April 23, 2011

Doghouse (2009)

"A group of men head to a remote village to help one of their friends get over his divorce; when they get there, though, they discover that all the women have been infected with a virus that makes them man-hating cannibals."

You know how I said that I was going to take a break from watching horror films? Well, as much as I intended to just relax over Easter by eating chocolate bunnies and getting stuck into my James Bond collection, Netflix decided to send me "Doghouse" and I couldn't help myself. I'd been waiting to see it for some time even though I knew that it was a horror-comedy.

Directed by Jake West, who was also responsible for the awful low-budget "Razor Blade Smile" (1998), "Doghouse" stars Danny Dyer (from "Severance" and "Closure"), Noel Clarke (from "Doctor Who"), Stephen Graham (from "This Is England") and Lee Ingleby (from "Crooked House", and who now plays Wyndam in the BBC's "Being Human").

Obviously there are a lot of familiar faces in "Doghouse" for fans of British horror movies and horror TV. One you might not recognise so easily is Christina Cole who was the star of the girly-horror TV series called "Hex". It was so bad that it made me change channels from Sky One to absolutely anything else at all so I can't say that I even watched more than two whole episodes of it. Christina plays the minibus driver, Ruth, who takes the guys from London to the isolated village of Moodley.

Basically, "Doghouse" is a zombie movie with a similar plot and wittiness to it as "Lesbian Vampire Killers" which was also from 2009. The only big difference between them is that one has zombies in and the other has vampires. Neither film is particularly funny and both set out to be as sexist as possible in failed attempts to bring back the "Saucy Seaside Postcard" humour of "Carry On" films from the 1960s and '70s. Is Danny Dyer the new Sid James? "Do me a favour, mate, innit."

Where "Doghouse" has the edge over "Lesbian Vampire Killers" is with the make-up and other practical effects. It really doesn't look too bad as a zombie horror film at all though obviously it's not to be taken too seriously as one. The "Zombirds" are the least sexy female zombies that I've ever seen in a horror-comedy but that's a good thing. If you ever encountered one in real life, it could be quite frightening.

The male characters try to be a mixture of loveable rogues and comic book nerds a lot like the ones in the similarly unfunny comedy "Faintheart" (2008). Yes, they are all stereotypes though I'm pretty sure that Danny Dyer just plays himself in every film that he's in because he is no different in any of them. As you can imagine, most of the characters get killed anyway.

Noel Clark is surprisingly good in a role other than Mickey in "Doctor Who" though you may find it amusing that his character is called Mikey instead. I know that he's worked with Danny Dyer before and it's obvious that certain British actors always show up together in the same productions presumably through being friends, having mutual contacts or the same agent. This nepotism was at its most obvious in "Shaun of the Dead" (2004) which a lot of people will mention in their discussions of "Doghouse" but not in the same way that I just have. Personally, I can't stand "Shaun of the Dead" or any "horror-comedy" for that matter so if I was to tell you that "Doghouse" wasn't as good as "Shaun of the Dead", it would be the same as me saying that cat turds aren't as tasty as dog shit. I have no desire to eat either of them particularly.

But, here's the thing, I didn't actually hate watching "Doghouse" as much as you might expect. The opening scenes with all the laddish London behaviour had a Guy Ritchie feel to them. I've always been a big fan of "Eastenders", "Doctor Who" and "Minder" (and anything else by Euston Films back in the day) so pretty much anything involving London has a bittersweet quality for me. Although it makes me homesick, I never want to live in London ever again. What you see in the background of English films really gives away how things have changed for the worse especially with the yobbish drinking culture that's taken over. When one more stereotypically oafish character turned up near the end clutching his beer can, Jake West (probably completely unconsciously) made a subtle piece of social commentary.

If you read too much into "Doghouse", you could say it had a lot of social commentary to it about the battle of the sexes in Britain but that would be giving the film way too much credit. It's just another throwaway production which obviously had a lot of work put into some aspects of it but not enough where it counts. If you are a grown man who still thinks that he's fifteen years old (a bit like my infamous hater) or you can switch off your brain enough then you might enjoy "Doghouse" a lot more.

I wanted to be able to say that "Doghouse" was the best British horror-comedy ever but it just didn't work for me. While it was nicely paced and had some lovely gore, I didn't really like the characters en masse all that much and the ending was annoying.

If you take the tone of "Severance" and dumb that down almost to the level of "Lesbian Vampire Killers" then you get the overall effect of "Doghouse". It's entertaining but instantly forgettable especially when you compare it to the much better, and more serious, zombie films available.

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