Tag Dogs

Dogs (1976)

Dogs (1976)

Don’t Pet Them … Fear Them!

In a small California town, mutilated cows are baffling the local authorities. It is clear that the attacks are not the work of coyotes or wolves but when some of the town’s citizens are found dead, the finger of blame is pointed at the town’s dogs which are grouping together in packs and inexplicably attacking people. A pair of college professors attempt to find out what is turning domestic pets into blood-thirsty killers before it is too late.

 

‘Animals attack’ films were all the rage in the 70s as every sort of animal imaginable suddenly become a man-eater, peaking with the monstrous success of Jaws in 1975 but taking in bees, spiders, grizzly bears, ants and frogs along the way to name a few. Preying upon fears that nature would begin to take revenge upon man’s meddling with the planet, Dogs places man’s best friend in the role of the avenger, striking back at mankind for whatever reason (it’s very sketchy at best). It’s hardly got enough in it to warrant cult status but Dogs was surprisingly effective in places. For someone who doesn’t like dogs, the thought of being ripped apart by them had already me freaking out a little beforehand. I guess if you’re a dog lover, then that notion becomes absurd.

The daft premise could have bombed had the material not been taken seriously but thankfully Dogs is as straight as they come. There’s not a joke or sight gag to be had though most likely lots of unintentional humour will arise should you decide to watch this with a few beers. Though the film is meant to be about the four-legged fiends of the title, too much time is spent with the talky, two-legged kind. There is about a twenty minute chunk of time from the title credits in which the main characters are introduced and talk academically and scientifically in very droll fashion. It’s a stretch to sit through it all but there are a couple of vague reasons thrown around for why the dogs are acting in this fashion. Nothing is really explained and the film ends in very similar anti-climactic fashion to Hitchcock’s The Birds in which more questions will be raised than answers.

After the half-way point, the film does pick up a lot of pace as more dog attacks happen and the film’s big set pieces begin to come into play. When the film finally gets into the correct gear, Dogs ticks off the right boxes and unleashes its horror elements. With the majority of the film taking place at night, there’s a suitably menacing vibe to the film. Seeing a pack of ravenous dogs charge out of the darkness towards their victims is an effective sight to send shivers down the spine. The dog attack look real, as stunt people are chewed on by real dogs, and as we all know from seeing dogs in real life, they can be quite aggressive and relentless when they get their teeth into something. The only weakness with the dogs is the lack of them – there are about twenty dogs in total, a variety of breeds, but you never really get the sense that the scale of this uprising is widespread.

Though the film isn’t very bloody, there’s enough splashed around to make it effective. Also adding to the ambiance is a creepy sound effect used when the dogs begin to howl and pack up before an attack – sort of like a warning alarm. This is used to good effect on a number of occasions, particularly during a nail-biting scene involving a drunk posse who have been camping out in the wilderness to hunt the menace, not realising what they have got themselves in for. It’s a fantastic sequence, well-shot, atmospheric and ratcheting up the tension as the posse can’t see the dogs but they can hear them getting closer and closer.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. star David McCallum is top-billed as the alcoholic hippie professor Harlan Thompson and pulls most of the movie together. He’s a bit irritating and abrupt at first but mellows out as the film progresses and he does less talking and more action. There’s good support from George Wyner too who will most likely be remembered more as a comedy actor for his roles as Colonel Sandurz from Spaceballs or the camp director from American Pie 2. Wyner is pretty solid in a straight role as the other college professor. Linda Gray would go to later worldwide fame in Dallas.

 

A dismal first half an hour kills off a lot of momentum that the second half should have had but Dogs tries it’s hardest to recover with some memorable moments and a honest approach which treats its daft idea with a lot of respect. It’s like The Birds…only with dogs…and it’s nowhere near as good. Thankfully the sequel teaser at the end involving a sinister-looking cat didn’t come to fruition.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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!

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Rottweiler (2004)

Rottweiler (2004)

Eat. Sleep. Fetch. Kill.

Escaping from a Spanish immigration camp in 2018, Dante heads off to find his lost girlfriend who he left behind after his capture. He is relentlessly pursued by a bounty hunter and his tracker dog ROTT; a vicious rottweiler that had been left for dead and rebuilt ever stronger with fangs and jaws of steel.

 

Sounds like the recipe for a decent horror timewaster, doesn’t it? Some sort of Man’s Best Friend meets The Terminator. Well you’re wrong! If ludicrous special effects, a ‘killer’ rottweiler which just wants to nuzzle up to you, lots of gratuitous nudity, some bizarre plot twists and a close-up of a chicken-in-peril are your thing, then maybe Rottweiler is up your street. For anyone else, this is dog poo on the grandest scale.

Brian Yuzna knows how to turn a silly idea into an effective horror film (The Dentist should never be watched by anyone with a vague phobia of the dentist!) so clearly this film has no business being as plain awful as it is. It could have knowingly winked at it’s audience a few times but it’s played straight up from the get-go and this stonewall approach doesn’t do it any favours. It just goes through the motions from start to finish, never really stringing together an effective story or creating any excitement or scares. Yuzna has completely lost the plot in recent years, basing himself in Spain and making a series of middling horror films like Beneath Still Waters.

