The upcoming January 27th release of Joe Carnahan's survival thriller film The Grey got us thinking about some of our favorite horror films featuring killer canines. Starring Liam Neeson, The Grey follows a group of men stranded in Alaska after a plane crash who must survive not only the brutal elements but also a fierce pack of wolves that's on their tail. There's nothing we love more than a good survival flick except a good survival flick that features badass angry dogs. If you ever come across any of the animals on our list, I sure hope you have a nice juicy steak or a bit of kibble in your pocket!
Cujo is, arguably, the most famous and vicious of all the dogs on our killer canines list. Star of Lewis Teague's 1983 Stephen King adaptation, Cujo starts off as a friendly St. Bernard. That is, until he goes chasing after a wily rabbit, sticks his snout in a hole, and gets bitten on the nose by a rabid bat. It's not long after that Cujo is angry, aggressive, and foaming at the mouth. The beast kills his owner and then sets his sights on Dee Wallace and Danny Pintauro as they try to stay out of his slobbering jaws by holing up in their broken down car. It's a harrowing hour or so of watching Wallace try her best to keep Pintauro save and figure a way out of the situation. By the end of the film, Cujo is a snarling, gross mass of furry fury and blood. His snarl alone is enough to make sure my tank is full every time I get in the car and, he's easily one of the most terrifying canines to ever grace the big screen.
What happens when a bunch of dogs are abandoned by their careless owners on a remote vacation island? Well, they get really pissed off. Then they ban together to create havoc for the Seal Island newcomers, killing just about everyone in their path. When I say these dogs are really pissed off, I mean they're really pissed off. The motley mix of mutts previously left behind have now become feral dogs hell bent on getting revenge. They get so aggressive, in fact, that near the end of the film we find Joe Don Baker and his family locked away inside their vacation home trying to ward off canine attacks. Imagine Straw Dogs, but with the actual dogs this time. You get the idea. The 1977 film is a hell of a ride and one that showcases not just one angry animal, but a whole pack of snarling, wild dogs. It's an underrated effort by director Robert Clouse and one that would probably be difficult to make today without the use of CGI because I'd be shocked if there weren't at least a few dogs injured during the making of this thing. If you're looking for killer canines, The Pack certainly has plenty.
The People Under the Stairs
I'm taking a few liberties by including Wes Craven's underrated 1991 film The People Under the Stairs on this list because, well, the vicious attack dog named Prince never actually kills anyone in the film. That said, one has to assume he's probably killed a few of The Robesons' previous houseguests, at some point, at the behest of Daddy. Not to mention the fact that the Rottweiler is a huge, hulking beast of a dog that's just scary as hell. In fact, if I could pick a dog from this list that I'd least like to come across based on looks alone, it's Prince. While you don't ever get to see him kill anyone on screen in the film, he does spend most of it terrorizing Fool, Alice, and Roach as he chases them around the Robesons' labyrinthine home. If you haven't watched The People Under the Stairs in a while, do yourself a favor and watch it again. It's completely batshit crazy in the best kind of way and deserves a resurgence. I mean, who doesn't love movies with crazy killer dogs, full-body bondage suits, and cannibalism, right?
Who would have thought that the man behind the 1976 dogs-gone-wild flick Dogs would go on to become most well-known as the director of TV's 7th Heaven? Yup, it's true. Brent Brinckerhoff may have made Dogs at the beginning of his directorial career, but it stands as the high point in killer canine antics on his resume. Similar in feel to The Pack (and there's even a bit of Jaws thrown in), this particular killer-dog film stars David McCallum as the professor who tries in vain to warn local authorities that there is a huge pack of wild, bloodthirsty dogs roaming the countryside attacking both people and livestock. The bodies eventually pile up to an absurd number with McCallum and Sandra McCabe standing atop the heap wondering just how seemingly everyone in town has been killed. It's a pretty wild sight and one worth checking out if you haven't seen the film. Brinckerhoff even leaves the door open for a sequel at the conclusion of the film by showing a fearsome growling cat. Yes, that's right, the sequel was supposed to be called Cats, but the box office failure of Dogs sent that idea straight to the trash bin. It's a shame really. Who wouldn't want to see a killer kitties movie?
The Thing (1982)
It may have been given the remake treatment this past year, but John Carpenter's 1982 version of The Thing is still the best one around. And that's not just because it contains one of the most badass killer canine creations of all time (courtesy of the late, great Stan Winston). In fact, we may be cheating just a little by including the dog from The Thing on our list as well since the dog may not have actually been a dog at the time it started rampaging. It was, instead, a dog with a killer extraterrestrial inside of it – a crazy alien that can assimilate and imitate other life forms on a cellular level, to be exact. But, screw it, we're including it because this is one insane looking killer canine ultimately engulfed by all kinds of fluids and tentacles and gnarly gnashed teeth. This dog creature is a thing of beauty in a horror film that's so subtly scary with its sense of paranoid dread and distrust among the group. It's the killer canine icing on the cake of this absolute classic of the genre.