[Almost Horror] The Dystopian Adventures of A BOY AND HIS DOG

Has this past year felt a tad apocalyptic to you? Between the grocery store line-ups, the home lockdowns, and the empty toilet paper aisles, it’s been like the end of the world is upon us. I suppose that’s why the kind folks at Nightmare of Film Street decided to make December 2020’s theme The End of Days. This, of course, got me thinking about this article and how I was going to find a film about the apocalypse that wasn’t a horror film. Thanks to my trusty Google app, I stumbled upon a black-comedy-sci/fi flick that definitely follows the Almost Horror mantra.  So get your provisions together, gussy up in your wasteland best and prepare to witness the anti-utopian antics of A Boy and His Dog (1975).



A Boy and His Dog is set in the year 2024 and America has been devastated by nuclear war. The result is chaos. Marauders, short-circuiting military androids, and crazed mutants roam the ruined landscape and sand-covered buildings of what used to be Pheonix, Arizona. It is here that 18-year-old orphan Vic, played by Don Johnson (Knives Out, 2019), survives among them. Vic roams the wastelands of the Sonoran Desert in search of food and women, both of which he wishes to devour, but in two very different meanings of the word.

Like most in this post-apocalyptic world, Vic has been raised uneducated and has no comprehension of morality or empathy. He combs the lands as a taker, whether it be food or sex. His moral compass is so out of whack that when searching a bunker for women to rape, he stumbles across a severely mutilated lady who is on the verge of death. Vic displays no pity and is angered not by the fact that someone could do such a heinous thing to another human being, but by the wastefulness of such an act. He is appalled, not by the crimes committed against this woman, but by the thought of satisfying his urges with a woman left in such a condition. The Vic character may be an exaggeration of the trope but he is certainly a horrifying product of a horrifying time. Did I mention that this was billed as an offbeat, eccentric comedy?



The dog in A Boy and His Dog is a pooch named Blood, a former police dog voiced by the late Tim McIntire (American Hot Wax, 1978). Blood isn’t you’re typical canine, though. He’s a highly intelligent beast, with misanthropic tendencies who meets Vic through a shared affliction, genetically engineered telepathy. You heard that right. He’s a genetically modified genius dog with telepathy who can’t stand people but tolerates Vic because he can provide him food. In turn, Blood finds Vic his victims in return. Sounds like a match made in hell if ever there was one.

As they travel, Blood recounts world history and quizzes Vic on various topics in history including the four world wars. World War I (1914-1918), World War II (1939-1945), World War III (1950-1983), (this war’s timeline includes the Cold War between Democratic and Communist nations) and finally, World War IV, also called the Five-Day War, or the Nuclear War of 2007.

The relationship between the two is strained at times but there’s an underlying respect for one another. They fight a lot, but ultimately know they need one another. Vic even sacrifices a human being in order to feed Blood, so you know, A Boy and His Dog is an appropriate title. But Blood has his own agenda. He wishes to find a fabled promised land called Over the Hill where Eden-like settlements are thought to exist but Vic believes the search to be fruitless, thinking the two should make the best of what they already have.



Ultimately, Vic meets Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton The Last Horror Movie, 1982), who is a conniving teenager that lives in an underground dwelling dubbed Downunder. She has been given the task of luring nubile young men to the city for breeding purposes and that is indeed what she does with Vic, much to Blood’s chagrin. She’s a predator, much like Vic, who turns the tables on the boy by trapping him into a cold, pleasure-free society that uses him as a breeding stud rather than a human being, much like Vic does with the women he wishes to take at his every whim.

To keep order in the Downunder, they have constructed a mysterious place called The Farm where undesirables are banished, never to be heard from again. While it is never explained or shown in the film, it is definitely understood that The Farm is a place you do not want to be banished to. It hangs in the air like a ghost haunting the atmosphere with its malevolent presence. I don’t know if they use your body for fertilizer, feed you to the pigs, or sentence you to slave labor for the rest of your life, but its mystery within the film adds a layer of dread in an already dread-filled ambiance.



This is a post-apocalyptic world where the cruelty of humanity is put on display daily. Theft, assault, rape, and murder are all a part of the societal (or lack thereof) norms. It’s full-on Mad Max out here, especially in one scene where Blood and Vic spot a small gang of scavengers, headed by a man named Fellini played by Ron Feinberg (TV’s Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, 1976-77) dig up a nice sized stash of food. Temped by the vittles, Vic hauls it over to the pit while Fellini and his men are busy inside the hole. He steals some of the grub, shooting a few of Fellini’s men who chase after him in the process, but is ultimately nabbed by the ticked-off scavengers. In a strange twist of fate, however, an impressed Fellini orders his men to let Vic go, lauding the boy for his chutzpah and cajones.



There are worse things than the lawless humans in this dystopian world. After the bomb first hit, some got sick from the radiation while many died. Few survived but some changed. First, they fell into a zombie-like state, then their flesh began to take on a radiation glow, and finally, they produced an unearthly howl, a scream that can strike fear into even the toughest of marauders. They may be slow, but in numbers they are powerful. All it takes to be turned by one is a single touch. ‘Tis with this, I warn thee… beware, the Screamers.



To add to the list of horrible things this world has to offer, the presence of humanoid robots is a thing. These beings look and act just like their human counterparts but under that synthetic skin lies the gears and cogs of a robotic monster. We’re talking some real T-800 stuff. The specific replicant we are introduced to is called Michael and while we are lead to believe that Michael is a living breathing man, he’s really a Hyperdyne Systems 120-A/2 kind of android, or at least something close to it.

Like the Ash character in Alien (1979), Michael, Downunder’s ever-vigilant, clown-faced security guard, has a malfunction, and things get real scary real fast. He ends up killing a few people who rebel against the rulers of Downunder and in fine berserk android form, he crushes their heads with his bare hands, his grinning face never changing expression. It’s not until Vic manages to shoot him into shut down that he is stopped.



As you can see by the many storied facets of A Boy and His Dog, based on Harlan Ellison’s 1969 novella of the same name, that this is far beyond a black comedy. These elements cement it firmly into horror territory. A morally corrupt main character, a dog who has the Shining, glow-in-the-dark zombies, malfunctioning murderous robots, death, destruction, it all sounds like every horror trope ever conceived stirred up into a thinly veiled attempt at a comedy.


So what say ye? Have we convinced you that A Boy and His Dog is not the quirky dramedy you’ve been lead to believe it is for the past 45 years? Or do you have other theories about this unique piece of cinematic history? Let us know at our Nightmare on Film Street Twitter and Subreddit as well as our Horror Movie Fiend page on Facebook. Until next time, fellow fiends, stay creepy!

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