Day of the Animals – Blu-ray review
Director: William Girdler
Stars: Christopher George, Leslie Nielsen, Lynda Day George
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Shortly, and I mean very shortly, after William Girdler did the Jaws ripoff, Grizzly, he went on to direct this other nature gone amok film, this time he decided to spread the animal attack love between all kinds of critters. Here you get attacking bears, wolves, mountain lions, snakes, dogs, eagles, and more. So does more animal mayhem mean a better movie? Well, grab your hiking boots, pack a lunch, be kind to animals, and let’s find out.
Things start of here with some solid…um, science, I guess. Because of the newly discovered (at the time) hole in the ozone, weird radiation from the sun is getting through, affecting the minds of animals—and that includes man! Not knowing this, a big group of people get together to go on a two week nature/survival hike in the woods-covered mountains. There’s the rugged hike leader (Christopher George), the plucky reporter on vacation (his real-life wife, Lynda Day George), a total PoS of an adman (Leslie Nielsen before he got typecast to play in only silly spoof comedy films), plus a professor, a football player with cancer, a mother and son, a Native American, a bickering couple trying to come back together, and more.
Well, the hikers get attacked by some wolves one the night, so they do the one thing any RPG/D&D fan knows never to do: they split the party to go looking for help, but things only get worse. After a few more attacks, when even Leslie Nielsen has started going crazy, they split the group again. And some people actually choose to follow the now obviously insane Nielsen of their own free will, and that makes it hard for me to feel sorry for them when the crazy adman finally turns homicidal and rapey. Yes, in a PG movie. Man, you got to love the 70s. Anyway, all’s well that ends well there when a wandering bear has had enough of the nut job and it turns into a shirtless Leslie Nielsen vs. a bear in the rain wrestling match in easily this movie’s most awesome scene.
And the film goes on from there, with three different groups of survivors trying to make it down the mountain, facing various kinds of psychotic animals, and losing members along the way. Nothing ever again reaches the heights of the bear fight, and the movie just sort of ends with the typical, “It’s over now, but it could happen again!” warning. Still, this is one nature hike that’s a ton of fun and not to be missed.
On to the extras that Severin Films put out on this new Blu-ray. There is an audio commentary track by Lee Gambin, the author of Massacred by Mother Nature: Exploring the Natural Horror Film. Then there’s an audio commentary with actors Lynda Day George and Jon Cedar that’s moderated by Evil Dead II co-writer Scott Spiegel, and this one was a lot of fun. Then there is a featurette from the Nightmare USA author on the career of distributor Edward L. Montoro. There is an interview with actor Bobby Porter, another one with actor Andrew Stevens, and another with actress Lynda Day George. There is one last interview with animal wrangler Monty Cox. There is a vintage making-of featurette, an alternate tile sequence for when the movie was called Something is Out There. Lastly there are some radio spots, TV spots, and a trailer to bring the impressive list of extras to a close.
Day of the Animals is more than just another nature attack flick from the guy that gave us Grizzly. I think it’s the best and most entertaining thing William Girdler ever did, and that included the whacked-out LSD-fueled The Manitou, that would be the last thing he ever directed before tragically dying way too young in a helicopter crash . The variety of animals attacking, and the large and varied cast in this film, goes over well here. The direction is more than capable and the movie has some great (unintentional?) silly bits. I love this movie and I think you will, too. Consider it very highly recommended.