Day of the Animals (1977) – reviewed by George

This is somewhat unique: an American horror movie with an ecological plot that doesn’t involve nuclear radiation. Due to the usage of chloroflourocarbons in like, aerosol hairspray, the ozone layer has been depleted and some strange rays are coming through. These rays are affecting all animal life except for humans, and all the animals are getting very aggressive – but only at altitudes over 5000 feet, where exposure is strongest. Well, it makes more sense than most horror movies, and remember, it’s 1977, so chlorofluorocarbons had not been outlawed yet.
A group of hiker/campers, led by Christopher George, who is aided by Michael Ansara, have started out on a hike to a mountain top and a camp rangers’ cabin. They have no radios, and cell phones have not been invented, so they don’t know what is happening below them in the mountain range. The group includes an advertising executive, Leslie Nielsen, who is used to telling others what’s what, not to taking instructions from someone else just because they know a hell of a lot more than he does about the present situation. Also Lynda Day George as a single woman, Ruth Roman as a mom, Bobby Porter as her son, Andrew Stevens and Susan Backlinie as a young married couple, Richard Jaeckel, Paul Mantee, and others. I’m using the actors’ names because in a horror film you don’t have to pay too much attention to things like the names of characters because they may be dead in a minute or two, so why bother, right? Understanding the relationships and keeping them straight is really all you need.
As they begin they are being closely watched by a beautiful golden eagle. This bird seems to be orchestrating all the attacks, and one of the most horrible will be an attack by eagles and vultures and owls (oh my).
I may seem a bit snarky about the movie, but that’s really just defensive behavior because the scenes of wolf attacks and bear attacks and so on are powerful and bloody, and a little snark can provide some distance.
Christopher George keeps on trying to save everybody, and Leslie Nielsen keeps on insulting and undermining him and eventually takes his own little group off in a different direction. Unfortunately for his followers that direction is up (although there are survivors).
As the groups continue to splinter, you have more plot lines to follow and more possible horrors ahead.
Directed by William Girdler, from a screenplay by William Norton, this is a horror movie with some real horror to share, with animal attack scenes that look more authentic than ¬†anything of the sort that I’ve seen. I can’t think of a film where animal attacks on humans look more real. And I haven’t even mentioned the snakes and rats.
Thanks, Tiffany and Andy!

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