The Best Movies You've Never Seen Featuring Human Hybrids

(Welcome to The Best Movies You've Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we mix it up with a look at movies featuring people who cross their DNA streams with non-people, with typically unfortunate results.)

I'm always eyeballs deep in genre movies, but with The Meg opening this weekend I've been digging into animal-related horror films a bit more. One of the best mentioned throughout my online travels is David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986) starring Jeff Goldblum as a scientist turned Brundlefly. It's a phenomenal movie – horrifying, emotional grim, and utterly disgusting at times – and it got me thinking about other movies featuring some manner of human/? hybrids. The hybrid element can be anything from animal to vegetable to mineral, and it can be accomplished genetically (Splice), surgically (Tusk), through good old-fashioned fornication (Species), or even via a bite ,as werewolves and vampires are technically hybrids too.

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977, 1996) is probably the most well-known with its island of lost souls howling their half human/half animal hearts out through the jungle, but plenty more have appeared on screen with decidedly less fanfare and staying power. The premise of people being enhanced, lessened, or changed altogether with the addition of some other form of life is an intriguing one, but I'm also the guy who enjoys Manimal and Automan – both short-lived TV series from 1983 featuring hybrid heroes – so maybe it's just my own questionable tastes. Let's find out together, shall we?

Keep reading for a look at some of the best movies you haven't seen featuring human/something hybrids!

The Vulture (1967)

A woman out walking in bad weather sees something horrifying that turns her hair white, but while her story lines up with a local urban legend involving a man buried centuries earlier no one believes her. It's understandable, though, as she claims a casket rose from the earth, opened, and let loose a large cackling bird into the night sky.

The grave in question belonged to a man reportedly wronged and buried alive after cursing the descendants of his oppressors, and in addition to his rage he was apparently entombed with a large predatory bird he had acquired on his travels. The explanation as to how the two came to meld together over the years is a real doozy, but the end result offers an engaging look at small-town culture and attitudes. No one believes they're cursed until the bodies start falling from the sky, but by then, of course, it may just be too late. The flying beast is the monster, but the film delivers a pretty chilling sequence involving someone knocking on an outside window to draw attention. We just see their hand sneak into frame, knock, and quickly pull away, and it's creepy!

It's probably clear that the picture above is not from the film, but as I was unable to find one that fit I felt this was my next best option. The resemblance is pretty spot on aside from the beak, and that's actually where the film stumbles a bit. Once we finally see the "vulture" in all his glory it's a little underwhelming to modern eyes — large bird body from the feet up, and then a bald head that looks like James Coco — but as the film's denouement it works to punctuate the growing terror with the human face behind it all.

The Vulture is not currently available.

Night of the Bloody Apes (1969)

Young-ish Julio is dying from leukemia, and his scientist father isn't prepared to let him go. Desperate to prolong his son's life, the good doctor transplants a gorilla heart into the young man's chest for obvious reasons. The cancer seems to fade, but it's replaced by something even deadlier — to others — that soon has him attacking women, killing men, and behaving like a real jerk.

Look, I'll be honest. This is a sleazy, trashy horror flick, and I don't recommend you watch it. (I totally do recommend you watch it.) I can't speak for the performances of the Mexican actors as I've only seen it dubbed, but it feels like a sloppy, low budget affair that finds its appeal in its brazen embrace of nonsense, gore, and nudity. The bloodletting is cheap but plentiful, and there's enough absurdity at play to keep viewers laughing, cringing, or shaking their heads with uncertainty as Julio's entire face and body change as a result of the gorilla heart and blood. Why? Science. Things get pretty brutal in a campily grim sort of way, but when approached with the right mindset it's also good fun.

While the main thread involves Julio's descent into animalistic acts of murder and assault the film has some other stories afoot too. Are they necessary? Do they even make sense? No, and no, but sometimes you want a little subplot involving a masked female wrestler and her detective boyfriend who keeps canceling their dinner plans due to the rash of murders and assaults around town. I kid the wrestling lady, but her storyline does eventually cross paths with poor Julio's. More importantly, it offers a breather in between murders, assaults, splashes of bright red blood, and some real open heart surgery footage.

Night of the Bloody Apes is available to buy on DVD.

Sssssss (1973)

A college student hoping for extra credit takes a gig as a lab assistant for a renowned herpetologist, but what should have been a simple job handling snakes becomes something far more complicated. He falls in love, he skinny dips, he starts turning into a half man/half cobra. You know, the usual kind of higher learning shenanigans.

Dirk Benedict plays the poor assistant as a wholesome young man who falls prey to the twisted whims of a quietly deranged scientist (Strother Martin). The grey-haired wacko tricks him with injections that slowly turn him into a blue-eyed snake-man en route to becoming a King cobra with the mind of a man. It's complicated. There's horror, sci-fi, and drama at play here, but there's also a heavy dose of pathos as an opening scene is revealed to involve the scientist's previous experiment — a failure who didn't fully transition but progressed far enough to land a "job" he can't escape in a freak show. Watch this scene and you know Kevin Smith saw it before making Tusk.

