Doghouse

Doghouse

**

Reviewed by: Jeff Robson

And still they come. Hot on the heels of Lesbian Vampire Killers, another Brit horror-comedy arrives with not much in the way of laughs or scares, but plenty of dodgy sexual politics.

It’s at times like this that you almost wish Messrs Pegg, Frost and Wright had never made Shaun Of The Dead. Ever since they managed the critical acclaim/box office gold double whammy on a micro-budget, attempts to recapture the magic have appeared on what sometimes seems like a weekly basis, with the law of diminishing returns kicking in big-time.

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And Doghouse is no exception, in absolutely any respect. A bunch of loser Brit thirtysomethings suddenly find themselves in the middle of a classic horror scenario and proceed to fight for their lives to destroy the evil menace - in a somewhat rubbish fashion. It was a great idea first-time around, but for it to work well you need a cracking script and sympathetic, believable characters.

Instead Doghouse offers a lot of shouting, a ton of gore and a male wish-fulfilment fantasy where all women really ARE nothing but trouble and the only way to deal with them is to hit them round the head. I think the film is poking fun at its unreconstructed protagonists to a certain extent (at least, I hope so) but I’ve a feeling that a sizeable proportion of the audience will be laughing with them, not at them – on the rare occasions that prompt a laugh, that is.

The plot, such as it is centres around Vince (Stephen Graham, the scary skinhead from This Is England) and his best mates Mikey (Noel Clarke, the anti-hero from Adulthood and Kidulthood) and Neil (Danny Dyer, the East End hardnut/wideboy from, well, just about anything he’s ever done). They decide to cheer him up after his divorce by organising a lads’ weekend in the country; Mikey’s nan has a house in the remote village of Moodley but she’s away on a cruise so the plan is to use it as a base for two days’ solid drinking.

They head out of the Big Smoke, curses of girlfriends/wives/scantily-clad one-night stands ringing in their ears. Naturally these blokes all have no problem acquiring beautiful women – but equally naturally they’re all whining harpies who just don’t UNDERSTAND them. The same is true of the partner of the gay bloke among the party – yes, there is one, but don’t worry; he can sink a pint and throw a punch as well as any of them.

They are ferried to Moodley in a hired minibus driven by Ruth (Christina Cole, the one attempt to introduce a two-dimensional female character) but as soon as they arrive they realise something is amiss. The village has been targeted in one of those very-vaguely-explained military experiments that inevitably goes wrong. This time it’s turned all the women into flesh-eating cannibals by using a soundwave only they can hear – so that’s how they know when you come home late from the pub (sorry, they’ve got me at it now).

So the lads find themselves besieged by every ‘hilarious’ female stereotype in the book – apparently all Moodley’s womenfolk are Goth dominatrices, hideously overweight housewives, swingers, frumps or crop-wielding horsey types. And the only way to beat that lot, of course, is to cast off your metrosexual outer skin, grab something sharp/heavy/both – and get splatting.

That’s all there is to it – no, that really IS all there is to this film. There are a few genuine shocks and funny lines and some of the images are quite telling – a village hairdresser becomes an Edward Scissorhands monstrosity; a Goth knickknacks emporium has a surreal window display that recalls The Wicker Man.

West made his name with the cult vampire movie Razorblade Smile and Schaffer’s background is in acclaimed graphic novels like Dogwitch and Indigo Vertigo, so it looks impressive and there’s the occasional flash of genuine cinematic flair – but that makes it all the more frustrating that they’ve wasted their talents on a lumpen ‘bit of a laugh’ like this. Similarly, the central trio (all proper actors, who’ve done much better stuff elsewhere) have an undemanding whale of a time, but this is one of those films which was obviously a lot more fun to make than to watch.

Among the supporting cast, Lee Ingleby is quite fun as a nerdy comic book store owner who might just have the know-how to beat the ladies-who-lunch-on-you and Keith Lee-Castle is a convincingly dazed old rocker whose answer to the carnage is to select the relaxation CD on his iPod. But these are pretty meagre pickings, on the whole.

No doubt I’m taking it all too seriously, taste is the enemy of art etc. I love a good anarchic schlocker as much as anyone – trouble is, this isn’t a good one. A wet dream for the lad mag demographic, a bit of a nightmare for anyone else. And perhaps now British cinema will stop flogging an undead horse.

Reviewed on: 08 Jun 2009
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A ‘lads’ weekend’ turns into a nightmare when the boys arrive in a village where the women have turned into flesh-eating zombies.
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