Men are from Mars. Women are from Hell.
Many women say men are pigs.
Many men say women are insane.
This film says men are pigs and women are mutated cannibal zombies.
There's balance for you.
directed by Jake West
written by Dan Schaffer
starring Danny Dyer, Stephen Graham, and Noel Clark
How Is It?
I had to watch it twice to figure out my reaction to the film. This film is an example of a low-brow story being given a decent script and being performed by good actors being shot by a better director.
Stephen Graham and Danny Dyer lead an ensemble cast playing a group of friends who take a trip out to a small village in the country to get away from their crummy relationships and lift their spirits of their pal Vince (Graham), whose wife recently left him. Dyer plays Neil, an egotistical misogynist and Vince's best friend. Noel Clark, of Doctor Who fame a few years ago, plays Mikey, the cool friend whose idea the trip to quaint hamlet of Moodley was in the first place. Lee Ingleby plays Matt, the token sci-fi/comics geek friend. Keith-Lee Castle plays Patrick, the overly-sensitive friend into self-help, meditation tapes, and golf. Emil Marwa plays Graham, the token gay friend, who along with Vince is the closest to “normal” of the lot. Neil Maskell rounds out the friends as Banksy, the token absent-minded, chubby friend. Terry Stone plays Sergent Gavin Wright, who the lads run across in the village and provides much needed exposition... and eventually fashion advice. While most of the male characters are more like caricatures, all of the actors bring a lot of life to the characters, despite the obvious limits of their being mostly cardboard cutouts.
Christina Cole starts out the film as the smart bus driver hired to drive the lads out to Moodley. Soon though, she's wearing blue and gray makeup, contact lenses, and doing a lot of growling and lurching. Growling and lurching is what the rest of the ladies in the cast do for much of the film, but the “zombirds”, as they are called, are better than the average zombies. The zombirds all have personality, and non-speaking, physical acting roles are where personality goes a long way. Not that the fellas didn't deliver on their side of the film, I have to say the ladies rather often stole the show.
Behind the Camera
The writing is efficient and generally effective. The dialogue is solid enough, considering it's a “lads' night out” flick. Things flow at a pretty healthy clip, going from one situation/predicament to the next, with only a few spots where the action ebbs a bit too long to keep the rest of the pace. Those spots are character moments, and unfortunately they tend to come off rather clunky. The big problem is the ending, which is frequently the case in horror. While it is set up adequately during the film, it comes across as labored in execution.
There's not a lot to say about the technical side of the film, really. “Doghouse” looks and sounds very good. The overall direction is more than competent but not quite stand-out, which is more due to the story's limits than the director's. Director Jake West put together a very good crew and managed the production behind and in front of the camera very well, and they turned out a quality movie, better than I expected going in, actually. The technical part of “Doghouse” is really better than the script, and so I'd like to see what West can do in future with a better script.
It's a very good production with solid performances, but there isn't anything really new being done in “Doghouse”. The same male characters archetypes we've seen before get into trouble, have to fight through adversity (in this case, mutated cannibal zombie women) together, and those make it through find out something important about themselves and friendship along the way. Yes, it's a technically well envisioned and executed movie, has plenty of humor and hazard, and plenty of formerly-pretty-but-now-hideous-dead chicks. On the other hand, even for all of that it comes across as a bit tired in a genre that unfortunately has been overplayed. Alas, when you put those two together, the film is rather average.
“Doghouse” is kind of in the middle. It's a pretty entertaining movie that you don't have to think or pay much attention to to enjoy. It's interesting and some fun, but it's not terribly engaging.