It’s interesting that most horror fans I know are also among the biggest softies around when it comes to animals. I’m not even talking Italian cannibal level of violence (I’ve never met anyone who finds that anything but repulsive), I’m just talking about implied violence. Both Gordon and Muffin tend to elicit stronger responses in the early Friday the 13th movies than the multitudes of mutilated humans.
I don’t know if it’s because we’re so desensitized to violence against humans that it’s much harder to disturb an audience this way. I know slasher movies don’t usually go for the throat like nastier sub genres tend to, but the animal violence isn’t presented in a much heavier light. Most slashers are designed to leave an audience feeling kind of happy.
Chainsaw 3 has a bit of an identity crisis in this regard. It certainly seems like an attempt to make the series more accessible, marketable, and sequel friendly. At the same time, it feels like they were trying to retain some of the bite of the earlier movies. This is evident in their dead animal scene. The protagonists hit an armadillo that is unfortunately still alive after the accident. In order to end its suffering, they euthanize it with a giant rock.
Compared to some of the other stuff that happens later, this seems relatively innocuous. The fact that I immediately thought about this scene when I experienced a similar incident in high school illustrates how much these movies permeate my whole life.
I feel like I should provide a little background before I get to my animal killing dilemma. Shortly after I got my driver’s license, I became a bit fixated with a place called Blood Town Forest. With a name like that, I don’t know how anyone could resist it. There were rumors abound concerning ghosts, murderers, and hidden cemeteries. There was also an obvious main entrance only a mile or two off of the highway that I didn’t know about. Instead I learned about a strange back entrance from my older brother (the source of the majority of misinformation from my youth).
On one of these trips, my friend (the one with the Asian skull) and I went in through the back entrance with the goal of finding the lake that was rumored to be somewhere in the middle of the woods. Our plan was simple, we were going to go in and walk down the path until we found the lake or the forest ended This was a few years before The Blair Witch Project illustrated the folly of such plans.
It took us more than two hours to find the like, which was much smaller than we anticipated, maybe a cross between a pond and a bog (a pog?). Still, there was a sense of achievement. How many other people would be tenacious enough to find a lake that deep in the woods? Little did we know, the main entrance was less than 15 minutes further down the path.
None of that mattered though because right on the edge of the path, not far from the lake, was a cat that looked like it had been nearly eviscerated. The entire back half of the animal was ripped apart. The worst part was the sound. It was making this broken moan that sounded like a weak meow crossed with a bleat. It wasn’t the kind of sound that animals that are going to live are supposed to make.
Since we both considered ourselves decent human beings, we decided the right thing to do would be to put this thing out of its misery. I have to admit, I gave serious thought to pretending I hadn’t seen anything getting out of there. I rationalized that this would have happened even if we hadn’t trekked into the woods that day. We also were confused as to what could have done this. Was it a psycho? Someone on an ATV? A psycho on an ATV? We figured it was probably another animal that we possibly scared off. That gave us all the more reason to leave immediately. Doing the right thing has its limits.
I think the fact that it was a domesticated animal made it harder to leave. My parents had a ton of cats. I wonder if we would have put this much thought into a squirrel or porcupine. Deciding to kill something is easier than actually doing it though. It didn’t take long to figure out that neither one of us had the nerve to do it in the moment.
We took a walk a little further down the path, mostly to collect our thoughts without looking at that thing. We decided that we should try to do it together by grabbing the biggest rock we could carry and trying to end it quickly. We were hoping to find one that has big enough to actually cover the entire cat. The less we had to see, the better.
Here’s where I need to stress that we didn’t walk all that far away from the lake, just far enough around a bend so that we couldn’t see the cat. That’s important because when we got back, the cat was gone. My initial reaction was complete relief. Even though we had steeled ourselves to kill the animal, I’m not sure we could have done it. To have the potential completely removed was welcome.
Then the weirdness of the situation started to sink in. Where was it? Maybe to it could have crawled away to die somewhere. I know I would have if I heard two people with distinctly ethnic skulls planning to crush me with a huge rock. Still, this thing was in no shape to be moving at all. That left only the possibility that whatever maimed it in the first place came back to get it. This was hard to swallow because we really hadn’t gone far. I’m pretty sure we would have heard some rustling or something. Weirder still, there were no prints or bloodstains in the dirt. The wounds were far too grievous to not have bled all over the place.
For as much as I love genre related stuff, I’m not one to really believe in ghosts or anything, but at this point, I wasn’t thinking with the rational part of my brain. This was weird and we were freaked out. We made that 2+ hour walk out of Blood Town Forest in what must have been a record time. I don’t remember speaking the entire time and we were both shocked by how quickly we reached his car. It wasn’t until later that night that we even had time to process weird the whole incident was.
It took me no time whatsoever to draw comparisons to that scene in Chainsaw III. In fact, that probably played a large part on what I decided was the “right thing to do” in the first place. If it’s good enough for Kate Hodge and William Butler, it’s good enough for me. In the 20 or so years since this happened, I don’t think I’ve ever thought of this incident or Chainsaw III without thinking of the other. These movies are so ingrained in who I am that they color how I look at everything in the world.