The Freshwater Fiend’s Guide to Horror Movies

I have seen things.

Instead of my normal procrastination for the past week (too much Twitter), I’ve spent every moment not buried in my thesis finalisation preparing one of the most unpleasant blogging pieces since I started this website. It’s the sort of thing that makes me ashamed whenever I publish something by one of the fantastic team of EcoMass authors. Because their amazing work now has to share ranks with this.

Let’s get into it. Because it’s Halloween and that’s apparently a thing people like, here’s 10 awful horror films for anyone who truly needs some freshwater in their horror flicks. The only rule is that a central component of the film must be a freshwater ecosystem or species. Sourced mainly from Twitter (you can see the original Tweet and subsequent responses at this link). Let’s ease our way in.

Lake Placid

Let’s just group all the crocodile movies under this one banner (despite the fact that apparently independent Australian film Rogue and the more recent Crawl are quite good). The size of most freshwater crocodile species mean that any self-respecting horror movie starring a crocodile has to use the saltwater variety, but Lake Placid takes place in a freshwater lake, so it counts. How an Asian/Australian species of crocodile made it to the east coast of the US is anyone’s guess, but who cares when the reason it gets so massive is that a foul-mouthed Betty White is feeding it cattle. This film also features a wonderful movie romance between Oliver Platt and Brendan Gleeson (whose accent has to be heard to be believed).


Full disclosure, I’ve only seen Piranha 3D, the 2010 remake of an apparently equally bad horror comedy. This movie opens with piranhas being released from an underwater lake that is suddenly connected to the surface after an earthquake. It really goes in on the Piranhas as vicious killers myth, but gets away with it by suggesting that they’re a prehistoric species. This film is supposed to be bad. But when a film is this irritatingly moronic, I don’t think “oh we meant it to be that way” is an excuse anymore. Features a piranha burping up a half-eaten penis.

The Creature From The Black Lagoon

I almost feel bad lumping this horror classic in with the other films on this list. It’s the story of a team of scientists who go looking for a prehistoric aquatic hominid in the Amazon. On our podcast Cinematica Animalia we actually covered this film a while back, and Dave and Adam both really enjoyed it. The monster here is very much a tragic one, and the director really had to fight for that portrayal. It also has some of the more sensible movie scientists committed to film in it, which is remarkable for a black and white movie.

On a serious note, if you want to learn more about this film, including the incredible woman who was responsible for the creature’s design, read The Lady From The Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara. It’s a fascinating story of Hollywood, sexism and sci-fi, which centers around the Gill Man’s creator, Milicent Patrick.


Yep, we’re going straight from the Gill Man to THIS. Another “don’t take it too seriously it’s supposed to be bad” effort, it involves a horde of very angry and reanimated beavers savaging the mandatory teenage spring-breakers or freshomores or whatever Americans call these people. Featured the tag-line “They’ll Dam You To Hell”. Incredible.


JON VOIGHT PLAYS A MAN FROM PARAGUAY. PRE-STARDOM J-LO. OWEN WILSON. ICE CUBE. ERIC STOLZ. They trudge around in a swamp for a long time getting eaten by a very big snake. This is a totally acceptable movie to watch if you are doing something else and just want some background noise. There’s a decent sequel and two straight to video sequels, AND (I only just found out about this) a Lake Placid vs. Anaconda movie.

It may seem quaint now, but the Gill Man was a horror icon back in the day, up there with Frankenstein or The Wolfman (Image Credit: The Creature from the Black Lagoon, 1954)

The Raft

I recommend this only if you have a friend who wants to go on a Stephen-King-80s-film-adaptation binge and you want to sum every Stephen King movie up for them in twenty minutes to spare them to trouble. Four sophomen or sprung brakers or whatever get stuck on a raft as a sentient oil spill eats consumes them one by one. It’s peak Stephen King. It’s mysterious for a bit until you remember that he just wrote everything as he went and never bothered to end a book properly. You can find the whole thing on YouTube.


