Terrifying Pet Store Rat
really hard to work with. A wild rat might panic and flee realistically, but getting it to sit still long enough for the actors to show up is a challenge, as is anything involved in moving it. And the SPCA/Humane Society/local equivalent would be likely to object, too, since there's a much higher chance of the animal or human handlers being injured, which helps no one, so this trope is a Acceptable Break from Reality when it's done for safety's sake. So as far as most directors are concerned, a tame ball python that barely moves is usually a better choice than a deadly jungle snake, especially since no one will notice the difference anyway. Strangely, this often isn't averted with CGI, as fast, complex movements are expensive to animate. Very often crosses over with Misplaced Wildlife. This is a stock feature of horror movies, they often wander in the background for ambiance, act as a Cat Scare, or provide a Why Did It Have to Be Snakes? moment when a protagonist has to get past them. In severe cases, the central threat of a horror movie may fall into this trope. The main thing making this trope is that the animal is neither threatening nor believably wild. Related to Reality Is Unrealistic, in that viewers accustomed to seeing only Terrifying Pet Store Animals on film are often shocked by how tick-ridden, mangy and scarred actual wild animals tend to be. See also Slurpasaur, a.k.a. Attack of the Fifty-Foot Terrifying Pet Store Rat.
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Films — Live-Action
- Graveyard Shift, a movie based on a short story about killer rats by Stephen King, uses several scenes of rats sitting placidly along the rafters staring at the characters in a way reminiscent of The Birds. Fortunately the movie shifts the actual monster to a giant (animatronics) bat, sparing us from a forced-perspective Terrifying Pet Store Rat as final boss.
- Disney's The Haunted Mansion movie at one point has the son need to get past spiders to get into the mausoleum. The spiders are harmless tarantulas (orange-kneed) and they're tame enough that he can move them with his hands. However, he is arachnophobic, so no matter what spider they used, he would still be frightened by it.
- Hilariously done in the exploitation film The Gestapo's Last Orgy, where a woman is threatened by being hung over a pit of flesh eating rats... played by gerbils.
Nazi: If I didn't take my hand out, they'd strip it down to the bones in a minute.
The Cinema Snob: Yeah, sure. If your hands were made of windblown seeds and grain.
- Played effectively in Willard, since the rats are supposed to be tame, well-groomed, and friendly because Willard takes care of them. It's just that they'll kill if they're told to.
- The Indiana Jones franchise does this extensively.
- Especially in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Indy and Short Round nearly die while Willie refuses to reach into a crevasse filled with harmless stick insects and millipedes to shut off the death trap they're in. Though Willie freaks out because she's a fussy, high-maintenance load, not necessarily because the bugs are supposed to be dangerous. Indy isn't fazed by them at all.
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull lampshades the use of non-poisonous (or at least less-poisonous) scorpions in movies. Mutt gets attacked by a largeish scorpion, and Indy says, "The bigger, the better... If you get bitten by a tiny one, don't hesitate to bring it up."
- Some of the snakes in Raiders of the Lost Ark are recognizable harmless snakes of types people keep as pets, though there is at least one actual cobra (behind glass). There's also one "snake" being played by a Glass Lizard, which while legless isn't a true snake at all. And of course, some of them are clearly just sections of rubber hose.
- The English-speaking production of 1931's Dracula tried to use opossums and armadillos as giant rats.
- Night of the Lepus. The infamous Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits movie. The rabbits look like a menagerie straight from a pet store, picture above, which are mostly shown running through miniature sets in slow motion or in extreme close-up, smeared with red paint and backed by dubbed growling.
- The Killer Shrews uses dogs in bad costumes to play the shrews. As you might guess from the quality of the effects, the dogs were not trained well enough to act scary either.
- The Stuff uses a great dane which is apparently threatening its owner if it doesn't get more of the title substance. It wags its tail throughout the scene while dubbed in growling plays.note
- The Amazing Spider-Man uses this with lizards, who lead Peter into the sewers after Conners and participate in a fake out scare where they make Peter think The Lizard is coming.
- Chopping Mall has snakes and spiders get loose in an actual pet store. They aren't played as dangerous, but they make it challenging for the heroine to stay silent while being stalked by killer robots.
