Man’s Best Friend (1993)

Man's Best Friend (1993)

Companion. Protector. Killer.

A genetically mutated dog is accidentally released from the labs at EMAX when a nosey female reporter breaks in to uncover the illegal animal experiments going on. The dog takes a shine to her and follows her home where she soon decides to look after him. Endowed with greater intelligence, the ability to change its colour like a chameleon and enhanced strength, the dog at first becomes the ideal pet. But when its drugs start to wear off, the dog turns into a ferocious killer.

 

What do you get if you cross the ferociousness of Cujo with the cuddliness of Beethoven? The answer is Man’s Best Friend, a slobbering entry in the ‘nature runs amok’ sci-fi horror films of the past which stars one of man’s most loved domestic pets. I’ll get this off my chest now and state on the record that I hate dogs and am scared stiff of them. Small dogs I can handle to a degree, knowing that with my height and stature, I’d be able to deal with a Yorkshire terrier or poodle if one tried to have a go. However, the big dogs are what really scare the crap out of me. So the thought of a German Shepherd, a St Bernard, a Rottweiler or any number of insanely big dogs turning into rabid killing machines is to me, what spiders and snakes are for many other people. Man’s Best Friend is perhaps a little too ridiculous and over-the-top to be considered scary but the underlying themes are still enough to make me want to wear dark trousers if I had to watch it again.

Thankfully the makers of Man’s Best Friend take the ridiculous premise and manage to make the most of it, churning out a reasonably watchable film in the process which borders on slasher territory at times, substituting a machete-wielding, hockey-mask wearing psycho for a monstrous dog. The script makes a decent stab at creating a realistic canine killing machine. The enhanced intelligence and strength bits are fine to believe in but the whole notion of genetically engineering the dog so that it can turn into a chameleon is taking things too far. It’s a dog, not the Predator but the scenes of it blending into a background full of cardboard boxes and rust metal is not plausible in the slightest. Rest assured: you’ll be treated to the dog’s POV when it’s hunting people down. Maybe this is a dog version of Predator after all.

Max, the dog, is quite loveable when he isn’t killing people or thinking of killing people and he’s totally the sort of dog you’d love to take home. However he does like to kick off in style and isn’t afraid of sabotaging bike chains and the like to get the job done. There are a few dog clichés put in here – the paper boy, the mailman and of course, next door’s cat – and you’ll not exactly be shocked to find the outcome of any of those escapades. These are fine on their own as again, they’re all perfectly acceptable and recognisable things to play upon for dog lovers. But when the dog starts urinating and melting fire hydrants (and then people’s faces) with said urine, then things get a little out of a hand. Sometimes the script keeps things level-headed and decent but then in the next breath, it’s doing crazy things like this and being little daft for its own good.

Apart from Max, the cast isn’t too bad either. Ally Sheedy is basically reprising her Short Circuit role here, only with a killer dog instead of a killer robot. Lance Henriksen picks up another pay cheque (at least the man is feeding his family, you can credit him for that!) as the dodgy scientist. At least with a few familiar faces on board, the film doesn’t stray too far when the dog isn’t killing people.

 

You will have to suspend your disbelief for a fair chunk of its running time but Man’s Best Friend takes, what was on paper anyway, a pretty absurd idea and turns into a highly watchable sci-fi horror romp. I just wish they’d have put a ceiling over the silliness and kept it relatively believable. Invisible dogs with acid wee…..come on!

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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