I have a new short story out in Book #13 of The Ghastling and so I thought I'd talk a little about how I came to write this piece. In terms of fiction, "The Dog Lives in This One" is probably more representative of my personality than anything else I've written before and the title is directly inspired by a pattern you see a lot within the horror genre. Whether it be through fiction or film, terrible things tend to befall the beloved family pet who senses something a little off about any ghostly presences, demonic possessions, or general evil that might come into contact with their human families. It's a pretty standard trope, but one that's always frustrated me. And I know I'm not alone. The horror community has a ton of animal loving energy. Do whatever you want to the poor sap who moved into an old house and is ignoring all the very obvious signs of impending doom but please, whatever you do, leave the family dog alone!
So, with this in mind, I've put together a list of some scary movie final dogs (is this a term? can we make it a term?) who, against all odds, manage to make it through the carnage into a happy life beyond the final credits.
Needless to say, spoilers ahead!
in The Amityville Horror (1979)
Harry is the quintessential horror dog in a quintessential horror movie. George and Kathy Lutz move into a new house for a fresh start. It's gonna be great. The couple is in love, they're raising Kathy's three children together. And who doesn't love having a family dog? Only problem: their new home is the Amityville House. And they are about to experience hell. Harry—being the good, sensible dog he is—recognizes this pretty quickly. Spotting evil before the humans tends to spell doom for a lot of scary movie pooches, but Harry became the exception to a popular rule of 1970s horror. Harry makes it out of the Amityville house with the Lutz family, and we as viewers are all the better for it.
in Alien (1979)
Yes. Correct. Technically, you are looking at a cat. Jonesy is a cat. But considering the carnage in Alien, coupled with the fact that it takes place in space, Jonesy's survival is one hell of a feat. Cats do what they want and you can never find them when you're looking for them, so the fact that Ripley manages to escape to the shuttle with Jonesy in tow is too impressive not to include on this list. Plus, look at this dude. He is an ICON.
in Poltergeist (1982)
Though the set of Poltergeist was marked by frequent tragedy, the film itself stands as one of the more "feel good" horror movies out there. The feel of the film is wholesome in a strange, obviously co-written and produced by Steven Spielberg sort of way. It should, therefore, be no surprise that Buzz is the very definition of a good boy. He's loving, loyal, and looks pretty majestic in pretty much every movie still to be found online. I mean, look at how he poses!
in Final Destination (2000)
Rex isn't necessarily a big player in Final Destination, but he is companion to film's resident loner, Clear Rivers. The end of the movie doesn't really tie up Rex's story, but we do know he survives a close call with a power line and runs off to—we have no idea. But he survives. And that is all that matters.
in Dawn of the Dead (2004)
The first time I saw a still of Chips being lowered down to the zombies waiting below, I had Jurassic Park (1993) goat flashbacks and winced. But, as it turns out, my context was all wrong. In the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, zombies ignore dogs. Awesome, right? So, in a shocking horror twist, it seems the dog is in fact the safest character in this particular horror movie.
in Mama (2013)
I love Handsome and his beautiful little face. He's probably one of my favorite horror movie dogs of all time. He's so much smaller than many of his canine horror companions and quite possibly the own dachshund in the genre? I'm not sure. I can't recall every seeing a dachshund in any scary movies before or since this one. But by the end of the film he is as safe as he is...well...handsome.
in The Conjuring II (2016)
The Conjuring (2013) is a perfect horror film in every way but one, and if you love dogs, you know which one. Fortunately, the sequel is a little more merciful when it comes to good this good boy down the street. Baron is the neighbor's dog and very good at communicating when he wants to go out (by tapping the bell shown above!)
in Crawl (2019)
One would assume that a dog who has to be carried through alligator-infested waters during a massive hurricane doesn't have great odds. But, as it turns out, the obviousness of Sugar's dire situation is what led filmmakers to spare the pup. Director Alexandre Aja admits that they went back and forth on Sugar's fate, but ultimately decided his survival would be more shocking to viewers than his demise.
in The Rental (2020)
Oh, Reggie. I was worried about Reggie from the moment he appeared onscreen in The Rental. This movie doesn't have a very big cast and so it's easy to assume Reggie would pay the price for that by leaving us early on. And he does. Sort of. But, he comes back! The property the vacationers rent in this film doesn't allow dogs, which means Reggie's presence on the trip is problematic and stressful from the very beginning. Then, he goes missing and you are convinced the inevitable killer got him. Only, Reggie turns up in the final frames. Safe and sound. And quite frankly, it makes for a very effective conclusion to a bleak film.
in The Invisible Man (2020)
When Cecilia Kass sets out to escape her abusive boyfriend, she makes a last-minute play to take Zeus with her—but it doesn't work, and almost gets her caught. But Zeus remains loyal to Cecilia (as you can see above) and protects her from threats unseen. Good boy, Zeus.
So, who is your favorite horror movie dog?