Ten Coolest Pets in Horror Movies
Scary films and cuddly animals don’t seem like an obvious match. Over the years, however, genre fans have met countless adorable pets. Some have been good. Some have been bad. Some have been good but then turned bad. But all of them deserve a special place in our gore-loving hearts.
So in honor of Fluffy and Fido (and Ben and baboons), here are the ten coolest pets in horror movies. But please remember: don’t feed the animals. They might not be up to date on their shots (Cujo, we’re looking at you).
Beast in The Hills Have Eyes
Let’s face it. In either version of The Hills Have Eyes, the humans sucked. Whether they’re deranged cannibalistic inbreeds or fanny pack-wearing Middle American dopes, there’s not much to root for in the homo sapien department. And even one half of the pets don’t fare so well; Beast’s lovely counterpart, Beauty, ends up an impromptu snack for a hungry family. But if you manage to get through this unrelenting tome about the squalid depths of mankind’s soul, then do it for the darling German Shepherd named Beast. He knows how to sense danger–a skill almost any horror movie character could use–and knows how to shove villainous creeps off cliffs to an unceremonious canyon demise. And Beast does all of this with no opposable thumbs. That’s one canine worthy of a dog bone. Good boy, Beast. Good boy.
Jonesy in Alien and Aliens
Why a spaceship has a feline mascot aboard is a question sci-fi fans have been pondering for the thirty-five years since Alien‘s release. What we don’t question is Jonesy’s cool factor. This tabby knows when to hightail it to safety on the Nostromo, and short of learning to speak and screaming “Run, fool!”, he couldn’t have done more to warn Harry Dean Stanton’s Brett that a monster was standing right behind him. But as almost every Alien installment has demonstrated, xenomorphs are sometimes impervious to human eyes (otherwise, how did one stow away on the escape pods or full ships in each of the first three films?). But Jonesy’s nobody’s fool. This cat can sense an alien a mile away. He’s also way too smart to embark on further space travels, so he sat out most of Aliens. Here’s to hoping he retired to a quiet space station life of reconstituted powdered milk and GMO-laden mice.
Winston Churchill in Pet Sematary
You’d think a feline named after a chubby, cigar-smoking world leader would be a total domestic drag. But Winston Churchill, affectionately known as “Church”, proves his detractors wrong. He’s a fun-loving kind of cat, that is, until running into the wrong end of an automobile. Thanks to a gripless family doctor and a harbinger Herman Munster, Church is soon up to his whiskers in some seriously sour land. Things don’t get easier from there. However, unlike a couple of the other inhabitants of Ludlow, Maine, this gray British shorthair never kills anyone (that we know of anyways). He just skulks around hissing and acting generally shady. If you haven’t already, be sure to watch the behind-the-scenes of Pet Sematary. There is an entire segment about training Church (hint: multiple cats that each knew one trick really, really well). Who said you couldn’t teach undead cats new tricks?
The baboons in The Fly
The baboons in the 1986 remake of The Fly aren’t pets so much as intelligent lab rats. But to be fair, eccentric genius Seth Brundle doesn’t expect anything from the baboons that he’s not willing to do to himself. Heck, by the end, the once-affable mad scientist even wants to use his telepods on girlfriend Veronica. So really, experimentation is just the Brundle way of saying “I love you”. Seeing that the baboon pair never appear on screen at the same time, Cronenberg’s set obviously featured only one baboon. But since the first was turned inside out like a deranged Brundle sock monkey, it’s fair to say there was a second, albeit fictional, one hanging around the warehouse lab. The two primates were even brothers if Seth’s drunken ramblings are to be believed. In the theatrical release, the audience never learns what becomes of the other baboon. However, those of you who have seen the extended cut already know the critter doesn’t meet a pretty end. After all, stray cat and baboon DNA just don’t mix.
Ben in Willard
Rats never look so cute as when they’re attacking your enemies. Then again, they never look so scary as when they’re chowing down on your face. Ben leads the best and worst categories when it comes to pest control. He adores his unlikely caretaker Willard, but wouldn’t you know it, the human throws him over for a date with Sondra Locke (which Clint Eastwood approves, by the way). What’s a mild-mannered rat with a taste for blood to do? Steal a snack, that’s what. Go for the 1971 original if you’re purist; go for the 2003 remake if you want to enjoy Crispin Glover’s innate weirdness.
