Horror film and television are not always too kind to man’s best friend – they are often the first to realise that something is wrong and this curiosity frequently means they end up as a victim. This list contains some dogs that, unfortunately, don’t make it to the end credits, but they’ve been chosen for their impact on the film itself. Importantly, this list is not a ranking – all dogs are created equal. Please be aware that some sections will contain spoilers.
This is part one of a special article with donations to be sent via the following link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/caitlyns-26-challenge
Donations are to Hope Rescue and you can find out more information about them here: https://www.hoperescue.org.uk/what-we-do and details on their adoption process are here: https://www.hoperescue.org.uk/how-to-adopt
- Cujo (Cujo – 1983)
Perhaps the most obvious choice for an impactful horror dog, Cujo is the titular St Bernard who is bitten by a bat and begins to change into a very dangerous dog. It is, at heart, a tragic tale where Cujo’s illness overtakes his true, friendly nature. More happily, it seems that behind-the-scenes, the dog actors had a great time, with toys and food used to influence their rabid behaviour and frequent cuts made to the film to edit out moments where the gentle giants couldn’t stop wagging their tails.
2. Zoltan (Zoltan, Hound of Dracula/Dracula’s Dog – 1977)
Another one that needs to be on the list – seriously, what horror dog list would be complete without the dog of Dracula?! A few…questionable…effects in this one, but Zoltan looks impressively menacing as he sets about turning the furry friends of Dracula’s last descendent into vampire-dogs.
3. Nanook (The Lost Boys – 1987)
Alaskan Malamute Nanook is the perfect dog in the hyper-fashion conscious world of The Lost Boys. He is a stunning dog, but can also sense vampires, which turns out to be a very useful skill in Santa Carla. Nanook is fiercely protective of his owner and manages to dispatch a vampire by pushing him into a bath of holy water. A very good boy.
4. Hellhound (The Omen – 1976)
The Antichrist would require some pretty awe-inspiring dogs, especially when he has taken the form of a young boy. The Rottweiler Hellhounds in The Omen fit the bill in terms of being fierce protectors of Damien and influence others to extreme acts of devotion. In pleasant movie trivia, the dog playing Mrs Baylock’s hound was another dog that was far friendlier than its on-screen moments suggest.
5. The Dog (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master – 1988)
I just had to embed a link here because sometimes seeing is believing. Technically another hellhound here. Credited as The Dog (real name Jake), this Collie-type is perhaps more commonly known in horror circles as Fire Pisser due to his ability to urinate flames in this absolutely baffling moment in the franchise. His special body chemistry raises iconic horror villain Freddy Krueger from the dead for another round of sleepy stalk and slash.
6. Scooby-Doo (Various – from 1969)
Scooby-Doo is an iconic dog in terms of animation and fits the bill as a horror hero for his ability to unveil the nefarious spooky schemes of various villains, even if he is occasionally distracted by snacks (who isn’t?) His relationship with Shaggy is a classic dog and owner pairing that shows that some bonds are unbreakable.
7. Beauty and 8. Beast (The Hills Have Eyes – 2006)
A mixed bag here for those sensitive to losing our furry friends during films. Beauty and Beast, two German Shepherds joining the family on their holiday, are the first to sense that all is not well in the desert. Unfortunately, Beauty’s curiosity leads to her early demise and the moment where Beast discovers her body is genuinely upsetting but acts as a catalyst for him to accompany Doug in the final act. Beast turns into an action hero and while there are many heart-in-mouth moments as Beast tackles the cannibals, he’s able to save the day on numerous occasions.
9. Moo (Chanthaly – 2012)
Chanthaly is notable for numerous reasons, being the first Laotian horror film as well as director Mattie Do being the first female Lao film-maker. The film also features faithful whippet Moo, who stays at his owner’s side throughout all the ghostly goings-on. Moo is played by Mango, who has sadly passed but leaves a beautiful legacy in this film. On top of being an excellent director, bringing a new kind of folklore to the screen, Do is a dedicated animal lover which makes her films a must-see for crazy dog ladies like me.
10. Sugar (Crawl – 2019)
One of the horror genre’s failings is introducing a much-loved pet, only to immediately sacrifice it to a villain or otherworldly presence. In a film where characters have a hurricane and several vicious alligators to contend with, family pet Sugar looks like she’s about to have her last film. Happily, Crawl toys with those expectations, repeatedly cutting to Sugar in dangerous situations that she somehow manages to escape. Crucially, Sugar is the smartest entity in the film and I am very on board with director Alexandre Aja’s suggestion that a Crawl sequel would be shot exclusively using Sugar’s perspective.
11. Family Dog (Raw – 2016)
I wish I could find a clip online of this scene because the dog-acting is top-notch in this wince-inducing scene. Alexia (Ella Rumpf) manages to cut off her finger with a very sharp pair of scissors during Justine’s (Garance Marillier) bikini wax gone wrong. As she passes out from the shock, Justine, who has developed a taste for human flesh and the dog both race for the severed digit. Justine wins, just in time for Alexia to come around and realise her sister’s new taste. Unfortunately, the dog gets the blame for Justine’s indiscretions later in the film, but the scene remains an excellent example of the film’s dark comedy.
12. Cooper (Girl On The Third Floor – 2019)
Another unfortunate instance of a dog paying the price for their owner’s sins here. Cooper (another German Shepherd – possibly the most popular breed in horror) is the company for owner Don (Phil Brooks) as he starts to renovate a home for his pregnant wife. Cooper is instantly hyper-aware that all is not well within the house. Cooper is another excellent dog actor, playing off Brooks brilliantly and his growing frustration with Don’s behaviour mark him as the moral compass of the film. Cooper meets an untimely and genuinely upsetting end that kicks the film into a higher gear. Listen to your dog, people – they probably know when you’re being an arsehole.
13. Groves’ Family Pet (Psychoville Series Two – 2011)
Another unnamed pooch, but still one which features in one of the more alarming comic moments of the fantastic Psychoville. Jeremy Goode (Reece Shearsmith) is an obsessive librarian who takes against the Groves family who have not returned a book. Spurred on by The Silent Singer (also Shearsmith), he decides to take a hostage in the form of their scruffy family dog. The visual of Shearsmith running with the dog is a great one, but even better is a later scene when the dog is seen, rather non-plussed while sitting on the lap of The Silent Singer on a swing. Again, a great example where a dog steals the scene.
Part Two will be posted tomorrow. In the meantime, why not check out the dogs available for adoption from Hope rescue: https://www.hoperescue.org.uk/dogs-for-adoption