- In the beginning of The Mummy Returns, Evy and Rick are in an ancient ruin and encounter some snakes. They're Terrifying Pet Store Snakes; in an overlap with Misplaced Wildlife, some are tricolor milk snakes, which are known for having warning coloration similar to that of venomous snakes but are not known for living in Egypt. The venomous snakes they mimic aren't exactly from Egypt either.
- A whole Terrifying Pet Store Rat swarm confronts Daniels in Shutter Island when he begins climbing the cliff face to the cave. Not only are they obviously well-groomed and curious about his presence, but the first one to appear is clearly dropped into view of the camera rather than climbing or jumping down to the rock.
- Cujo tried to avert this by having the Big Friendly Dog's tail restrained to stop it wagging, which would have made it rather difficult to take it seriously as a savage, rabid monster.
- The Food of the Gods uses this with its swarm of giant rats. They tend to stare around in a perfectly tame way looking for a treat. The rats' leader is even a white rat. It doesn't help that since they're just superimposed on miniature sets, they have no reaction to the human actors whatsoever.
- In possibly the Ur-Example, some of the rats in the 1922 silent film Nosferatu were obviously hooded rats, a pet store variety.
- "Manos" The Hands of Fate has the Master's "devil dog," which on-set was the friendliest dog in the world.
- In Silver Bullet, a girl is startled into falling over when a rodent emerges from beneath a garage shelf. Said Terrifying Pet Store Rodent is a gerbil.
- Three Big Men (also known as Turkish Spider-Man) contains what might well be one of the most ridiculous cases ever: man-eating guinea pigs.
- Strays is about killer housecats. Aside from the cats' "leader", who actually hisses for the camera, the cats just sort of run around the house or sit on their marks. In a few cases they're obviously batting at string just out of view of the camera.
- In The Film of the Book of Holes, the deadly "yellow-spotted lizards" are played by bearded dragons, which are harmless and popular as pets. At moments when the lizards have to act particularly menacing, the film averts this trope using CGI; however, in most of their appearances they are clearly Terrifying Pet Store Lizards. Likely a Necessary Weasel in that of the three species that inspired the yellow spotted lizard, the gila monster, Beaded Lizard, and Horned Toad, the first two are in fact quite irritable and dangerously venomous, and the horned toad is endangered — putting all three of the "realistic" options solidly out of play. The bearded dragon, however, is neither, and rather closely resembles the descriptions in the book when given a dye job.
- The Craft is the king of this trope near the climax when the other witches torment the main character. Her house absolutely fills with piles of harmless snakes, small lizards, scorpions, spiders, and cockroaches that just sort of ignore her as she flees from them. The rats are at least dropped on her from offscreen.
- Whenever we see inside the crazy killer's truck in Ice Cream Man, there are white mice and Madagascar hissing cockroaches wandering placidly around the ice cream and bloody eyes.
- For Deadly Eyes to have rats the size of small dogs on some scenes, they were literally played by small dogs; the filmmakers dressed some dachshunds with specially made ratsuits.
- Barbarella at one point has the lead character thrown in an execution chamber to be torn apart by parakeets and lovebirds. While they do fly around in a panic, they're pretty clearly not attacking her at any point.
- In Adventures in Babysitting Brenda ,having lost her glasses, accidentally picks up an adorable white "huge sewer rat" thinking it's a cat, and freaks out once it's pointed out.
- Spoofed in Team America: World Police, where friendly, curious domestic cats are transformed into vicious black "panthers" by... dubbing in some snarling.
- Notably averted in the sewer scene in From Russia with Love. The tame white rats they intended to use became lethargic under the hot lights (and kept licking off their cocoa-powder "makeup"), so the producers hired someone to catch a sufficient number of real sewer rats. The ones seen in the film are noticeably scruffy.
- In If Looks Could Kill, the supposedly deadly scorpion used in an effort to kill the hero is in reality a harmless emperor scorpion.
- Shamelessly invoked on various Animal Planet shows these days such as Fatal Attractions and Swamp Wars, the latter of which goes on endlessly about the evil scaly monsters infesting the Everglades while treating us to ostensibly terrifying stock footage of a Corn Snake!
