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.
12: The Hills Hate Pets.
Film: The Hills Have Eyes (1977, 2006)
Director: Wes Craven, Alexandre Aja
The Pet: Beauty, a German shepherd, and an unnamed Lovebird.
The Owner: The Carters, a family traveling through the desert on vacation.
The Context: The Carter family and their pets (two dogs, Beauty and Beast; two lil’ birdies) are driving through the desert, towing a camper trailer, when they have the misfortune to cross through the lonesome territory of Papa Jupiter and his deformed family of cannibals. The desert-hillbillies are keen on killing and eating the Carters. The Carters aren’t happy about this.
Off To the Big Pet Store in the Sky: Beauty and Beast enjoy running around in the desert while the Carters wait for help to come. In both films, Beauty meets a sorry end (though at different points in the run-time). In Craven’s film, after the dog fails to return to the family’s camper, Beast discovers his friend’s disemboweled remains near the cannibals’ base camp — where Beauty’s meat is being cooked over a fire and eaten. In Aja’s remake, the Carters’ youngest son, Bobby (Dan Byrd), runs after Beauty when she bolts into the rocky hills. Moments later, Bobby finds her — missing some important stuff inside.
And in both films, our unnamed birdie gets the same treatment that Petey the parakeet did in Dumb and Dumber – when the Jupiter clan attacks the Carter camper, it is a fun night full of shooting, molesting, cutting, baby stealing, and bird de-heading. But, whereas Mental felt satisfied simply removing Petey’s head in Dumber, Mars/Lizard (as the characters are named in the respect two films) removes the bird’s head for a specific reason. He isn’t just trying to kill it. No, what we see as a Lovebird, a noisy and sorta pointless pet, he sees as a Kool Aid Kool Burst full of deliciousness inside.
Craven’s direction (typical of his 70’s work) is characterized by a casual and un-sensational tone that makes everything feel almost snuff-film-esque. Whereas Aja’s remake is far more cinematic in approach. In Craven’s film, Beauty’s death is just kind of dropped in our lap amongst the madness that is unfolding. Aja’s Beauty death is significantly more effective, placed earlier in the film as the first piece of death to visit the Carter family. For these same reasons, Craven has the better birdie death. The mundane way that Mars grabs the bird makes it feel entirely plausible for the character; its minor presentation making it all the more disturbing. Aja plays up the Lizard/Lovebird moment as, well, a moment — a horror movie set-piece, milked for gory audience-goosing the brings the bit into the territory of dark humor.
Explain This to the Humane Society: Hey, what happens in New Mexico stays in New Mexico.
- Josh Miller
11: Dear Dan, Cat Dead. Details Later.
Film: Re-Animator (1985)
Director: Stuart Gordon
The Pet: Rufus the cat.
The Owner: Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), med student, boyfriend to Dean Halsey’s scrumptious daughter, Megan (Barbara Crampton), and roommate to Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), another med student who developed a glowy formula that has the ability to reanimate (hence the title) dead bodies and bring them back to life…or the screaming, bloody, mindless, violently hellish facsimile of it.
The Context: West is a renegade med student whose obsession with conquering death via his reagent knows no moral nor ethical boundaries when it comes to his experimentation. West opened the movie by giving a dose to his recently deceased professor, Dr. Hans Gruber (not the guy who shot Takagi), who really wasn’t thankful at the opportunity for a new chance at life, as evidenced by the aforementioned screaming, violence, blood and bulging eyes that explode inside his head. Dr. Gruber was merely the first course of a film featuring a smorgasbord of over-the-top gore and hijinks as West continues to experiment on dead bodies – human and animal – to perfect his formula. Said animal happens to be Rufus, Dan’s pet black cat, whom Dan finds a pussysicle in West’s refrigerator one night.
Off To the Big Pet Store in the Sky: According to West, Rufus’s demise was easily explainable, as the cat got his head caught in a jar and suffocated. He put Rufus in the fridge until he coukld explain to Dan the circumstances, rather than leaving a note saying, as West put it, “Cat dead, details later.” Quite thoughtful when you think about it, actually. Although it wouldn’t be advisable having a sandwich stored in that fridge going forward. Especially not a tuna sandwich. Normally that would be the end of the story with Rufus, but then again, this is a film about reanimating the dead. So when we see Rufus again, he’s making with the eerie dead cat wailing and attacking West down in the basement after getting a reagent booster shot. You think reanimated people are bad, they don’t have anything on a pissed zombie cat, which we see comically clawing at West’s back in the dark. He then attacks Dan, who is forced to toss him at the nearest wall like a split-finger fastball, leaving a gory feline intestinal Rorschach test trailing down the drywall. If you think that is the end of the story, well then you’re in for a minor follow-up treat. As West is explaining his formula to Dan, he re-reanimates Rufus, who’s much less a threat, due to a broken back and gaping hole in his torso with what’s left of his guts, flailing weakly and pathetically on a lab table. After that, we’re at least hoping that Rufus gets put out of his misery and given a proper burial. Just hopefully not in a pet sematary, because really, the poor bastard has suffered enough already.
West sure as hell got a good laugh out of the experience after Dan put Rufus down the second time. That reanimated cat fought like a mongoose on crack and the overall effect was creepy to the extreme. Upon Rufus’ third life on the slab, it’s really just disturbing, to see that thing that was once a beautiful cat struggle at its painful existence. But if it makes you feel any better, it’s really all just in the name of science.
Explain This to the Humane Society: Don’t bother, because they won’t believe you, unless they see it for themselves. And then they’ll more than likely be puking their guts up, while the cat is busy scratching their eyes out.
- David Oliver