Hikers find themselves trapped in the forest and having to fight for their survival when animals begin to get affected by chemicals. When they decide to split up into different groups it becomes all that much harder to defend themselves from the bears, pumas, eagles, dogs and other animals that are attacking.
After the success of "Grizzly" (an animal horror/adventure that wasn't "Jaws" but that turned out good) the director William Girdler thought bigger by involving more animals. This was the very last film he made before he died in a helicopter crash. Having William Girdler directing, with Christopher George and Leslie Nielsen in the cast, and lots of animal races being the villains, it should be good, right? That's what I thought as well.
There's nothing new in the story, we have a group of people who for some reason will be in the woods when animals go wild. In this case they are hikers and are lead by Steve (Christopher George). Nothing more is needed in terms of a set-up, and there's nothing more to it. Except maybe that the animals have been exposed to some kind of chemicals, which explains their behavior. It sets it all up nicely and the lack of originality isn't a worry at all. After being attacked by a wolf one night, a woman needs to get out of the forest (they might be on a mountain? I forget). She and one of the men leave, only to get attacked by birds, leaving the man alone wandering around (until he finds a kid). The rest of the group keep on going until the angry Leslie Nielsen refuses to take order. The group splits in half, and out of nowhere Leslie Nielsen's character becomes a rapist and a murderer. What? Yes. He seemed a bit pissy, now we know why - he's a fucking maniac. In all seriousness though, this felt too out of place for me. The lack of setting it up was mostly annoying. If there wasn't a plot of animals gone wild then maybe this could've been the main plot? It would certainly make the movie better since this scene is the only part of the movie that feels like it has some tension building up. It ends when Leslie, shirt-less, fights a bear.
Where "Grizzly" felt like a good adventure movie with horror influences, "Day of the Animals" just feels like a poor attempt at topping it. There's no suspense, you don't care about the majority of the characters, the kills are weak, and it's all rounded off with a poor ending. The idea of the chemicals isn't bad, especially as they start talking about some people being immune (unless Leslie turned into a maniac because of the chemicals, I think all humans were immune? Oh well). It could've lead to some good scenes of people going crazy (like "Rabid"!) but it just never does. The animals that attack them could do a lot more harm then they do but every kill is weak, bland and forgettable. There's not even a nice amount of gore that covers the damages.
"Day of the Animals" is an animal horror movie that isn't as well-made as "Jaws", as fun as "Alligator", as gross as "Ticks", as adventurous as "Grizzly" or as suspenseful as "Cujo". What's left? A bland bore with a few moments of retro-charm. I much prefer the 1984 film "Wild Beasts", which at least brings some good kills. And is set in a city (for some reason this is more entertaining). Fans of animal horror need to see this one because it's one of the earlier ones, and it has Christopher George and Leslie Nielsen (good enough of a reason, right?). I don't think it's a movie you should skip because it's not really a waste of time, but it has little to offer. But you might get a few laughs out of it. Like why there are so many German Shepherds at one place?