The film opens with a shout out to the cast and crew for putting up with the 100% real snakes during the production, many of which are truly poisonous species, and while it never quite becomes "Roar with snakes" these undulating creatures are given free enough rein to make viewers nervous. It gives the film a dangerous feeling, and not for nothing, but the King cobra is terrifying. I'm not familiar with snake sounds, but he's a breathy and imposing nightmare even behind safety glass. Characters interact with the snakes to the point that we even see one biting a guy's bare foot, and it makes for an unnerving experience for those of us who don't like showering with reptiles.

Sssssss is available to rent on Amazon Video.

Wolf Guy (1975)

Akira Inugami solves crimes for a living despite a strong dislike for people, but his latest case strikes close to home when he witnesses a bizarre attack by an invisible assailant. His investigation leads to a young woman, a small army of enemies, and a reminder that he's the last of his kind... and his kind is lycanthropes.

Inugami is a rarity when it comes to werewolves in that he doesn't actually transform. I'm not sure if it was a narrative choice or a budgetary one, but rather than grows hairs in unexpected places he simply grows ornery and athletic. He brutalizes multiple opponents, does backflips, and in the most cliched werewolf trope of all he uses his own willpower to suck his exposed intestines back into his gut after they come loose during a fight. Okay, that's actually a new one when it comes to werewolves, but it's no less impressive for its uniqueness. One of the bad guys tries to steal his lupine essence and finds a slightly more traditional transformation, but for the most part the wolf-like elements come through in pure attitude. And martial arts.

The great Sonny Chiba takes the lead here, and he makes for one hell of an anti-hero as he fights for what's right even as he shows his disdain for humanity on a regular basis. The action is down and dirty at times, but as the film moves from revenge tale to one involving ninjas, the Japanese CIA, and assassinations it becomes something of a James Bond riff too as Chiba beds his share of doomed women here. The action is frequent and exciting, the craziness of it all is on full display, and the score feels at times like a jazzy reimagining of a Goblin composition from some forgotten Dario Argento film. It's a magical piece of genre cinema that in a better world would have earned a sequel or two.

Wolf Guy is available to buy on Blu-ray or rent/buy on streaming services.

The Relic (1997)

An anthropologist visiting South America ships back an ancient relic to Chicago's Natural History Museum, but it's not all that arrives. As the museum prepares for a big gala a creature birthed in the crate begins munching down on people left and right.

I had to be reminded that this counts as a human hybrid flick as I completely forgot that the creature is a mutated and evolved anthropologist. We don't see the transformation, and while it's a genetic thing it's one accomplished by members of a local tribe in the deep, dark heart of the jungle. The mash-up of "science" both old and new pairs well with the idea of man blending with other elements of nature to become something new.

Tom Sizemore plays hero here and delights in a rare "normal" guy role, but the film's real star is the creature and its gory handiwork. The film happily embraces its R-rating with plenty of gory demises, and as the beast's preferred method of murder is decapitation the film is awash in detached heads. The monster itself is brought to life with both practical effects and CG, and both are pretty fantastic. The former is the strongest, but both hold up two decades later making this a fun creature feature with a highly memorable monster design. Close-ups impress, but a wide shot showing the beast take hold of a man, pull him spread eagle, and then rip his head from his neck is obviously a delight.

The Relic is available to buy on DVD or rent/buy on streaming services.

Black Sheep (2006)

Genetic engineering goes shockingly awry in New Zealand when a farmer dabbling in DNA succeeds in turning docile sheep into carnivorous beasts. As bad as that is, the problem grows worse when it's discovered that people who are bit but not eaten turn into weresheep. Yeah, you read that right.

Most of the action here involves bloodthirsty sheep munching down on unsuspecting people like they were blades of grass, but the hybrid action comes into play later as people become infected and transform into baaaaad-ass monsters. (I was obligated to do that.) The makeup effects for the weresheep are wonderfully brutish, and while the pairing of human and sheep is more visual than mental — there's actually a scene involving a weresheep whose rage is kept in check by his limited animal intelligence — a thrilling intensity sits above it all making for a gruesomely entertaining ride through the country.

I was going to avoid films featuring hybrids falling under the "were" or vampiric labels, but the goal of this column is to direct readers towards good to great movies they may have missed, and on that front this horror/comedy deserves more eyeballs. It's a wonderfully gory romp, and while it's never scary it delivers plenty of fun and more than a few laughs alongside its copious amount of spurting blood, detached limbs, and open wounds. The sheep effects are equally as stellar with most of it involving killer puppet work making it a fun double feature with the even more under-appreciated Zombeavers which also features puppets and human/beaver hybrids.

Black Sheep is available to rent/buy on streaming services.