What happens when our beloved furry friends turn into the stuff of nightmares? The answer lies in the pages of a gripping new book, “Horror Dogs: Man’s Best Friend as Movie Monster.” Authored by Brian Patrick Duggan, this comprehensive exploration delves into the fascinating history of canines in horror films and why our cherished canine companions have been painted as malevolent creatures on the silver screen. From the first horror dog in cinema history to the rise of notorious hounds like Cujo, this book takes readers on a thrilling journey through the dark and eerie world of horror films.
The phenomenon of sinister canines in horror films may seem like a modern creation, but Duggan reveals that it stretches far back into the annals of history. Starting with a nod to Classical mythology, where treacherous hounds appear sporadically in art and literature, the book leads us through the pivotal moment in cinema when Sherlock Holmes’ “Hound of the Baskervilles” became the first-ever horror dog.
The story of horror dogs intensifies as we move through history, from World War II’s K-9 Corps to the startling animal horror films of the 1970s. These films broke societal taboos surrounding the portrayal of “good dogs” on screen, deliberately vilifying certain breeds and sometimes even fluffy lapdogs. It’s a transformation in the canine narrative that is as intriguing as it is chilling.
“Horror Dogs” covers a wide spectrum of canine breeds and types, numbering over 68, each with its own unique role in the realm of horror cinema. Duggan scrutinizes 121 films, referencing many more, as he pieces together the evolution of horror dogs on the silver screen. From the silent films of yesteryears to the modern computer-generated monsters, the book gives us an intimate look at these flickering hounds, which come in various forms, such as the supernatural, rabid, laboratory-made, alien, feral, and trained killers.
The phrase “Cave Canem” (Beware the Dog) takes on a whole new meaning as we delve into the narratives of these horror films. As one seminal movie warned, “They’re not pets anymore,” serving as a stark reminder of how these stories challenge our perceptions of man’s best friend.
Duggan’s book doesn’t merely offer a chronological account of horror dogs in cinema; it provides a backstage pass to the inner workings of these productions. Through interviews with writers, directors, actors, and dog trainers, we gain a behind-the-scenes perspective on how dog costumes, makeup, and, at times, sheer animal charisma, created both fear and laughter. You’ll read about pre-production errors that transformed Rottweilers into horrifying beasts and the amusing tale of the ill-fated attempt to cast a Doberman as Cujo. Additionally, Duggan shares some of his personal canine anecdotes, further enriching the narrative.
The book neatly categorizes horror dogs, ranging from Frankenstein Dogs to Trained to Kill, Supernatural, Alien, Cujo (who gets his own dedicated chapter), Insurrectionists, and even a new category—Emotional Support Weredog. Duggan’s writing is laced with humor, making the otherwise spine-tingling subject matter an engaging and enjoyable read. It’s like having a cozy chat with the author over scones and coffee.
“Horror Dogs: Man’s Best Friend as Movie Monster” is an all-encompassing book, offering readers a deep dive into a lesser-explored aspect of film history. With its 274 pages, 55 photos, glossary, appendix, notes, bibliography, and index, it’s a treasure trove of information for film buffs, horror enthusiasts, and dog lovers alike. The book is available in a softcover format, measuring 7 x 10, from McFarland Publishers, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
So, if you’re intrigued by dogs, film, history, horror, or popular culture, “Horror Dogs” is the book that promises to both chill and delight. Grab your copy, cuddle up with your pooch, and prepare to embark on a thrilling cinematic journey through the world of horror dogs.