Dogs are a man’s best friend. Their soft, cuddly, fun-loving, and loyal, everything that cats apparently aren’t. They’re here for us no matter what, and can sometimes even sense ghosts or other malevolent presences, according to horror movies, ghost-hunting shows, and personal experience. Yes, cats can sense ghosts but they couldn’t care less. But, while dogs are known to protect their masters from all sorts of ghoulish creatures in horror (vampires and gremlins, for example), they can also be horrifying fury forces of death. Think evil St. Bernard, Cujo, or even the mutant dogs from Resident Evil.
The dogs on this list show a duality of canine, from loyal pooches by their owners’ sides until the end, to rabid, vicious dogs that want human flesh.
10. Barney from Gremlins (1984)
What’s cuter than a dog? Gizmo the Mogwai looking at a dog and calling him “woof-woof.” Barney, the tan curly terrier and “woof-woof” of Gremlins, is the only character that rivals Gizmo’s cuteness. The two form an adorable alliance, with Barney helping the creature as everything starts to spiral out of control. In fact, Gizmo driving a Barbie car, yelling “woof-woof,” and scaring Barney during the film’s final battle is perhaps the cutest moment in a horror movie. Apparently Barney was supposed to be killed in the original script, but thankfully that was changed.
9. Nanook from The Lost Boys (1987)
Joel Schumacher’s vampire movie The Lost Boys is an 80s horror classic that also features a very good dog. Sweet Alaskan Malamute, Nanook, has a boy’s best interest in his doggy brain. While his owner, Sam (Corey Haim), sings in the bathtub, Nanook calmly lies on the bathroom floor. Meanwhile, Michael (Jason Patric) is realizing that perhaps he’s hungry for more than what he can find in the fridge. While Sam is having a grand ol’ time, Nanook quickly realizes something is wrong and attacks. Dogs have that sixth sense and have our backs when we have no idea what’s going on. Thanks to Nanook, Sam is safe and Mike unfortunately learns that he’s a vampire.
8. Seeing-Eye Dog from Suspiria (1977)
Dario Argento’s Suspiria is known for its brutality and one of its most brutal moments comes in the form of a dog attack. Daniel (Flavio Bucci), who works as the pianist for the dance company, is walking home from work with his dog. The creeping score begins to softly play and as he crosses a too-empty square, something immediately seems wrong. Suddenly, his dog begins to viciously after seeing something across the square (we can pretty much guess it was one of the witches). In a twisted turn of events, Daniel’s dog turns against him and rips open his throat. It is perhaps one of the most haunting scenes in the film and is so devoid of color until Daniel’s blood spatters the concrete. The tension builds and builds and is released with such violence as we watch his beloved dog feast on his flesh.
7. Sparky from Frankenweenie (2012)
Tim Burton’s stop-motion animation brings Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to life, but instead of reanimating a human, his young Victor Frankenstein brings back his beloved Sparky. There is nothing worse than losing your dog, who is your best friend, so why wouldn’t you bring him back if you possessed the technology? I wish I was that smart as a kid. This animated horror-comedy creates an adorable and kid-friendly version of the Frankenstein story with a fun twist and lots of other monsters. Who doesn’t want to see a reanimated pooch bringing happiness to a young mad scientist?
6. Precious from The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Every villain needs their own furry sidekick. In the case of Buffalo Bill, or Jame Gumb, (Ted Levine) from Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, he has a white Bichon Frise named Precious who he totes around as he demands women to “put the lotion in the basket.” This perfectly-polished pooch is a symbol of Bill’s attempts at femininity—she is bougie femininity embodied which helps Bill feel more like himself and explains his connection to the dog. However, when one of his victims gets a hold of Precious, things get very serious. Precious was played by famed dog actress, Darla, who also appeared as Queenie in The ‘Burbs (1989).
5. Mutant Dogs from Resident Evil (2002)
The original Resident Evil game begins with a well-known attack by mutant dogs. Throughout the game, these dogs also burst through windows and attack without warning. Even rendered in 1996 graphics, these creatures delivered jump scare after jump scare. So, it only makes sense for Paul W. S. Anderson’s 2002 film adaptation of Resident Evil to include the series’ best creatures. As Alice (Milla Jovovich) walks through the abandoned kennels (foreshadowing), one lone zombie dog appears. Then another, until she is surrounded by a pack of skinless blood-thirsty pups who have their eyes on the prize. Sadly for them, Alice is trained in kicking zombie ass so these dogs don’t fare so well.
4. Sam from I Am Legend (2007)
Never have I been more devastated by a dog’s death than in Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend. Sam is Dr. Robert Neville’s (Will Smith) loyal German Shepherd, his only friend through this entire vampire-zombie apocalypse. She stays by his side no matter what and is his warning system. Their relationship is so sweet and devastating because they only have each other. This makes Sam’s death all the more tragic and heartbreaking. In a fight with zombie hounds, Sam does not come out on top and is covered in bites. As Neville realizes she is turning, the camera zooms in on his face and his sadness is just so heart-wrenching. To keep her from becoming infected, Neville kills her out of mercy. He has lost all he has at this point, and now I’m crying as I write this.
3. Max from Man’s Best Friend (1993)
While perhaps breaking into a lab to save animal test subjects is noble, sometimes those test subjects are too forgone to be saved, such as Max from Man’s Best Friend. To set the scene, the film’s tagline is, “Nature created him. Science perfected him. But no one can control him.” Max, a Tibetan Mastiff, follows a journalist, Lori Tanner (Ally Sheedy) home after she investigates the lab where he was genetically engineered. At first he seems sweet, but then his violent tendencies start to show, but only when Lori isn’t looking. Isn’t that just the way?
2. The Husky from The Thing (1982)
A husky is what dooms the whole crew in John Carpenter’s The Thing. The alien lifeform disguised as a dog infiltrates their base, playing to their soft spots for canine companions. However, this dog, which is perhaps the creepiest performance I’ve seen by a dog, creeps through the halls, watching and waiting for opportunities to infect and escape. However, its most repulsive moment comes when it meets the team’s sled dogs. He then creates a mass of dog flesh that screeches and shout outs tentacle-like appendages that grab more life to assimilate into its body. It’s at this moment that the team realizes just how desperate their situation is.
1. Cujo from Cujo (1983)
Stephen King has a thing for evil animals, from Church in Pet Sematary to rabid St. Bernard, Cujo from Cujo. Lewis Teague adapted King’s novel about the evil, rabid dog in 1983, bringing this terrifying creature to life. After being bitten by a bat, Cujo begins to act very strange and aggressive. He goes on a rampage in the town of Castle Rock, Maine, and eventually traps a mother (played by Dee Wallace) and her son in a stalled car. The film then follows Cujo’s attempts to get in the car and their attempts at survival at the hands of a vicious dog. If you were ever scared of dogs, I bet this film is to blame.