Day 144. The Gross. Considering that little mathematical nugget, today’s choice seems strangely appropriate.
No dogs. A few houses.
A group of lads, now hitting their thirties, take one of their number out for a weekend in the country to help him get over his divorce. Unfortunately, all the women in the quiet village they are visiting have been somehow transformed into rabid, man-eating zombies. Violence, cross-dressing and some good old-fashioned misogyny ensue.
Doghouse is a step up for director Jake West in every way from his earlier Evil Aliens. Working from a script by comics writer Dan Schaffer, he has a higher budget, a better cast and a set of more rounded characters. I say more rounded, but it’s all relative; they’re still a fairly shallow and underdeveloped bunch, not to mention deeply stupid. The cast is surprisingly solid for a genre picture like this though, featuring such rising stars as Noel Clarke, Stephen Graham and Neil Maskell. And Danny Dyer. Poor Danny Dyer. The guy has become a bit of a punchline in recent years for his appearances in a metric shit-ton of supposedly hard-hitting “gangster” films that you find on the £5 shelf in Sainsbury’s, but if you put him in an ensemble comedy film or, even better, an ensemble comedy-horror and he blossoms. His character in Doghouse is one of the most stereotypical boozy, misogynist assholes I have seen on screen in years but even as you fight the urge to reach into the screen and pummel him you find him growing on you, and not in a fungus-y way. Between Schaffer, West and Dyer, they have created someone that is so unaware of his own failings that he becomes almost sweet. The rest of the actors are all good in their roles, particularly Clarke and Graham, but it is just unfortunate that Stephen Graham’s Vince is the only one with either anything resembling a backstory or some semblance of growth and development as a person. And have I mentioned how dumb they all are? Galactically stupid, seriously. I lost count of the number of times I was left asking myself why the hell they didn’t just get in the minibus and go home.
The makeup and effects work is nicely gloopy and seems to be mostly practical stuff as opposed to some of the DIY-looking CG that tried exceedingly hard to ruin Evil Aliens. There are a few really top-notch disembowellings and headshots that add a lot to the success of the flick as a good genre night in with the boys. The banter between the guys and their escalating panic is played for generally successful laughs as well. I have a couple of problems with this film though, and the first is the tone. It’s hard to pin down exactly what West and Schaffer are saying about the attitudes of their protagonists. On one hand, this could be seen as a morality tale: the sexist men getting their just desserts when the women they objectify and use for personal gratification turn on them and eat them. On the other hand (and trying to keep spoilers to a minimum) once the boys start getting picked off, it’s the more mature ones who go first. In fact, it’s only when one of the guys loudly decries his more base-minded friends before declaring that they have the right idea that the (first) triumphant ending comes to pass. Maybe this whole point is the filmmakers’ ploy though. By seeming to celebrate that attitude, they can bring all the blokes who are like that in to see their film, while secretly laughing at them behind their hands. Of course, it is entirely possible that I am reading far too much into this.
One thing I am not reading too much into is the plot holes. Particularly in the third act, when the guys stumble on the secret of the infection, there are so many threads that are shown off and tweaked and teased then just ignored. There were so many chances to expand the world of this film, to explain what was happening, and they were all squandered. Disappointing.
This is a one-joke film that is played to the hilt by a game cast and a director who is happiest when swimming in gore and schlocky gags. Is it entertaining to watch? If you share any of its leading men’s attitudes to drinking and shagging then yes, definitely. If you can laugh at a zombie granny getting her head caved in by a 9-iron, then this is your Citizen Kane. If, on the other hand, you hated Shaun Of The Dead and The Football Factory, then your life will not be lessened by skipping this.