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The Time of the Beasts
by James Shafie

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Animals have a strange place in our society. Certain types are our companions, confidants and organic pillows. Others are our dinner or coats. We expect our pets to be dumb, to poop on the carpet, to make a mess of the house, yet we still love them. I don't know about you, but if one of my friends crapped on my floor, there would be a reckoning of large proportions.

Certain animals we kill for fun. Others we kill because they freaking RUN OUT INTO THE ROAD AND DON'T LOOK WHERE THE HELL THEY ARE GOING. And then you feel bad, and everyone says it's not your fault, but there's this dead deer staring at your face and you just KNOW his deer drinking buddies are gonna steal your mom for payback.

In movies, it's the same deal. At times animals are innocent and wonderful. In others they are trying to eat your face. In horror, the latter action is usually what is happening. Animals are special when regarding film though. They do not have the same mind or sense of consciousness as human characters do. Therefore they are able to be portrayed in black and white: the dog is a hero, the shark is a monster, and the lizard is a jerk. Certain animals are usually
I talk about this movie way too much.

I talk about this movie way too much.
on e or the other though.

Take bats for example. Bats are probably the most famous animal species in horror film. Mainly because certain vampires turn into bats. Bats are creepy in general though. Hairy, winged and with a gnarly looking face, bats look like they came right out of the devil's armpit. Sharks, snakes, spiders, and almost all insects (because butterflies are anything but scary) are also generally considered "bad". Birds seem to be an ominous and eerie bunch; usually they don't cause much harm, but they always seem to be lurking and waiting. Except in THE BIRDS, where they decide that they have had enough with us puny humans.

Oh, and if you get a chance, please rent SHARK ATTACK 3. Possibly the most terrible movie I have seen, it made me laugh throughout. The CGI, the dialogue, the acting, everything in it is atrocious. So make sure you go see it!

Dogs and cats are tricky though. Sometimes they save the day, and other times they kill everybody. I suppose the duality comes from their strange personalities in reality. Dogs can be vicious killer or the cutest WITTLE PUPPY BOO BOOS! Cats are usually apathetic, lazy bums, but sometimes
Cute animal or menace to the world?!

Cute animal or menace to the world?!
they show a little sweetness or a little bastard-ness. In a horror film whose name escapes me, there is a scene where a cat goes down a man's throat and then claws his way through his stomach. Cat's can be jerks.

In CUJO, the dog is a monster, hell-bent on killing. In the THING, the dogs are shells for the alien to use and manipulate the human victims. In almost every other genre, dogs seem to be put upon a pedestal. They are like babies in film: not to be harmed. However, I've noticed in the horror genre, lots of dogs get killed to make a point, or just because they annoy some wack-job. Within the horror genre, nearly nothing is sacred though. There are few lines that haven't been crossed.

In film, animals are sometimes the best judge of character, fighting against the bad guy, saving the kid in the burning ban, getting 'Ol Pappy another bourbon. And sometimes they are the most ruthless of killers. They usually seem to have a one track mind. Let's just hope that in reality, that mind is thinking of food and naps. And not of world domination. Because I do not really feel like being enslaved by giraffes. Otters maybe, but definitely not giraffes.

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The Lair of the Mad
Every other Tuesday

'The Lair' discusses the many aspects and qualities of the horror genre. From actors, to make-up, to music, James Shafie explores everything the "cult" genre spews up.

Other Columns
Other columns by James Shafie:

Speaking Out

Yearn For Change

Queen of Night

Too Close Enough To Touch

Under Rotting Sky

All Columns

James Shafie
James Shafie is an avid watcher of movies of all sorts, but the horror genre is closest to his heart. He loves to read and is addicted to music, mostly metal and itís thousands of sub-genres. He was once fired by Blockbuster, which we see as a strong character trait.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to James Shafie by clicking here.

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