Imagine if The Birds was just The Freshwater Nasties and was directed by whoever directed Birdemic. This film has Sam Elliott in it. From memory, no frogs actually kill anyone. People die in a swamp. That’ll do.

Hai Alarm Am Muggelsee

We are firmly into the realm of movies I couldn’t or didn’t want to stream now, and this is the only one of these films that I regret not having seen. You may notice that it’s the only film here for which I’ve linked a trailer. If you speak German or don’t mind subtitles, give it a quick look. This looks genuinely hilarious, as if someone made a cross between Jaws and What We Do In The Shadows. Someone let me know if that is the case please.

Snakehead Terror & Frankenfish

These two awful made for TV horror movies are based on true events in the same way that The Lord of the Rings is based on that time you almost didn’t get the videos back to Blockbuster that one time (younger readers, ask your parents what that means). They were inspired by the same local phenomena, the sudden appearance of Northern Snakehead in a pond in the eastern US back in the early 2000s, after being introduced by a local man. Snakeheads are an alien species in the US, and the pond was quickly dosed with the piscicide rotenone, which is all you’d need to do in any fish-based horror film really. This hasn’t stopped the snakehead spreading to plenty of other places though.

These two films were released about the same time. I have it on good authority that both are trash.

Honourable Mention: The Pike

I could not leave this thing out, as it’s the only one of these films to feature a species that I actually study. Thank you to British freshwater ecologist Ian Winfield for bringing it to my attention. In the early 80s a nightclub bouncer called Cliff Twelmlow attempted to get his book The Pike made into a film. It sounds like a Jaws knock-off, BUT it had Joan Collins attached. They even made the mechanical pike! Please read the article below for more info.

Joan Collins Nearly Starred in This Movie About a Killer Pike

Sadly the film never got made, but according to Ian the model pike is still roaming the sheds of Windemere.

If I missed any freshwater classics, let me know if the comments! Enjoy Halloween everyone, if you can. Or don’t. I’m not American, I won’t judge.

Sam Perrin is a freshwater ecologist currently completing his PhD at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology whose tenuous grip on sanity pre-thesis delivery is more than exemplified by the above article. You can read more about his research and the rest of the Ecology for the Masses writers here, see more of his work at Ecology for the Masses here, or follow him on Twitter here.

Title Image Credit: Anaconda, 1997; Zombeavers, 2014; Lake Placid, 1999, Snakehead Terror, 2004.


  • There’s a lot of Golden Turkey fans out here, so I’m sure I won’t be the only one to add some truly awful freshwater horror movies to your list but you cannot proceed without a nod to the sublimely awful “Varan, the Unbelievable” (Toho, 1958). Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, the inspiration behind the original “Godzilla,” and, sorrowfully, directed by Ishiro Honda, the Kurosawa of bad monster movies. Honda takes his cameras to a big freshwater lake high in the mountains of Hokkaido where a gigantic iteration of a Galapagos marine iguana is a god to his pet Ainu. The creature is awakened by – are you ready? – butterfly collectors (let me repeat for those who blinked: butterfy collectors) from a university entomology department who make too much noise or something and awaken the beast, who emerges from the lake to unleash its wrath upon the world.
    There is of course an English-dubbed version (1962) with a white identity figure, a US naval commander with a Japanese executive mistress, and the plot is slightly altered so that the commander’s experiments with underwater shock bombs awaken Varan instead of the butterfly collectors. If you love awful movies, you really need to watch both (find a universal DVD player because the butterfly collectors are edited out of the US version and therein lies half the wincing laughter).


    • I had no idea that Varan was actually a precursor to Godzilla! I’ve guested on a Kaiju-themed podcast a couple of times and I’d heard of Varan, but I’d assumed he was an early knock-off. Will have to give it a watch at some point.


  • This is an interesting compilation! Although my suggestions would include “The meg” and “Deep blue sea” but yeah not possibly in the top ten horror but thriller definitely.


  • Pingback: Pick & Mix 54 – lots do with food, invasive species, horror films, urban biodiversity, museum collections, corona virus spread and much more | Don't Forget the Roundabouts

  • Black Water is a great horror movie.


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