Editorials6 days ago
Protective Pets: Celebrating Six of Our Favorite Animal Heroes in Horror
From man-eating piranhas to rabid Saint Bernards, there’s no shortage of animal-related antagonists in the horror genre. In fact, popular films like Jaws have even managed to convince audiences that certain critters pose a bigger threat than they actually do, leading to devastating consequences for the environment when folks take up arms and hunt innocent animals to the brink of extinction.
However, not all horror flicks are about evil creatures of the night, with some stories depicting heroic animals that come to the rescue when our protagonists need it most. And with the Holiday season upon us, we thought that this would be a good time for a heartwarming list celebrating Six Animal Heroes in Horror Movies! After all, who hasn’t questioned whether or not their beloved pet would come to their defense if one were to be attacked by masked murderers or flesh-eating zombies?
As usual, this list is purely based on personal opinion, but we’ll be following a couple of rules. First of all, animals must actively/intentionally help our protagonists to survive – so just being cute isn’t enough to warrant an entry (that means no Jonesy from Alien). Second, we’ve made a point of only including critters that don’t perish at the end of the movie, so the more sensitive animal lovers out there needn’t worry.
With that out of the way, don’t forget to comment below with your own favorite heroic animals if you think we missed an important one.
Now, onto the list….
6. Clovis – Sleepwalkers (1992)
The only movie written by Stephen King that isn’t an adaptation, this much-maligned 1992 feature is actually way more enjoyable than most folks give it credit for, and part of that is due to the flick’s bizarre mythology. According to the film, the vampiric Sleepwalkers’ only weakness comes in the form of… cats. Just regular old cats. So it makes sense that when Charles Brady murders the cat-owning Deputy Sheriff Simpson, the recently orphaned feline would want revenge.
Played by a lovely little cat named Sparks, Clovis manages to amass a whole posse of vengeful cats and eventually leads them to the Brady household in an effort to stop the Sleepwalkers once and for all, making for a climactic showdown that ends in a fiery case of feline allergy. It’s a bonkers ending to a bonkers movie, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
5. Sarii – Prey (2022)
While Amber Midthunder’s Naru and Dane DiLiegro’s Feral Predator certainly wowed audiences earlier this year in Dan Trachtenberg’s Prey, we all know that the real star of the show was Sarii. A hunting dog who accompanies Naru on her journey and eventually helps to defeat the fearsome Predator, Sarii’s relationship with her resourceful master is the real heart of the movie.
And to make things even cuter, Sarii was actually played by a rescue dog named Coco; while she originally had a much smaller role in the script, her playful antics had her promoted to main cast member after test audiences pointed her out as one of the most enjoyable parts of the movie. Well, they weren’t wrong!
4. Inga – Phenomena (1985)
I’ll be completely honest here: I’ve had a serious aversion to chimpanzees ever since I read about real cases of pet chimps going crazy and attacking their owners (which is why I was more afraid of Gordy than the UFO in Jordan Peele’s Nope). Despite this, even I have to admit that Dario Argento’s Phenomena features one of cinema’s most adorable primates through Inga, an extremely smart chimp owned by Donald Pleasance’s character, Prof. McGregor.
While Inga is mostly overshadowed by Jennifer Connelly’s bizarre ability to communicate with insects, she becomes instrumental in solving the mystery of McGregor’s murder and even avenges him at the very end of the picture. Unfortunately, she wasn’t as endearing in real life, as the chimp reportedly bit off the tip of Connelly’s finger after entering a blind rage, which kind of reinforces my aforementioned fear…
3. Beast – The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Not only is Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes considered a rare example of a remake that improves on the original, but it also features one of horror cinema’s most lovable survivors in the form of Beast, a fearsome German Shepherd that helps his family to fight off a group of mutant cannibals (while also avenging the death of his female counterpart, Beauty).
Aja’s remake may have changed several details from Wes Craven’s original film, but Beast’s character remains largely the same in both incarnations of the story, with the dog losing his beloved mate but still making it out of this horrific ordeal alive. As the old adage says: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
2. General – Cat’s Eye (1985)
Another Stephen King adaptation, Cat’s Eye is a curious little anthology with a wraparound segment following a stray cat attempting to save a young Drew Barrymore from a vicious little troll. While the cat’s climactic showdown with the dagger-wielding troll is a wonderful sight to behold, it’s General’s willingness to embark on an epic quest just to save a little girl that makes him a real hero in my book.
Traveling from New York to North Carolina and facing all manners of urban dangers – as well as almost getting euthanized – General is one of the most determined protagonists in all of horror fiction and definitely deserves the huge fish that he gets at the end of the picture.
1. Thor – Bad Moon (1996)
One of the most underrated werewolf movies out there, Bad Moon breaks the mold by having its protagonist be an unusually clever German Shepherd named Thor. Due to his acute canine senses, Thor is the first to realize that the family’s Uncle Ted has been turned into a lycanthrope. Unfortunately, he has a hard time convincing the family that they’re in mortal danger. You know, because he’s just a dog.
The film may be cheesy, featuring plenty of corny dialogue and some shoddy special effects, but it’s hard not to get emotional when Thor actively chooses to fight the massive werewolf in a heartwarming act of unconditional love for his family. Honestly, that killer ending makes the entire experience worth it, and it’s also the reason why Thor takes the number one spot.
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