Day of the Animals (1977)
May 30, 2018 6:05 PM - Subscribe

Animals attack. Seventies style!

AV Club: An opening crawl sets up the premise; like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Day Of The Animals deals with the negative effects of global warming on the planet. But while Gore focused on charts, graphs, and melting polar ice caps, director William Girdler sets his sights on a far more serious threat: batshit-crazy wildlife.

While nature guide Christopher George gets his latest group of hikers prepped for a trip into the mountains, a hawk lurks on a sign nearby, watching—and, presumably, plotting. The animals do a lot of plotting in Day. The movie brims with shots of hawks, vultures, mountain lions, a bear, and even tarantulas stalking through the forest. It all implies that some kind of massive animal conspiracy is at work, especially considering how long it takes for them to finally make their move.

George’s group is a mixture of disaster and horror-movie stereotypes. There’s the dim-witted, overly enthusiastic young couple, to contrast with the older, love-in-trouble couple. (The woman in the latter is played by Susan Backlinie, famous as the first person to die in Jaws. She doesn’t fare much better here.) There’s the famous football player who’s dying of cancer, and a son (played by apparent dark elf Bobby Porter) shackled with a hilariously shrewish mother. Richard Jaeckel plays a friendly professor who most likely got his degree by mail, and Michael Ansara is on hand as the Native American who senses something… is wrong. Lynda Day George provides the closest thing to a love interest our nominal hero ever gets, as an anchorwoman in search of a story who may just learn some valuable lessons about not being killed by wild dogs. And, in perhaps his greatest role, we have Leslie Nielsen as the world’s biggest asshole.

PopMatters: As a political declaration, Day of the Animals (a TV re-titling of the film's more mysterious Something is Out There tag) is pretty weak. While it earns points for being more environmentally conscious than other efforts of the time (the plot revolves around the then novel conceit of our depleted ozone layer), it is nothing more than a standard woodland creatures gone gonzo thriller. Girdler, applying many of the tricks he learned on his killer bear rip-off, utilizes a very basic premise (a group of nature lovers on a survivalist hike) and lots of amazing animal footage to sell his scares. The resulting film is both scenic and sinister, a combination of terror and travelogue that may confuse some genre fans.

Instead of just non-stop animal antics, Girdler wants to celebrate the great outdoors, giving their power and majesty the right amount of respect before letting his critters go crazy. His lovely landscape visuals manage that feat effectively. For their time, the attacks are also very successful (though a classic sequence with leaping rats is a pure camp highlight) and happen with such randomness that they create a nice level of dread. And while we don't like all the people we meet during this excursion into disaster, the notion that anyone can die at any time keeps us on our guard. It makes for a very suspenseful cinematic experience.


Full movie on YouTube

Decades of Horror Podcast Episode

Feeling the Fury of Mother Nature: Andrew Stevens Remembers Day of the Animals (1977)
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