loy star in this made-for-TV turkey about a swarm of poisonous ants taking control of an old hotel. The music cues desperately plead with audiences to believe there’s something frightening going on, but this one is about as scary as Carrot Top. Wait, no, not as scary as that at all.
Funniest Scene: A helicopter accidentally blows the ants onto a crowd. The sea of extras run lazily and occasionally let out a halfhearted screech. They can’t even act like they’re scared of these things.
The Movie: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978)
The Killer: Those plump red fruits. Or are they vegetables? I can never remember.
The Verdict: At least this one knows it’s going more for laughs than scares. A B-movie that parodies the genre, Tomatoes is a fun watch so long as you don’t go in expecting too much. It should also be noted that the 1988 sequel starred George Clooney.
Funniest Scene: In the opening, a tomato pops out of the garbage disposal still whole, bounces onto the floor and stalks towards a screeching housewife. When the police find her dead, she looks to be covered in blood, but it is actually ketchup.
The Movie: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
The Killer: Not-so-jolly old St. Nick
The Verdict: You gotta admit, Santa Claus is creepy in kinda the same way clowns are. Truth be told, the killer of Deadly Night isn’t actually Santa but rather a mortal dressed in the red suit who, like Batman, was traumatized by the murder of his parents in front of his eyes. Robert Brian Wilson truly commits to his performance as the psychotic would-be Santa, who screams “Naughty!” as he brutally disposes of his victims. This is a fun watch, especially for those looking for some truly alternative holiday viewing.
Funniest Scene: Santa lops off the head of a sledder mid-hill with his trademark “naughty!” catchphrase. The headless corpse slides the rest of the way down the hill with his head rolling behind.
The Movie: Leprechaun (1993)
The Killer: Like the title says, a frickin’ Leprechaun!
The Verdict: Warwick Davis (best known as Wicket the Ewok) plays this mean green little dude ever in search of his pot o’gold. In sequels Lep would go to space and the ‘hood, but in the first film he’s just after the attractive, including a then-unknown Jennifer Aniston. Leprechaun is occasionally amusing and ridiculously campy, but it’s certainly not misleading audiences with the title.
Funniest Scene: You gotta give it to this diminutive green fairy, he’s certainly creative. In what may be the only recorded use of a pogo stick as a murder weapon, Lep happily bounces up and down on a guy to death.
The Movie: Child’s Play (1988)
The Killer: Chucky the “Good Guy” Doll
The Verdict: Don Mancini’s horror cult classic may be the only movie on this list to feature some legitimate scares. That said, it’s hard not to chuckle at a child’s toy doll (possessed by the “Lakeshore Strangler” or not) chasing down victim’s with his cute little knife raised up in the air.
Funniest Scene: When Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) has had enough of Chucky’s games, she lights a fire and threatens to toss him in. Chucky comes alive to unleash a tirade of obscenities. Karen struggles with the doll, his wee legs kicking, before she tosses him across the room.
The Movie: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
The Killer: A bunch of green-haired demonic space clowns
The Verdict: Preying on the fears of children across America, it’s hard not to love this camp classic about a group of aliens (who just happen to look like clowns) that arrive on planet Earth to feed on humans. Bozo they ain’t.
Funniest Scene: Two clowns use a balloon animal bloodhound to track down their victims. Need I say more?
The Movie: Jack Frost (1997)
The Killer: Frosty the Snowman
The Verdict: Are none of our childhood memories safe? Not to be confused with the identically titled 1998 Michael Keaton heart-warmer, this Frost takes a cue from Child’s Play when a serial killer takes on a friendlier facade. Frost stalks his victims with ice cycles, cold water and carrots. Best viewed while partaking in copious doses of spiked eggnog.
Funniest Scene: American Pie’s Shannon Elizabeth settles into a relaxing hot bath when a carrot nose suddenly floats to the surface. The water soon turns frigid and literally becomes Frost. He stands up with Elizabeth stuck in his body and beats her head into a wall until she dislodges. Scary, no. Funny, oh yes.