Wednesday, November 24, 2010

If Only They Were Neutered...


When it comes to filmmaking, one of the best ways to earn some audience bonus points is to simply add a whole lot of affection for genre cinema. Shaun of the Dead remains a beloved classic not just because it’s clever, but because it taps into the mind and heart of horror afficionados who like their Fulci & Foree references subtle and classy.
Doghouse, a horror-comedy directed by Jake West, is clearly made by people who love horror. You would probably guess that by the mere fact that one major character owns a comic store and makes hourly references to The Evil Dead, or, through minor research (i.e., scrolling down IMDB) learning that West himself has made documentaries about--take a guess--The Evil Dead. You probably already know what type of film you're about to be watching.


Quick Plot: Vince (Li'l Al Capone from Boardwalk Empire, a fine actor that probably has a real name that’s not nearly as much fun to say as Li'l Al Capone) is down in the dumps as he recovers from a recent divorce. To cheer him up, his assorted male mates decide to rent a bus (which includes a plucky blond bus driver) and do some relaxing in the small village where pal MIkey grew up. Sounds like a lovely plan, which in horror filmese translates into a terrible idea that will bring about cannibalism, cross-dressing, and cursing.

See, the town of Moodley is having some issues, namely, the minor tourist-killing tradition wherein all the females have been turned into hungry man-hating/man-eating zombies. It’s a minor inconvenience.
Our heroes, it should also be said, are closer in vein to Shaun and Ed than Roger and Peter. The best plans they can come up with almost exclusively include novelty items from an abandoned toy shop, which is actually quite awesome. Would you believe me when I said the best and most suspenseful scene the of film features a remote-controlled car with a decapitated head riding shotgun?

That, of course, is part of Doghouse’s problem, as it never quite masters that fine balance between silly goofs and genuine scares. It will make you laugh, whether by way of zombie with a walker or a geek homage, but it just doesn’t have that lasting emotional weight of, well, Shaun of the Dead. A good time, just not one nearly as memorable.
High Points
Though Doghouse isn’t going for breaking the zombie mold, it does produce some interesting twists on the infection. Yes, we’ve seen the military-virus-for-better-war-practices angle before, but how the actual monsters evolve is rather neat

Mild spoiler: by about the 45 minute mark, I started to wonder if anyone was actually going to die in this movie. Doghouse does a rather incredible job of stretching out its lighthearted mood so far that you truly believe everyone is safe and will finish the film with a group hug. They don’t. But what works so well is that the film takes SO LONG to kill its first victim that by the time it happens, you truly are shocked and saddened. It’s a unique trick I haven’t really seen too often in a horror comedy (oh yeah, except for Shaun of the Dead)
Low Points
Though all the actors are quite strong, there’s something lacking in their brotherly relationship that ultimately limits the emotional and intellectual weight of Doghouse. We care about these guys, but it never feels like they care as much about each other as is needed in a film about male companionship overcoming the horrors women put them through

Lessons Learned
Toy lightsabers are not adequate zombie fighting weapons
Water pistols, on the other hand, are far more versatile than you might think

A few things worse than getting divorced: rape, murder, castration, and being hunted by angry undead hair dressers



A personal reminder: I really should be using the adjective ‘sodding’ more often in my daily speech
Rent/Bury/Buy
Doghouse is an enjoyable, if slightly frustrating little film that would make a fine light-hearted party movie with drunken chatty friends. Though it hints at some intriguing commentary on the battle of the sexes and how men are emasculated, the film is ultimately too fluffy to really make any important statements. Couple that with the characters’ general goofiness and you have a perfect companion to something like Severance, another British horror comedy that produces plenty of fun while never quite ascending to Shaun of the Dead levels of perfection.

13 comments:

  1. I get this one confused with the Loved Ones and I have no idea why. Sounds enjoyable enough.

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  2. My understanding is The Loved Ones is a more straight horror. I think. What the hell do I know?

    Point is, give Doghouse a try. Fun in an Evil Deady way.

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  3. I have no intention of watching it alone over a glass of wine, but I'll definitely give it a go with a couple of mates and some alcohol. Fun!

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  4. Good review....
    However, nothing will keep me from seeing this movie, now that I know about it. Looks like a hoot!

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  5. jervaise brooke hamsterNovember 24, 2010 at 9:39 PM

    Emily, it says on IMDB that this movie is British made so by definition it is garbage,

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  6. This looks like one I'm going to have to get my eyes on. I think you had me sold at remote control car with a decapitated head riding shotgun.

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  7. Atroxion: That's the way to do it!

    Enjoy Andrew! Hoot is a good word for it.

    Hamster: Your dictionary is baffling.

    Bugg: In fairness, the decapitated head in the remote control car is easily the film's high point. I think you'll dig this one.

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  8. I've been avoiding this because Jake West's first two movies (Razor Blade Smile and Evil Aliens) caused me untold suffering. Maybe I'll reconsider now.

    Though I have to say that thinking about RBS's opening narration still makes me giggle. Enunciated in a broad Surrey accent: "I bet you think you know all about vampires. Believe me, you know fuck all."

    Not to mention the scene where a vampire creeps past two security guards in broad daylight by hiding behind a chicken-wire fence... If only the intentional laughs had been as good.

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  9. jervaise brooke hamsterNovember 26, 2010 at 12:03 AM

    Emily, my twationary may be baffling but always remember the British film industry is an abomination that must be destroyed with malice-a-fore-thought and extreme prejudice. Please dont waste your time watching or reveiwing any more British made films ever again.

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  10. I've heard mixed things about Evil Aliens. Seemed like goofy fun, but until it becomes an Instant Watch or something that requires little to no effort, I probably won't be watching it anytime soon. I will say, that's a damn fabulous opening line, one worthy of the classiest couple's wedding vows!

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  11. jervaise brooke hamsterNovember 26, 2010 at 6:08 AM

    Emily, darlin`, i just told you in no uncertain terms not to waste your time watching anymore British made crap, now please promise me once and for all that you will NEVER EVER watch Evil Aliens or any other pathetic unwatchable celluloid garbage produced by that laughable joke of a country called England. I`d really appreciate it so much if you would just make me that one promise baby, thanks.

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  12. Sadly I cannot promise such things. English people are so lovably wacky, what with their alumin-ium and shedools. How could I deny myself that?

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  13. jervaise brooke hamsterNovember 27, 2010 at 4:07 AM

    Emily, i dont know what "alumin-ium" or "shedools" mean, all i know is that the British are a bloody load of old rubbish and should be avoided like the plague.

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