Gizmo in Gremlins
Aww, the cryptid that launched a thousand cutsie tattoos. Here’s some generally good life advice: When weird old men in alleyway curio shops tell you not to adopt an inexplicable animal, you should probably listen. They might know what they’re talking about. And as the Peltzers soon learn, Mogwais don’t make the best pets. But Gizmo tries to be obedient. He maintains a positive attitude, even after his inadvertent progeny starts to wreak havoc all over Kingston Falls. Gizmo’s got serious self control when it comes to late-night snacks. And based on all available evidence, he’s even paper-trained–much to the relief of Billy’s mom. But that doesn’t stop the curmudgeonly old man from reclaiming him in the final scene. It’s probably for the best. Small town life wasn’t right for this big city-dwelling Mogwai anyhow.
Jezebel in The Sentinel
I’m not going to lie. I sort of invented this whole list as an homage to the coolest brimstone-stinking cat that horror has ever seen. Jezebel is epically awesome. This black and white cutie is the furry companion of Charles Chazen, a bloodthirsty libertine played by Burgess Meredith. He’s a denizen of hell, which means Jezebel probably is too. No matter. Michael Winner’s 1977 The Sentinel features arguably the greatest horror movie pet scene of all-time: an elaborate birthday party in honor of Jezebel. There’s dancing, cake, and yes, a cat in a hat (wearing a bib and sitting in a high chair, no less). The interlude is unrelentingly bizarre yet equally effervescent, a combination that would seem out of place anywhere but in this film. Although Jezebel only appears in a couple scenes after her soiree, this cat easily cements a place among the pantheon of horror movie pets. I raise my glass to you, Jezebel. Here’s to celebrating a devil cat’s birthday every night of the year.
Cleopatra in The Comedy of Terrors
Everybody’s on board in this sometimes forgotten 1964 effort: Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone. Perennial horror favorite Richard Matheson even acted as screenwriter. However, a scene-stealing tabby upstages them all. Rhubarb the cat, also known by the horrific moniker of Orangey, had quite the celluloid pedigree. Although he wasn’t the only cat used on set (there may have been upwards of 40 “stunt” felines), he’s definitely among the best remembered animal actors in the industry. You know that cat that tried to eat the Incredible Shrinking Man, another of Matheson’s works? Yup, that hungry feline was Orangey. How about Neutron the lab cat in This Island Earth? Orangey strikes again. And although it’s far from horror (unless you count Mickey Rooney’s cringe-worthy turn as an Asian neighbor), Breakfast at Tiffany’s features Orangey’s most famous role as the nameless “poor slob” Cat. It turns out a seasoned silver screen veteran has been hiding under our dander-sensitive noses all this time.
Nanook in The Lost Boys
Santa Clara might be plagued with too many vampires, but those bloodsuckers are a cinch to defeat when you’ve got a dog like Nanook guarding the threshold. Keeping with the J.M. Barrie theme of the film’s title, Nanook’s name is deliberately reminiscent of Peter Pan‘s Nana, a dog who’s alright but nothing compared to her horror counterpart. Is it too soon for Corey Haim jokes? Because I’d love to make a jab at Nanook for her questionable taste in protecting the Corey who doesn’t play an iconoclast Frog Brother. But maybe I’ll just refrain from the off-color humor this time around…
Cujo in Cujo
Although the name Cujo is now synonymous with vicious canines, some people–especially non-horror fans–forget the Saint Bernard started out a real sweetheart. But when it comes down to it, all the friendly Fidos in the world are only one bat bite and rabies shot away from going mad. Talk about a heavy-handed pro-vaccination PSA. It’s worth mentioning that Dee Wallace who stars as hapless mama Donna secretly harbors a real horror animal fetish. In addition to protecting her sickly kid in Cujo, she appears as the ill-fated daughter in the aforementioned Hills Have Eyes. Add in The Howling and Critters, and you start to wonder if Wallace ever once shared the silver screen with a non-furry costar. Not that we’re complaining or anything…
Honorable mention: The Siberian Huskies in The Thing. Gone by way of a shape-shifting monster, but far from forgotten.
What horror movie pet is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!