Day of the Animals: A Retrospective

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You know a movie people love to riff and is unbearable without anyone talking over it? Birdemic. That movie has characters with zero chemistry, no charisma, horrible acting and even worse editing and special effects. The whole point of that movie is to warn people about global warming and the effects it would have on the environment and the inhabitants of this planet. Why am I mentioning such a movie? Well, because in 1977, a movie called Day of the Animals was released in theaters and it also deals with animals and the environment also. The main difference is that this movie was done so much better with a better budget, “good” actors and it also has a plot that actually is easy to decipher without any monologue scientific babble going on that comes out of nowhere and delays the movie from finishing. With that being said, comparing the two movies isn’t fair and should not the best reference to go on. The one question to ask is this movie enjoyable to watch? We’ll be breaking down the movie based on plot, the suspense/animal attacks that are frequent throughout the movie and the overall message of the movie. Let’s roll up our sleeves and put on plenty of sunblock as we take a dive into the mountains and explore Day of the Animals.

We open the movie with a text scroll. It warns us about aerosol canisters and its harm on the ozone layer and what it can do to the environment. It sets the mood for the movie. The movie is about a bunch of weekend hikers who go into the woods with a guide to get away from the city life and get back in touch with nature. We have a bunch of characters including a professor, former football player, two young lovers, a couple going through a rough patch, an ad executive, mother and her son, an anchorwoman, a Native American and the tour guide. So, it’s a great turn out. They take helicopters and go into the woods where they start to hike but notice that it is very quiet out there. They don’t hear any animals except for a lone screech/caw of a hawk. As they get further and further into the woods, they notice the animals stalking them. The birds are gathered together on the branches and just stare at them. It only becomes a problem when a woman (the one in the rough patch) gets attacked by a lone wolf. After the wolf retreats, the rough patch couple split from the group to get help while the rest of the tour continue. This is when the audience will start to know this is the beginning of the end for many of these characters. We just don’t know yet who will die and who will survive. The plot has a nice beat of the drum with the movie. It doesn’t really try to hurry up the action and the animal attack scenes but rather have the tension of the people grow and start to splinter as they start to lose hope that they will make it out alive. Though the pacing in the beginning could be a little contrived and not too interesting, it does make up for it with exposition of different characters just so we know a little bit more about them and give some sort of humanity to them so they don’t feel like a cardboard cutout of stock characters. I do enjoy each character has some sort of personality and even if it is annoying or racist, they still have their defining characteristic as well as a defining moment in the movie whether its a fight scene, a death scene or just for surviving.

From the beginning of the movie, we get lots of different scenes with animals and reptiles in their habitat doing their thing. It it shot very nice with just a nice hint of that 1970’s grainy film that we often associate with this time period. It would be nice having Morgan Freeman narrating the nature shots for how frequent they were using them but I digress. The animal attack scenes are done very well. The protagonists have their uneasiness in the wild and the animals are constantly stalking them throughout with a lone hawk seemingly being the boss/lookout. It’s when the music builds to that uneasy sound or the dead silence is when the animals will attack. Though they don’t get graphic with the blood and the final cue de grace, the shots being implemented show the animals attacking with some angles of the animals mouths, humans screaming and the rest of the characters reacting to the attack. It creates the uncomfortable image of an animal attacking and what it will look like if you were on the other end. In the pack attack sequences, there is so much going on and all you see are swarms of the animals and a lonely body on the ground squirming and the fighting. I enjoy the scenes with the animals because it offers us variety. We get a chance with swarm of hawks, mountain lions, wolves, rats, rattlesnakes, and even German shepherds’. I think the suspense of the animals and what they can actually do to a human offers us a glimpse of what to do and not to do when confronted by animals in the woods or even on your own street.

With the action sequences and the animals going crazy and attacking people, what is the message the director is trying to tell us? Is this supposed to have a profound impact on the consumers daily life or is the movie a cash grab to incite the same kind of uneasiness and fear like The Birds did with Hitchcock? I think with the text scroll, it has a little bit of both. The director, lead actor and producer of the movie did Grizzly the year before to much success. That movie was compared to a knockoff of Jaws. This movie is I guess the knockoff of The Birds. I don’t really think the director was trying to give a profound message about the environment but rather used the ozone depletion as a way to give a reason to why the animals are attacking the people.

Though the director might not have given us his reason, it does offer questions about the ozone layer in general. With all the devastation happening currently right now in America with the hurricanes and a giant earthquake hitting Mexico, how has ozone depletion really affect the planet? I’m not going to go Al Gore on anyone talking about the polar ice caps melting and sea levels rising and the temperature on the planet continually rising (Oh snap, I did say that. Oops). Either or, the radiation that protects us is in the ozone layer and with it constantly decreasing, would radiation poison be a factor in animals natural behavior? Could this be a precursor for things to come? Will we expose enough animals to radiation that they can mutate and there could be an actual Planet of the Apes where humans becomes the endangered species? Maybe? I doubt it. Or, do I?…

Overall, this movie was fun. It tells a concise story and the action and suspense keeps me interested in who will come out on top and who will become the next victim. Some of the acting is a little hokey and it can have extra exposition at the times we don’t really want it, but, it does give the characters a background and some personality instead of stock characters who we don’t know much about and are just scene fillers. The animals are trained very well in the movie and it is nice to have a variety instead of just bears and wolves. If you want to see a movie that is about animals attacking humans caused by poor environment, watch this and avoid Birdemic.

“Day of the Animals” is available on Amazon Prime.

Written by Leon Rudzin