There is something that I have noticed about people who love horror movies: a character can be chopped, drawn-and-quartered, decapitated, impaled or tickled with a chainsaw, but when it comes to animals, especially a dog undergoing the same torture, some viewers say “nope.”
[Spoiler alert: there are pictures contained in this text in which the dogs in the films do die.]
There are some animals which are more acceptable than others to see torn apart or smashed; aquatic creatures are at the top of the list.
Look at the king of all shark movies: Jaws. In that classic film a summer smorgasbord of beachgoers resulted in the razor-toothed fish getting hit with the bad end of a rifle/oxygen tank combo. Audiences cheered.
But ask how they felt about the stick retrieving dog in the film who never returned from the surf and you might get a different response.
After the commercial success of “Jaws,” countless non-human celluloid monsters were disposed of in knock-off movies and cheap imitations.
Movies featuring orcas, grizzlies, alligators and even frogs being shot at, burned, blown up and disposed of. Nobody seemed to care, just as long as it wasn’t a cat or yikes, a dog.
In 1983, Stephen King’s bestseller Cujo hit theaters. In the novel and the film, Cujo is a jumbo-sized Saint Bernard whose curiosity got the better of him, leaving him riddled with rabies.
The once gentle-natured beast goes on a rampage trapping a mother and her young son in a Ford Pinto in the driveway. His demise isn’t pleasant, but people seemed more sympathetic to his undoing than they are about the insatiable great white shark stalking New York.
This is probably because a dog is considered man’s best friend, and King knowing that played with reader’s emotions and fears about the creatures we trust going rogue, literally biting the hand that feeds them.
King played with this scenario again. This time with cats in 1992’s “Sleepwalkers.” Whereas Cujo’s death was an empathetic demise – I’m sure many thought he was put out of his crazed misery – Sleepwalkers was more aggressive in its treatment of cats. They got twisted, kicked, shot at and ensnared in bear traps.
Although not as popular as its canine counterpart, “Sleepwalkers” could be excused maybe because the cats being killed looked more like FurReal friends than FurReal enemies; you could almost see the stuffing coming through the stitches on the props as actors used methodology in responding to claws-out face hugs.
Unfortunately, Hollywood has a long history of being cruel to real animals. And this may be the reason why people are so squeamish and untrustworthy about seeing them “harmed” on screen.