The prevailing wisdom has always been that you should never ever ever kill a pet in a movie. You can kill all the people you want. Husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, neighbors, parents, soldiers, nuns. But kill the adorable dog or kitty cat, and you risk losing the audience. Of course, this means that filmmakers know they have a deadly weapon at their disposal to push our buttons. In this CHUD list, we’re going to take a look at cinema’s saddest, funniest, most messed up and most memorable pet deaths. Remember, we didn’t make these movies. We just work here.
20: A Bird That Would Love Some Head.
Film: Dumb & Dumber (1994)
Directors: The Farrelly Brothers
The Pet: Petey, the parakeet.
The Owner: First Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels), the intellectually-challenged buddy of Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey). Then, posthumously, Billy – the blind kid in 4C.
The Context: Don’t let the cute Mutt Cutts van fool you, Dumb & Dumber wastes no time putting beloved critters in harm’s way. Harry’s pet-grooming business doesn’t come off as the safest operation, given the comedy starts off with a bunch of newly coifed dogs sloshing around the back of a van, their bellies filled with fast food.
So perhaps it’s karmic intervention that this man, who has no business owning a pet, arrives home one day to find his parakeet’s head has fallen off.
Off To the Big Pet Store in the Sky: Like Harry and Lloyd, poor Petey never realizes what he’s mixed up in before it’s too late. Unfortunately, he pays with his life when tough guy Mental (Mike Starr) breaks into to our heroes’ apartment to leave them a message in the form of treating Petey’s head like it’s a champagne cork.
But Petey’s demise wouldn’t grace a list like Play Dead if his story ended here. Quick to turn a negative into a profitable negative, Lloyd tapes the decaying bird’s head back on and sells Petey 2.0 to Billy, the blind kid in 4C. Petey’s not Robocop. He wasn’t rebuilt by scientists at OCP. By extension, he is still very much deceased.
Don’t weep for Petey. His sole purpose in Dumb & Dumber was to make us laugh and, in that regard, his sacrifice wasn’t for naught. What’s forgotten in all of this head popping is that Harry never does find out why Petey and Petey’s Head went their separate ways. And what of poor Billy, duped into giving Petey a good home (read: resting place)? In the universe of the film, one has to imagine Billy grew up to be something of an emotional trainwreck around pet shops. Nothing ruins one’s ability to trust more than tending to the needs of your newly-purchased dead bird for a few weeks.
Explain This to the Humane Society: You don’t. How can you? What’s a murder investigation where even Petey’s owner doesn’t realize a murder has occurred. In a perfect world, dead Petey would have ended up with a three-picture deal and some Weekend at Bernie’s-style hijnks with a grownup Billy, presumably played by Andrew McCarthy.
- Tim Kelly
19: Sam Gets Bitten, Then Bites It.
Film: I Am Legend (2007)
Director: Francis Lawrence
The Pet: Sam, a loyal german shepherd if there ever was one.
The Owner: Dr. Robert Neville (Willenium Smith), a lone virologist in the big city and presumed last man on Earth.
The Context: The New York of 2007’s I Am Legend is not the city you nor I are accustomed to. By day, Neville has the whole town to himself – which is awesome. By night, he has to contend with cannibalistic vampire people that want to rip him to shreds – which is decidedly not awesome. But at least he has Sam, the friendliest, loyalest post-apocalyptic canine in all the land. Wait, nevermind.
Off To the Big Pet Store in the Sky: The Last Man’s Best Friend saves her master’s life at the cost of her own. Neville’s attacked by rabid, infected dogs only to be rescued at the last second by Sam. Sam get’s bitten and, for her troubles, later gets suffocated by the Fresh Prince. Bel Air this most certainly is not. The sadness takes hold and doesn’t let go beginning at 1:33:
In Will Smith’s defense, he does what he can to save his dog. And it’s admirable that he waits for Sam to turn before he attempts to find out whether all dogs really do go to heaven. Still, Sam deserved a happier ending than the one she got, and when her time comes even she knows she’s a goner. How does one say goodbye to those wistful puppy eyes?!
Cinema has a long line of fierce pets that selflessly gave their lives for their owners (Hooch, ftw). But the real gut punch here is that it’s the owner himself that has to put the little gal down. Sadly, Sam is played by a real-life german shepherd and not Alphonso “Carlton” Ribeiro, which would have at least given the scene some emotional satisfaction on a meta level. As is, it’s just a sucky gut punch. Nobody wants to see their pet get got like that.
Explain This to the Humane Society: In the context of the film, there is no longer a humane society to demand said explanation. Which works out in Will Smith’s case because he totally deserves to have the book thrown at his head. All those medicines that the virologist Neville has in his hideout and there’s nothing that could have sent Sam comfortably to sleep? Instead, Neville just sits there like a weepy goon – waiting for the opportunity to do some smotherin’. It’s not that Sam didn’t have to die, obviously she was going to turn. But there was no reason for her to die that way, except to satiate Neville’s strange, subconscious desire to be the last living anything on the planet. Congrats, asshole.
Consult your Post-Apocalyptic Pet Owner’s Handbook before jumping to such hasty conclusions.
- Tim Kelly