In The Possession of Michael King – a film I screened last night at the New Beverly Cinema here in Los Angeles – a dog is found tangled up in bloody sheets, brutally stabbed to death in a little girl’s bed.
Last Sunday’s episode of The Strain spelled bad news for a pooch, too, when its body was discovered behind a shed with giant puncture holes chest.
In the film festival entry Black Mountain Side a cat was hollowed out and placed beside an ancient building.
Cue the Sarah McLachlan music and conjure up heartbreaking imagery of animals in cages looking for homes because I want to talk a little bit about the bad luck our pets have been facing in horror movies.
That bad luck seems to have escalated in fright fare this year with a few exceptions. Godzilla featured a chained-up mutt who wisely knew he was in deep shit if he didn’t run from the tsunami heralding Godzilla’s arrival. He likely turned out fine since Gareth Edwards showed the dog outrunning everyone else. Still, Godzilla is a rare example. Within the last several months I’ve seen dogs getting gutted by serial killers, cats getting whacked and sundry critters getting run down.
I understand the genre has never been kind to our animal pals – from Funny Games‘ game of “hot and cold” that ended with a dog’s dead body flopping out of a car trunk to as recent as dead cats being strung up by their necks in the Evil Dead remake – but holy friggin’ crap guys, are dogs and cats taking a beating these days. What’s with that, filmmakers? Are you missing a chamber of your heart that’s dedicated to them?
To launch into a bit of “old man Ryan” for a minute here, I remember the days when dogs and cats were depicted in a more positive light. Sure, Barney from Gremlins got strung up in Christmas lights (I think that’s the first time I ever saw an animal in peril), but he fared a-okay in the rest of the film. And what about Harry the dog from The Amityville Horror who helped pull George Lutz out of certain doom? Harry proved to be worth going back into the house of hell for. Then, of course, there was the cat named General in Cat’s Eye who served as Drew Barrymore’s protector (although he did suffer a tad in the first half of that film).
There are a lot of instances of dogs and cats (long live Jones from Alien) who have been saved from horror’s chopping block, but damn, contemporary filmmakers sure do love to use their deaths as a way to alert the audience that “something bad is about to go down.” Talk about a slaughter of the innocents!
Ease up, gang. Surely there are other ways to terrify your audiences, no? I mean, I’ll take it in doses, but I’m seeing some consistency to the massacre.
(This mini-rant was brought to you by the rare softer side of Ryan – a lover of horror and gore, but also a dog owner.)