It almost seems like a contradiction: Even hardcore horror fans like myself, folks who can handle the most over-the-top gore and violence, still fall to pieces with any depiction of violence against dogs—even though we know it’s just make-believe. It’s like, “Kill all the people you want, just leave those dogs alone!” As soon as a dog starts barking at a bump in the night, I get a huge knot in the pit of my stomach.
For horror aficionados who wish to avoid any and all depictions of violence against our domesticated friends and “fur-babies,” there’s DoesTheDogDie.com, a website that lets you know in advance whether the chiller you’ve selected is cruelty-free (in regards to animals, of course). If there’s a happy dog face next to the film title, you’re golden; while the site has yet to verify every entry, you can be pretty sure the dog will live. If there’s a neutral dog face, the pet may face some adversity, but will ultimately survive to bark another day. A crying dog face is pretty self-explanatory: It’s Old Yeller time.
Horror filmmakers include animals in films because they know it’s a way to ratchet up the intensity and manipulate our emotions—and it works! Still, I’ve got to take my hat off to those that have the opportunity to kill an animal on screen but chose not to. Below are 15+ movies that deliver top notch blood, guts, and horror, without any unnecessary pet deaths. Enjoy one with your favorite four-legged compadre!
Bad Moon (1996)
Thor (played by Primo), the family dog in the 1996 werewolf drama Bad Moon, deserves a medal for going above and beyond the call of duty. His keen instincts allow him to detect an evil presence from the get-go. He’s incredibly protective of his human “pack”, never hesitating to put himself in mortal peril whenever danger rears its ugly werewolf head. Good boy, Thor!
The Freeling family dog, a golden retriever named E. Buzz, is one of the first to sense ghostly apparitions in the new home; still, he makes it until the film’s conclusion alive—just like every other character in Poltergeist. The movie has a body count of zero. In fact, the only life lost in Poltergeist was Carol Anne’s bird, Tweety. Tweety may have been killed by otherworldly forces, or her death might just be a coincidence. Not listed on IMDb is E. Buzz’s real name.
Tucker and Dale: two friendly rednecks were looking to have a bit of relaxation at their cabin in the woods. But without warning, they’re beset upon by a gang of drugged-out, psychotic, suicidal college students! They even kidnap Jangers the dog (played by Weezer)! The good news is, Tucker, Dale, and Jangers all live through this terrifying ordeal. Now hurry up with that sequel!
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Chips (played by Blu) is one of the few dogs to display the kind of heroism he did, in the Dawn of the Dead 2004 remake. This pooch is bravery epitomized, managing to maneuver through a horde of zombies unscathed to deliver supplies to a stranded comrade. He must’ve never gone to the vet because Chips has balls of steel.
The Lost Boys (1987)
Sam’s dog Nanook doesn’t only survive The Lost Boys: He protects his master and even kills one of the vampires himself by knocking it into a bathtub filled with holy water. In fact, Nanook is brave enough face down an entire posse of greedy blood-suckers! The Siberian Huskie’s real name is Cody.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
“Buffalo Bill’s” dog Precious (played by Darla) in The Silence of the Lambs is your stereotypical little yapper, but the pint-size poodle wins major points for cuteness. Sure, her constant barking makes her antagonistic, but she plays a crucial role in Jame Gumb’s ultimate undoing and the rescue of Catherine Martin. I like to imagine that Precious and the Senator’s daughter go on to live a long (if psychologically damaged) life.
The Gift (2015)
“Mr. Bojangles”, the gorgeous Newfoundland featured in 2015’s The Gift, indeed caused his “parents” (and the audience) a ton of anxiety when he suddenly goes missing; his safe return, though, is one of the only bright moments in the entire film! What happened during his disappearance? Had Mr. Bojangles been abducted by a psychological sadist bent on upending a young couple’s life? If you have the Blu-ray or DVD, you can find out by viewing the “Deleted Scenes.”
The ferocious Rottweiler ironically named “Mother” in 2007’s Teeth isn’t, by any estimation, a particularly pleasant creature. His deadbeat owner uses him, primarily, to intimidate his parents and anyone else who dares invade his space. You can’t blame poor Mother, as a dog’s behavior is a direct reflection of its upbringing, and his douche-bag “Master” keeps him constantly kenneled. Still, he’s in the perfect place to deliver some shocking yet appropriate karmic justice in a scene that will make anyone with a penis scream bloody murder. Mother’s real name is Aspen (yes, he’s a boy).
In the original screenplay, the titular Gremlins ate Billy’s dog, Barney (real name: Mushroom). Billy’s mom is killed then the Gremlins used her head as a bowling ball! Luckily as we all know and love, Barney lives (even after getting strung up in Christmas lights).
Mushroom deserves recognition for living through not just 1, but two horror movies in the 1980’s. In addition to surviving the Gremlin onslaught, he made it to the end of Pumpkinhead as Ed Harley’s faithful dog Gypsy. It’s worth noting that, while the story of Pumpkinhead centers on the untimely death of a young child, director Stan Winston still didn’t have the heart to off old Gypsy. Good man!
The Voices (2014)
A fantastic looking Boxer named Hamish plays Bosco in 2014’s black comedy The Voices; he’s a total babe-magnet with his smooshed snout, dangling jowls, and dark, soulful eyes. This talking dog (perfectly voiced by Ryan Reynolds) is a gentle voice of reason, a de facto conscience for his owner: An affable yet dangerously dissociative sociopath. The Voices also features a talking cat named Mr. Whiskers (real name: Cario) who also lives—unlike a handful of unfortunate victims.
The Cat Lives, Too!
The single most riveting display of feline affection in all of the horror cinema is when Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) risks her life in a desperate attempt to rescue her cat, Jones, even as her spaceship is moments away from self-destructing. It’s a race against time, but it’s also an emotional purge for Ripley. She was unable to protect any of her crewmates; retrieving Jones takes on profound significance. I like to think it was Ripley’s selfless display that convinced an otherwise uncaring Universe to let the both survive. The final shot of Ripley and Jones, asleep in a hibernation pod, is the only moment of pure serenity the film offers.
Cat’s Eye (1985)
Family pets often fare extremely poorly in films adapted from Stephen King stories, the most prominent examples being: Cujo, Pet Sematary, and Apt Pupil. But General, a tomcat in the episodic thriller Cat’s Eye manages, to survive and thrive. He even escapes getting euthanized at an animal shelter before saving a young girl from a murderous troll. Rare actions from a feline, indeed, as most cats are notoriously uninterested in the trials and tribulations of their human counterparts.
Even the Pig Lives!
Paul Sheldon may have been determined to kill off his romance novel heroine Misery Chastain, but Misery the Pig (Annie Wilkes boisterous companion) lives to oink another day. Sure, we don’t usually fret over the deaths of pigs (mmm, bacon), but there’s something about giving one a name and letting it into your home that makes it much more than meat. And isn’t Misery a total cutie? Just look at that smile!
Cruelty-Free Horror Franchise
The Final Destination Franchise
Despite offing hundreds of human being over five chapters (you can see a video count above and complete breakdown: HERE), the franchise never killed a dog, cat, or any other pet for that matter (according to DoesTheDogDie.com). I’ve got to give props to the filmmakers who gleefully slaughtered scores of teenagers, but not a single domesticated animal. Peta should give these guys an award!
While a horror fan’s aversion to depictions of violence against animals might seem like a riddle, there’s perhaps a shockingly simple reason behind this mentality: People suck! Dogs and cats, on the other hand: You’ve just got to love them. Am I right?