Happy National Puppy Day! Since 2006 we’ve set aside March 23 to celebrate our furry friends, big and small. After all, dog is man’s best friend. That is, unless you fancy yourself to be a cat person. While ‘killer dogs’ fall under the larger ‘killer animal‘ movie umbrella, there’s certainly a handful of movies where canine carnage has reigned supreme. Below are six good, bad, and obscure killer dog movies for you to chew on this National Puppy Day.
The Pack (1977)
In the 1970s, eco-horror was at its peak with several ‘nature-takes-revenge’ movies hitting theatres. Whereas movies like Food of the Gods, Frogs, and Orca have attained some cult status, The Pack remains a pretty obscure movie. It’s a straightforward story of abandoned dogs attacking people on an isolated island. Nevertheless, The Pack is a surprisingly decent little effort from director Robert Clouse. However, Clouse’s experience making Bruce Lee movies proved to be a blessing. As compared to most ‘killer animal’ movies, the dog attacks are quite effective here. In addition, The Pack manages to deliver a few good jolts alongside its heavy-handed message about man’s cruelty towards nature.
To date, Madhouse’s only claim to fame is that is made the United Kingdom’s ‘Video Nasty List‘. By and large, Madhouse is a pretty standard slasher movie thought its surprisingly stylish in parts. Its story of woman haunted by her cruel twin sister and a vicious Rottweiler spreads out some decent gory deaths with a few jump scares. Not even novice horror fans should be surprised by the movies twists. And its low budget betrays it on more than one occasion. Yet Madhouse is actually eccentric enough to warrant a look from diehard slasher fans.
Monster Dog (1984)
No one will fault you if you’ve never seen let alone heard of Monster Dog. This Spanish horror movie starring a dubbed Alice Cooper about a pack of wild dogs attacking a pop star’s video shoot is … not very good. Not surprisingly, Monster Dog is low-budget stuff with stiff performances, sparse scares, and mostly poor effects. It’s the type of movie that wouldn’t feel out of place on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Perhaps it might have help if the screenplay itself had been ‘dubbed’. For reasons not clearly explained, the wild dogs have to vie for the role of main villain with an actual werewolf. Bad movie cinephiles might enjoy this one … if they can find it. And at least it means Alice Cooper Goes to Hell isn’t the worst thing Cooper has put his name on.
The Pack (2015)
No, The Pack is not a remake of the 1977 movie. Another example of eco-horror, The Pack finds a ‘pack’ of wild dogs terrorizing a poor Australian family in the outback. Certainly, wild animals and isolated and/or claustrophobic setting can be a recipe for low-budget horror success. Cujo worked, as did Killer Tiger movie, Burning Bright. Though it’s not a terrible movie, The Pack is best described as underwhelming. Dumb character decisions drive too much of the movie. Along with a plodding pace, The Pack also lacks in the scares department.
Man’s Best Friend (1993)
When horror was at a lull in the early 90s, Man’s Best Friend joined several unremarkable and forgettable genre entries. That’s not to say that this story of a genetically engineered killer dog is a bad movie per se. On the one hand, director John Lafia (Child’s Play 2) didn’t make a boring movie. At just under 90 minutes, Man’s Best Friend clips along at a decent pace. Just enough happens on screen to keep your interest. And Lafia is a competent, if not workmanlike, filmmaker. On top of these small favours, the movie looks good. Too bad it’s not very scary. In fact, Man’s Best Friend isn’t scary in the least and lacks much in the way of canine gore. Diehard fans of 90s horror may appreciate it; everyone else can take a hard pass.
Here it is, the ‘alpha’ of killer dog movies. Audiences and critics don’t give Cujo as much attention as some of the better (It, The Shining) or worse (Graveyard Shift) adaptations of Stephen King’s work. But Cujo is a solid little horror movie that proves the adage that ‘less is more’. Director Lewis Teague excises some of King’s side-story to focus on the rabid Saint Bernard terrorizing a mother and son trapped in a dead car. Though some of King’s story of a marital infidelity and a failed advertisement remain, Cujo is at its tense best when we’re watching Dee Wallace Stone (The Howling) fighting for her son’s survival. Those parts of the movie are tense, urgent, and occasionally gory. Even after nearly 40 years, Cujo holds up quite well.