Monday, October 7, 2013

Animals: Horror's Evil Detector

Horror is filled with animals on the rampage, from swarming bees (Swarm) to giant, man-eating rabbits (Night of the Lepus).  Along the way there have been over-sized ants, great white sharks, snakes on planes, haunted cats, killer dogs and many, many more (here is a fairly good list of them).  But those are cases where the movie concerns the animal itself being evil.  What's always delighted me far more is the animal as evil detector.  Whether it's a cat hissing out a warning of danger (Alien), a raving mad pet-pourri in a pet shop (Cat People) or barn animals raising a ruckus when Ol' Scratch approaches (The Devil and Daniel Webster), animals always seem to know before their slow-witted human counterparts when someone not to be trusted is lurking.  Why?  Who the hell knows?  Point is, it works.  Put animals freaking out in the presence of evil into a movie and, usually, you've got a winning scene.

Or do you?

Two of the most famous of these types of scenes come from The Omen and Let the Right One In.  The former has animals attacking the car containing the Anti-Christ (about as evil as you can get) and the latter has house cats attacking a newly minted vampire.  One works better than the other and it's perhaps a bit surprising that the better one is the lesser movie.

Let the Right One In surpasses The Omen on just about every front but when it comes to animals freaking out in the presence of evil, baboons beat house cats hands down.  Also, the cat scene appears to be played, just a bit, for laughs.  Or, if it isn't, it's filmed that way (with our recently attacked vampiress wailing about in the background of a long shot as cats fling from her body across the room) and if the director (Tomas Alfredson) isn't aware the scene plays kind of silly, it's even worse.  With its poorly CGI'd cats darting up and down and around the room like furry little Yodas battling Emperor Palpatine, the scene evokes laughter every time I see it.  Since she's a rather innocent victim (she's just trying to convince an eyewitness to do the right thing and being told, in the meantime, that she's not even that important to her boyfriend), it also seems a little mean-spirited to treat her demise so flippantly.

All of that notwithstanding, the whole of the movie is superb, easily one of the best vampires movies in existence (and one of the best I've ever seen) while The Omen isn't the best of anything, really, though still watchable and entertaining if bland and unadventurous.  Still, the baboon scene has a frightening aspect to it that the house cats do not.  One, baboons are scarier than cats and, two, it's real while the cat attack is clearly CGI. Of course, you might see them differently so I've included them here for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy! (the clip from The Omen, the animal scene, starting with giraffes, begins at about two minutes in):

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