Fantasia 2010: Doghouse

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“There’s a potentially great movie trying to get out of the mediocre one that is Doghouse, a trashy horror comedy that’s disappointingly refined.”Doghouse”

Doghouse

Directed by Jake West

While Jake West’s Doghouse would not be the first low-rent horror movie to be accused of misogyny, the British horror comedy’s claim to fame is that it is meant to wear its chauvinism proudly on its sleeves. The film begins with six buddies driving out to the remote town of Moodley with the intention of showing Vince, depressed by his recent divorce, a good time with a weekend of drinking and women. Once there, they discover that all the women have been infected by a virus, turning them into cannibalistic monsters that see the men as “fresh meat.” Since most of the gang has either been mistreated by women, or otherwise sees them as a nagging nuisance, it is not difficult for the skirt-chasing Neil (Danny Dyer) to convince them that their plight only confirms that “all women are mental” and that it’s time to fight back.

Given its premise, Doghouse could’ve turned out to be something quite delectable: A raunchy, testosterone-infused bloodbath seasoned with enough clever satire to make one feel less guilty about watching it. However, while the film is nicely politically incorrect at times, the finished product, despite having its ingredients in place, ultimately feels curiously half-baked. Part of the problem is the unimaginative presentation of the zombie women themselves. While the make-up effects are admittedly inspired, giving each woman a distinct appearance both silly and scary enough for an episode of Tales from the Crypt, (particularly a morbidly obese zombie with an apparent finger fetish), these “man-hating cannibals” don’t really do much more than stumble around awkwardly, searching for their prey, while any actual killings are woefully devoid of any real innovation. Any opportunity for social satire is ignored since, apart from being clad according to instantly recognizable stereotypical roles (the bride, the schoolgirl, the hairdresser), the women are simply mindless drones no different from any zombies we’ve seen before.

Also underwhelming is the ragtag group of blokes being pursued. While the six actors manage to produce a “bromantic” chemistry so popular these days in such buddy films as The Hangover, the film doesn’t give the audience nearly enough material to elicit genuine sympathy or even antipathy towards these characters. Such one-dimensionality could be forgiven if the men truly were a bunch of chauvinistic pigs, thus adding an interesting layer to the film by making us root for the zombies. Unfortunately, all we get is a bunch of schlubs who are no more obnoxious than the teenage protagonists of countless slasher flicks, thus making Doghouse indistinguishable from such films. Although Danny Dyer as Neil is occasionally given an appropriately disgusting line, his misogyny is too often merely stated by the other characters rather than conveyed. Stephen Graham is subtly melancholic as Vince, but the viewer never really gets a sense of how much he suffered in his marriage, thus diminishing the impact of his epiphany towards the end. Meanwhile, the addition of a gay character (whose own source of suffocation is his effeminate boyfriend) could’ve made things a bit more interesting by adding an exploration of sexuality to the proceedings, but unfortunately the character turns out to be so bland that we quickly realize that his existence, like most of the ideas in Doghouse, is a wasted opportunity.

It’s arguably difficult to make a boring zombie movie, and the film has enough awareness of its übershlock nature to make it a passable diversion. But with the possible exception of the anticlimactic, yet strangely appropriate, last 10 minutes, Doghouse almost plays out as if screenwriter Dan Schaffer had intended for the film to be pitched rather than seen.

Jonathan Youster

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