Note: While I bodily dissect this subject please keep in mind that I do NOT mean to imply that I enjoy actual animal cruelty and murder of the kind we associate with Cannibal Holocaust and its ilk. Although there’s a type of purely evil brilliance to the idea of really killing animals early in the film so that audiences buy into the atrocities perpetrated against humans later on (if A, B, and C are real, we can then be sold on D, E, etc.), I think we can all at least agree that this shit comes from archaic attitudes of a different time and place, and that today we must enjoy it from a certain cultural remove, if at all.
I’ve noticed an attitude among modern horror fans that puzzles me. These days it seems like even the most voracious gorehound is put off, appalled, upset, even outright angered at the depiction of household pets meeting grisly ends in horror movies, despite general delight in unchecked savagery inflicted on human beings. Why is that? Is it because cats and dogs are cute and cuddly? Is it because animals are purely innocent victims, collateral damage of the cruel machinations of man and alien? As the Scream series loved to point out, human victims commit sinful acts like having premarital sex, and do stupid shit that get themselves and others killed. Pets are removed from all that. They simply exist, yet often end up straight merked anyway. There are about a billion films where family dogs pay dearly for the crimes of loyalty and protectiveness toward their owners. It all seems unfair and unbearably inhumane. Why, then, do I think you should be entertained by disemboweled housecats and that sort of crap? Here’s why:
You’re Watching a HORROR Movie
Horrible things happen in horror movies. That’s the whole point. They’re not meant to make you feel good inside and rejoice in the beauty of humanity. True horror films are created by and for weird mutants. They’re supposed to be ugly, mean, mercenary, exploitative, dumb, and counterculture. They’re made to score a quick buck; any “beauty” and “meaning” to be found in them is simply further exploitation in service to cheap thrills. You want to feel good go watch Disney+ or some other such bullshit, to put it as edgelordly as possible. Sure, a great horror movie might give you a thrill of catharsis or release, but it certainly isn’t here to hold your hand or shield you from depravity and violence. And that includes violence against animals.
Violence Against Humans is Objectively Much Harder to Stomach Than Violence Against Animals
Before you start calling me an animal-hating pile of shit, you damn vegan, what I’m talking about is a matter of degree here. Your cat or a close family member is gravely injured, which one’s worse? Both are horrible right? Or let’s just say it’s a random cat or person. If you say the cat in either case, you’re straight up lying. What if, in addition to the animals, the humans in Cannibal Holocaust really were getting murdered? It would be unbelievably fucked. That’s just the way we process death, I believe. Humans instinctively come first in our minds. So that oft repeated refrain of “oh, I know I’m weird, but even though I can handle any amount of violence against people, one hair on a poor creature gets touched and I completely lose it” rings utterly false and you need to check yourself.
Violence Against Animals has Historically Been Used as an Appetizer for the Main Course of Human Suffering to Come
How many first acts in horror movies feature a dog that runs off into the woods or whatever and doesn’t return? How many looking-for-the-dog-while-calling-its-name scenes are there? “Stanleyyyyy! Stanleyyy come here boy! Stan the man where are you?? Stanley?” And then the protagonist stumbles over a dog corpse. It’s a harbinger of terrible things to come. In the hands of a skilled director these scenes mark the beginning of a crescendo of violence, the implication being that the death of the family dog is a tragedy, sure, but it’s nothing compared with what’s to come. I love the scene at the beginning of Sleepwalkers when the cops investigate that house full of murdered cats. It’s grisly and grim and it makes you want to find out who did it and why. It sets the tone perfectly and uses wrecked animals to do so.
Staged Violence Against Animals is Entertaining
I mean that it’s entertaining in the same way staged violence against humans is entertaining. I watched The Collector recently and yelled out loud both when the cat was beheaded and the dog was thrown at the Collector and got blown to pieces by a shotgun. I dunno man, I felt like I got my money’s worth there.
Animals Often Return the Favor
It seems like every variety of animal on earth has had at least one horror movie of its own where it gets to fuck up some people. Sharks, bears, crocodiles, snakes, dogs, cats, ants, mantises, gila monsters, frogs, slugs, ticks, rabbits, sheep, you name it, it’s killed a bunch of hapless fools in a film that probably contains the name of its species in the title. It’s only fair that we get in on some inter-species carnage.