The flimsy plot about the prisoner running from the dog is the entire story and it’s nowhere near enough to fill ten minutes, let alone the entire film. There are lots of flashbacks to what happened to Dante in the immigration camp and these are just thrown around wherever in the film with little or no purpose to seemingly pad out some more screen time. It gets confusing when you don’t know whether what is happening is a flashback or the present. Brian Yuzna doesn’t know what type of flick he wants to make and ends up just rehashing elements of horror, revenge flicks and chase films where someone is pursued through the wilderness. The horror element would have worked best had the rottweiler actually been a lot bigger than it was (after all, it was supposed to have been rebuilt so they could have made it huge).

The special effects team commit the cardinal sin of having the dog appear different sizes depending on the situation. In some scenes the rottweiler is an actual dog, gleefully running around the film set wanting to play with some soft toy. In other scenes it’s a fearsome CGI beastie, walking through fire like Satan himself. And in other scenes, the dog is shown in close-up as a cheap-looking puppet head with false teeth. The metal teeth appear at will too – in some scenes the dog has a perma-grin on its face and in other scenes, the teeth are nowhere to be found at all.

The bizarre and downright perverse sexual undercurrent to the film really adds to the problems as well. What’s the first thing you would do if you were being chased by a killer rottweiler with metal teeth that could rip you in two straight away? Why take off your clothes and go and bath in the lake! This leads to one of the longest full frontal male shots I’ve ever seen. But he runs away naked to the house of a horny Spanish woman and her child. The woman holds him at gunpoint for a bit before taking him into her bedroom and romping with him. At the same time, the rottweiler is trying to break into the house but he’s too busy getting his leg over to bother. It’s just bizarre and a bit fantasist on the behalf of Brian Yuzna. The poor dubbing and ropey English-speaking Spanish actors don’t do the film any good either.

 

Rottweiler is just a waste of time from start to finish. A silly plot with no real meat to keep it going, a strange sexual element, ridiculous special effects and some lousy acting really make this the dog’s dinner. A truly awful film and one expects better from Mr Yuzna.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Breed, The (2006)

The Breed (2006)

Play Dead.

When John inherits an isolated house on a island, he and a group of his college friends head there to have a weekend of fun and relaxation. Unfortunately for them they share the island with a compound which has been genetically enhancing dogs to make them into vicious killers. And even more unfortunate is that the dogs have been let loose.

 

Someone please shoot Wes Craven as quickly as possible. Actually that’s being a bit harsh – just break his arm so he isn’t able to write scripts or sign his name to trash like this. The man has pimped his name out to more sub-standard horrors than Lance Henriksen has! Well that’s just being a bit overdramatic but Craven has seen his share of turkeys over the last few years (Cursed, Dracula 2000, The Hills Have Eyes II) so it comes as no surprise to see his name slapped onto another third-rate effort. It’s basically a by-the-numbers take on Night of the Living Dead but with killer dogs instead of lumbering zombies. The question isn’t one of how bad the film is but how many clichés it can churn into dog poop.

Before I start I would like to say that I’m not overly keen on dogs. Actually that would be an understatement. I’m not scared of them but the mere thought of a growling Rotweiler or Alsatian staring me down is enough to make me change my underwear. Forget the myth that dogs are man’s best friend – they are horrible slobbering brutes that shouldn’t be cherished as pets. German Shepherds are the dogs of choice here. And to be fair to the handlers and crew, the dogs look pretty mean most of the time. There are too many scenes of the dogs sitting around looking like they want to play fetch but sinister music plays in the background. I can imagine something like that being in The Simpsons, not a serious horror flick!

As well as just ripping people apart, these dogs also have superior intelligence. So prepare for the odd chuckle when the dogs steal the seaplane (yes you heard that right) or do other riotously laughable things. Silliness apart, the film brings nothing new to the table at all. You get some annoying characters enjoying themselves, squabbling and generally filling out as much time as possible for the opening third. Cue the first dog attack and the characters realising what they’re up against. Then just pepper the rest of the film with some action set pieces, some predictable jumpy moments and a lousy ending where one person stands up against the threat heading towards an explosive finale. I am sure there is some generic horror script out there that has loads of missing words in it and writers come along and insert their own character names and monster-of-choice into the gaps. Lazy writing hampers the film from the get-go with the characters all conveniently bringing something different to the table later in the film. Not sure how to start a car when you’re being chased by killer dogs? Well it’s lucky there’s a mechanic in the group. Or you need to climb across a rope linking two buildings to avoid the dogs down below? Let’s get the climbing champion to do that. Or what about the vet? I’m sure their experience will come in extremely handy when dealing with killer dogs.

When people like Michelle Rodriguez star in films like this you wonder where their madness lies? Someone like Lance Henriksen (not in this film but I’ve already mentioned him already so why not use him again) who is at the twilight of their career and obviously needs the cash I can totally understand. But hot property like Michelle Rodriguez must be contracted to do a big budget flick and then some dreary third rate horror film like this. The rest of the cast will be made up of twenty something actors from hit American shows like Dawson’s Creek and CSI. I hate the ‘perfect world’ of horror where everyone looks buff and hot. Its casts like this that make me root for the monsters and believe me I was cheering the dogs on quite a lot here. When they show more intelligence (and charm) than the human cast, it’s not a good sign.

 

The Breed isn’t the dog’s bollocks. It’s just bollocks.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