- An episode of Storage Hunters featured a storage container filled with old furniture. It was so old, it was apparently infested by rats. Strangely, and somehow, many of these turned out to be skewbald (white with brown patches) pet rats.
- There's a History Channel documentary on the Black Death that uses hooded (white with grey or brown heads) rats in its scenes of flea-infested rodents carrying the Plague into port. Granted, they look a bit grubby, but their coat-pattern mutation is still conspicuous and unlikely to survive in the wild. The rats who contributed to the Black Death were black rats (Rattus rattus) not brown rats (Rattus norvegicus, the rat you're more likely to encounter on the streets or in a pet shop). Arguably a case of a Reality Is Unrealistic, however, as while the Plague was brought in by black rats, rat fleas freely exchange between the two, and the brown rat was more common in Europe even at that time.
- Life After People, if not using Conspicuous CGI for the rats.
- On Star Trek: Enterprise two-parter "In A Mirror, Darkly," the Rottweiler dog portraying Porthos was noted by the producers and animal handlers to be "an even bigger baby than the regular Porthos," a small beagle.
- On Criminal Minds, some well-groomed rats gather to investigate a bound captive whom the Killer of the Week had left to be devoured alive. They crawl on the bound man's lap and occasionally touch his bare skin with their forepaws, but remain obviously calm and friendly, even when rescuers break in and start shoving them away with an unrealistic delicacy.
- Bones uses this from time to time when a corpse is found infested with animals eating it.
- Frequently when they find a decaying body in the sewer covered in rats, none of which show the slightest surprise or interest in the living humans walking about.
- In one episode they find the victim surrounded by possums. Again, no possum shows any hint of non-familiarity with humans.
- In another episode the dead Victim of the Week is surrounded by "feral" stray cats, which sit about and let themselves be picked up by animal control.
- In the sixth-season Episode "The Killer in the Crosshairs," the Victim of the Week is found crawling with sewer rats that are not only very healthy and well-groomed, put patiently hold still to be picked up and then voluntarily enter transport containers.
- This extreme instance of the trope may have been the reason why the next time the show featured a body swarmed by rats (the seventh-season episode "The Hot Dog in the Competition), they averted the trope with domesticated feeder rats for the victim's pet snake.
- In season 4 of The Walking Dead, a shadow-hidden figure feeds a live rat to a walker through the prison fence. The rat remains calm, even curious, as it's held up to the chain-link, showing no fear of the walkers or the human holding it, even when it's being carried by its tail (which hurts).
- On CSI: Miami, a man falls from a balcony into a tank full of jellyfish. Wolf identifies the jellies as box jellyfish and potentially lethal, but they're obviously moon jellies - one of the least-dangerous types - in all the shots where they're not CGI.
- In the Doctor Who 50th anniversary "The Day of the Doctor", the 10th Doctor delivers a Badass Boast to what he thinks is a shapeshifted Zygon... but is in fact an ordinary rabbit. He's probably fooled by the fact the supposedly wild rabbit calmly lets him get close enough to touch without fleeing...
- Used to Freak Out the contestants rather than the audience on Total Blackout: whenever they're required to identify an animal by touch in the dark, it's likely to be this trope. Or possibly a rubber model.
- Fairly common on Zoo when real lions or wolves are shown "ferociously menacing" humans with body language that indicates they're having a fine old time playing with their handlers.
- This was part of why the infamous Kennel from Hell match from WWE Unforgiven 1999 lived up to its name for all the wrong reasons. It was advertised as a match where the ring would be surrounded by two cages with vicious attack dogs in between, but once the match got underway, it became clear that the dogs weren't so much "vicious beasts" as "happy little puppies". The greatest danger posed? That one of the wrestlers would slip and fall in a puddle of dog wee or dog crap. And when they weren't making a mess on the floor, they were mating.
- South Park:
- Played for Laughs when the town is overrun by giant guinea pigs and other "guinea" animals such as rabbits and dogs. The animals in question are simple shots of pet animals shuffling about benignly in cute outfits, which have been digitally inserted into the animation.
- Also spoofed with the Mexican Staring Frog of Southern Sri Lanka, which isn't even a real frog, just a stuffed toy on a string.