I've developed a growing love for the B cinema of the 70's. I like the air of doom about it all, the environmental awareness that often turns to horror and I really love the practical effects and stunts that are missing from modern movies. ‘Day of the Animals’ falls somewhere between an environmental horror story and that other fine product of 70’s cinema, the disaster movie.
The story really couldn't be simpler, a group of tourists are lead up a mountain on a camping trip/hike. The animals around them seem to be watching and waiting. Soon the hikers find themselves under attack from birds, wolves, snakes and bears as it seems that the depletion of the ozone layer has allowed UV rays to mutate a virus that has made all the animals that live high above sea level, intelligent and aggressive. Oh, and it's all lead by an evil hawk.
The acting is a little on the melodramatic side but that’s probably to be expected. Much of the location shots are actually very beautiful. The real stars of the movie are the animals, and the stunts are impressive to say the least. There is some real tension when a real person is interacting with a live animal. There is a bird attack early on that looks quite painful and a sequence with a man wrestling a wolf that was extremely tense and looked dangerous.
The group of people fight amongst themselves as it seems everything around them is going nuts. There is a split as one group decides to try and get down off the mountain, the other group decides to go up and find the safety of a ranger station.
Group B, the ranger tower group, is led by none other than Leslie Nielsen as Paul Jensen. Mr. Jensen is a go getter, a real alpha dog kind of guy and seems like a credible and rational person, until he's out with the three other people dumb enough to go with him. His meds must wear off or the thin oxygen on the mountain must affect him worse than most people. Maybe he's affected by the super virus because he's an animal of the business world or maybe he's just an asshole.
Jensen immediately decides screaming and abusing the people with him is a good way to hang together and survive in a place where every single thing around you wants you dead. He also decides shirts are for pansies. His greatest moment comes when decides he would really really like to have sex with the teenage girl in the group, despite the fact that at any moment say, a bear could appear and eat him.
In summary, if you want to see a film where a bare chested Leslie Nielsen fights a real live bear, your wish has come true. Shriek Show has put out a decent DVD, the transfer looks a little washed out, but consider the source material was probably not preserved very well it’s still quite watchable.