Day of The Animals/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Having successfully re-made ‘Jaws’ with claws the year before, Grizzly director William Girdler must have figured that if just one bad tempered brown bear chewing on folks made for a scary movie then a flick that featured ALL animals turning grinchy and attacking the human race on mass would be a real pant-wetter!
Exploitation movie stalwart Christopher George (City Of The Living Dead, Pieces, Graduation Day) plays Steve Buckner, a denim clad mountain ranger who guides city folk on trekking adventures in the wilderness. Deposited by helicopter on a high altitude hillside the group prepare for a week of woodland wandering, fresh air and fishing. The characters are assembled from various soap opera clichés and contrived to rub each other up the wrong way when under stress like a B-movie version of an Irwin ‘Towering Inferno’ Allen production. There’s a nutty professor, a Beverley Hills mom who struggles to communicate with her young son, a football pro with cancer, and of course that perennial racist stereotype the Native American Indian with an almost supernatural sensitivity to nature. But unbeknownst to Steve and his party of outdoor types today is the day the teddy bears have their picnic. You see, mankind has been using too much hairspray and has fucked up the planet’s ozone layer. Consequently all the members of the animal kingdom have decided they ain’t taking any B.S. from those stupid humans no more. The armies of Mother Nature are mobilising for some payback. All over the world dogs are disgusted, rats are riled, lizards are livid and fish are furious!
Stuck halfway up a mountain our intrepid team start to think something might be amiss when an eagle swoops down at them and their camp is attacked by a wolf. One girl gets her face scratched and slobbered on and the next morning she and her boyfriend leave the group to go radio for help. They don’t get far before she’s attacked by buzzards and tumbles off a cliff. Things go from bad to worse when the group’s food is stolen by uppity critters and that night they are attacked by a bunch of cougars. And I don’t mean middle-aged women desperate for sex.
Leslie Nielsen (Creepshow, ‘Forbidden Planet’) playing an obnoxious city slicker advertising executive, leads a mutiny. Splitting off from the main group and heading for higher ground along with Ruth Roman (The Baby, Impulse) and son plus a pair of teen sweethearts he succumbs to the effects of the depleted ozone. Stripping off his shirt Nielsen goes native, stabbing the kid with a spear and attempting to rape his girlfriend. No-one else in his party cracks up so the implication is that ad execs are less evolved than the rest of humanity. The highlight of the movie for me is the sight of Nielsen, stripped to the waist and lashed with rain, wrestling a grizzly bear. As the animal attacks escalate the remaining group find their numbers dwindling and their fight for survival becoming more and more desperate.
In his short career as a director William Girdler turned out some genuine grindhouse gems such as Abby, The Manitou and the blissfully titled Three on a Meathook. Girdler’s Grizzly is one of my personal favourite ‘animal-on-the-rampage’ movies and while ‘Day of The Animals’ doesn’t quite match its predecessor for gory thrills it’s still a helluva lot of fun. The location photography is impressive, the animals are all real (apart from a brief cameo by Girdler’s ‘Grizzly’ bear suit in the Nielsen wrestling scene), and the cast of veterans add colour to their otherwise cookie cutter characters. Christopher George is not a great actor but he has a certain weather-beaten charm. He’s always at his best when playing characters that are harassed and harangued because he has that kind of world weary face. That he finally loses his cool and pops Leslie Nielson one on the jaw in ‘Day of The Animals’ should come as no surprise; right from the start it’s a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ they come to blows.
The films limited budget curtails the scope of the animal apocalypse somewhat but Girdler uses the isolation of his protagonists to his advantage, focusing attention upon the dramatic tensions within the group. When the going gets tough Ruth Roman’s character wishes that she had stayed in Beverley Hills with other ‘civilised’ people and, as silly as its science might be, the film uses its hysterical premise to highlight how easily the pretensions of so-called civilization can crack under pressure with Nielsen’s descent into caveman mode being its most exaggerated example. Any of you animal lovers out there who enjoyed Frogs, Kingdom of the Spiders and Night of The Lepus are sure to get a kick out of ‘Day of The Animals’.