by Jay Seaver
SCREENED AT THE 2010 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Horror movies often get a bad reputation, but they bear watching because, among other reasons, every once in a while one comes along that uses the violence and grotesquery in the service of some clever satire. "Doghouse" is not one of those movies. It is, if anything, anti-clever, playing to ugly stereotypes and hoping that the superficial pleasures of gore and broad comedy can make up for its ugliness.Vince (Stephen Graham) is just getting divorced, and is down in the dumps about it. Fortunately, his best mates are there for him! Womanizer Neil (Danny Dyer), gay Graham (Emil Marwa), glib Mikey (Noel Clarke), henpecked Patrick (Keith-Lee Castle), geeky Matt (Lee Ingleby) and chronically late Banksy (Neil Maskell) are taking him on a road trip to Moodly, a tiny village nestled in the woods where women outnumber men four to one. It's oddly deserted when they get there, though, and they soon find why - some sort of bioweapon has been released, turning all the village's women into raving cannibals. Aside from Sgt. Gavin Wright (Terry Stone), the army man they run into, the guys are the only meal in town - and their tour bus driver Ruth (Christina Cole) has just contracted the bug.
"The ugly part of horror often being a boys' club."
The film name-checks Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films several times early on, in scenes located in Matt's comics shop (whether that's the doing of writer Dan Schaffer or director Jake West, I don't know), and on a pure "splatstick" level, Doghouse actually does okay. The make-up for the zombie ladies is very well-done. Though the vast majority of the characters are jerks of one sort or another, they are often funny jerks, with impeccable comic timing on their banter. The broad physical comedy is gross, naturally, but also often fairly funny in its cartoonish way. There are plenty of laughs to be had, and not all are of the gross-out variety.
And if you are the type of person who goes to this sort of horror comedy (or popcorn movies in general) and turns your brain off, that may be all right. It's blood, guts, and gags, done fairly well. But even then, it's tough to miss how each of the guys is introduced as being callous or unpleasant in some manner, often directly toward the women in their lives, and figure that they're each going to either learn their lesson or get some sort of violent comeuppance. And you might keep waiting and waiting for this, until it becomes painfully clear that, no, they're just going to be chased by cartoonish, sexualized female stereotypes, until finally one rallies the others with a speech about how they've been put down and held back by women, and now it's time to fight back. At that point, what had been a somewhat unpleasant subtext is right in the audience's face, and whether you enjoy the movie or not may depend on how you react to that outburst at that moment - is it a cathartic release of exaggerated frustration, or just hateful? I suspect it's meant to be the former, but it comes across as the latter, at least to this viewer.
Sure, you can say that this is thinking too hard about a stupid horror movie. I won't argue with you, necessarily; I strongly suspect that nobody involved with making this movie meant any harm. But, you know, those same folks probably wouldn't even think of making a horror movie where a virus turned black people, or gay people, into monsters, would they? If they did, they'd have to make sure it cut both ways, far more than Doghouse does.Horror fans deserve better than that. They deserve Swift, not ugly misogynist jokes. The latter isn't the whole of what "Doghouse" has to offer, but it's too much of it.
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originally posted: 07/25/10 02:31:52