2 Movies 1 Moment: A Wild Animal in the House
We all like pets, sure. They can be a welcome addition to any home. But sometimes wild animals have a way of bringing a little outdoors indoors. In the movies, wild animals make for some great moments in any genre, making us scared or giving us a laugh, especially if they find their way into the house. Here are two wild animals who found their way into our movie moments memories.
Melissa’s Pick: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Film Summary: Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is determined to have a good, old-fashioned, family Christmas. Along with his wife, Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and their two kids, Rusty (Johnny Galecki) and Audrey (Juliette Lewis), Clark has to contend with his wife’s hillbilly cousin and his family, his parents, his in-laws, and a whole range of other . . . unfortunate circumstances.
The Moment: Clark had already forced his family to cut down a real Christmas tree, even though no one else was really interested. When Uncle Lewis (William Hickey) lights his stogie next to this tree, which is completely dried out because Snot (Cousin Eddie’s dog) kept drinking from the basin, it bursts into flames and is completely destroyed. Clark has been hanging on by a thread, having had to deal with his Christmas bonus being late, Eddie showing up in the first place, his parents and in-laws arguing constantly, Christmas dinner consisting of the driest turkey of all time and being gifted a cat by his senile Aunt Bethany (Mae Questel), not to mention that the cat consequently bit a Christmas light wire, was electrocuted and died. Still determined to have a great Christmas, Clark storms outside, cuts down the tree in his front yard and brings it in as a replacement for the incinerated tree. When everyone finally settles back down, Aunt Bethany asks if anyone else hears a strange squeaking. Everyone listens intently as Clark takes a look in the branches of the tree. Without warning, a squirrel leaps out of the tree and runs away. Clark’s mother faints, there’s general chaos everywhere and Snot chases after the squirrel, making a huge disaster in his wake. After the house is thoroughly trashed, Clark opens the door just as the crotchety neighbour (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) comes to the door to give him a piece of her mind. The squirrel jumps out the door right onto her chest and with Snot barreling right behind. Clark cheerfully closely the door and declares, “Squirrel’s gone!”
Why it Matters: This movie brings to mind all the horrible forced family situations that we’ve all been a part of. There’s always one person that is determined to host the best party, make sure that the guests have the best time, and be the best darn Martha Stewart there is. Chase brings that person to life hilariously, bringing that desperation to be the best to a whole new wonderfully ridiculous level. When the squirrel comes bursting from the tree, it’s just the cherry on top of a night of purely horrible occurrences. Just when we thought poor Clark had been through enough and the family couldn’t possibly take any more, they’re faced with a squirrel running around their house. What’s even more hilarious is the reactions of pure terror from everyone (except Aunt Bethany and Uncle Lewis who don’t even know anything is amiss). If anything though, this horror of a squirrel solidifies Clark’s resolve (or desperation) to have the best Christmas ever.
David’s Pick: The Great Outdoors (1984)
Film Summary: Fun-loving family man Chet (John Candy) takes his brood on a pristine natural vacation up in the woods by a shimmering lake in Pechoggin, Wisconsin, with high hopes of some peace and quiet while taking in nature’s beauty. That is until his obnoxious, business-minded brother-in-law Roman (Dan Aykroyd) and his loud family arrive and throw a wrench into the works.
The Moment: While the two families settle in, Chet tells the tale of a massive grizzly bear he encountered while here on his honeymoon years before. The story goes that he was able to fire a shotgun at it, blowing the hair of its head, giving it the legendary name Bald-Headed Bear, and the source of lore throughout the county. From then, accounts of its sighting have persisted. Later, his twin daughters become trapped in a nearby mine and he and Roman concoct a plan to rescue them. But as Chet goes back for some rope, Roman manages to free the girls on his own, taking them back to the cabin. When Chet returns, he finds no one there but a figure in the eerie night light, the bald bear Chet maimed, and it wants revenge. It chases him all the way back to the house, and while Chet gets inside and closes the door, the bear breaks the door down and traps Chet underneath. Inside, the two families shriek and cower in terror as the humungous animal comes inside rising up and snarling at the screaming people. Then Wally (Robert Prosky), the campsite’s owner bursts in brandishing a double-barreled shotgun, which Chet takes and fires, blowing the hair off the bear’s butt. It scurries away howling in pain, its tail as bald as its head.
Why it Matters: While all that might sound scary, this comedy, directed by Howard Deutch and (like Mel’s pick) written by John Hughes keeps it light and never makes it too scary, though any snarling grizzly bear is a fright to see, funny or not. The always endearing and fun to watch Candy really makes the scene what it is as he enters the cabin and, out of breath and terrified, isn’t able to form a coherent sentence, leaving the rest to scratch their heads at his stuttering. But as good as Candy is, this moment is all about the bear. Performed by veteran film animal Bart the Bear, who is a credited actor in the film, Bart is a joy to watch and while the film is a comedy, one can’t help but marvel at the real majesty of the animal and feel respect at this incredible beast. As memorable as any human in the film (if not more), the Bald-Headed Bear is the funniest part of the movie and the reason anyone returns to watch.