Danielnothing's Blog

Film Review:Doghouse

Posted in Uncategorized by danielnothing on January 24, 2010

The British  horror comedy. What do those words conjure in your mind’s eye? Harry H Corbett being seduced by a smoke-billowing Fenella Fielding, while Kenneth Williams shrieks ‘FRYING TONIGHT’? A naked David Naughton trying to steal balloons from a schoolboy in a London zoo? Overwhelmingly, I’d say that the first image that appears in most reader’s  minds would be a perturbed Simon Pegg, glancing sideways, telephone in hand, surrounded by dozens of mouldering zombies in the poster for Shaun Of The Dead, an  image as recognisable now as the spooky cracked space-egg of Alien, or the silhouetted priest of the Exorcist. SOTD was a true rarity, a hyped British movie that (nearly) lived up to its rep. Sure, it’s almost totally disposable, doesn’t bear repeat viewings, half the jokes die on their arse and it loves itself way too much, but it has at least four elements that Jake West’s Doghouse, doesn’t: characters you care about, the odd laugh-out-loud gag, a genuine sense of mounting dread, and….and this is the crucial one….originality. Doghouse possesses none of those things, and hews so closely to SOTD’s model (and even large segments of its plot), that one sniffs a quickie cash-in. A quickie cash-in that was so slow to put together, it’s arrived almost 5 years too late to capitalise. Poor, poor Doghouse, because without the goodwill of erstwhile Shaun groupies, this thing is deader in the water than Robert Maxwell.

Actually, it’s unfair to say that Doghouse has nothing to distinguish it from Shaun. You could say, the secret ingredient of the newer film is misogyny. In fact, I’m just going to say that, because it’s true. It may charitably be called ‘a horror film for the Nuts generation’. What it actually looks like is the sort of thing a disturbed teenager with no access to the outside world except Nuts, Loaded, Zoo and Bizarre magazines and the odd episode of Top Gear might scribble frantically in tiny writing on the walls of his cell. We are introduced to our ‘heroes’ one by one, dealing with their various squeezes and other halves as they leave to go on a weekend of rural debauchery  to get one of their number, a sad-sack Scouse divorcee portrayed by Stephen Graham, back in the game of BEING A MAAAAAAN!. The women (and one gay partner….right on! Until you realise you know he’s gay because he’s wearing a flowery shirt and smoking a cigarette in a conspicuously gay manner) are screeching harridans and ball-busters to a man, their fellas an ethnically diverse cliché club: Graham  repping for Liverpool, Noel Clarke (the black one), Emil Marwa (gay and Asian…two birds with one stone), a wealthy new age longhair (Keith Lee Castle), a Classic Comic Book Nerd (Lee Ingleby,) and on top of the old apples and pears, it’s the pearly king Danny Dyer himself, here taking his mouthy Cockney twat persona into new realms of unbearableness.

After the briefest of Guy Ritchie-lite intros,in which we establish which stereotype each of  our heroes conform to, and the depths of their laddishness and sexism, we meet the vaaaaarrry ssaaaaaaaxxxy laaaaadeh who is going to drive them to a tiny village in the middle of nowhere (for some reason, the ideal choice for this reverse-stag weekend). Played by Christina Cole, she looks like she’s going to inject a bit of balanced female perspective to the footy n’ beer proceedings. As it turns out she doesn’t, but it’s nice to hope for 30 seconds that the six obnoxious twats we’ve just been introduced to won’t be the ONLY people we have to identify with for the rest of the movie.

Long story short, they arrive (past a couple of badly-mauled sheep carcasses) in the village of ‘Moodley’ to discover it tiny, deserted and covered in barely-perceived bloody handprints. Service at the local is terrible, unsurprisingly because the landlord’s dismembered corpse is behind the bar. In almost no time our gang are confronted by a twitching, hissing army of the undead who want their braaaaaaiiiinnnsss, and probably their soooooouuul as well. The curious thing is, every last one of the zombies (or ‘infected’’, or whatever it’s trendy to call,  zombies these days) is female: a blonde bride in a bedraggled wedding dress, a leather-clad hairdresser armed with a pair of scissors in each hand, an impressively-cleavaged  D & D enthusiast  wielding a broadsword. Even their sassy driver has started spewing black goo and turning all glassy-eyed and cannibal-y. Retreating from these increasingly desperate housewives into temporary shelter, they get the skinny from a soldier that they’ve rescued: biological warfare experiment to  turn genders against each other, yadda yadda. From this point on, the movie turns into a series of repetitive and insultingly non-frightening set-pieces, borrowing scenes and sub-plots from every other zombie movie you’ve ever seen, but giving it more than  just a hint of vicious sexism to make it ‘fresh’. The gang are attacked by every female stereotype too unsubtle for Benny Hill: a fox hunter in full riding gear, complete with crop, a lollipop lady, an old battleaxe on a zimmer frame… at one point Dyer is kidnapped and tied up by a zombie who’s distinguishing features are that she’s fat, dressed in a revealing nighty and apparently horny for some chirpy-cockney-geezer ass. It’s made to seem like we should be more disgusted somehow by her girth and revealing outfit, than by the fact that she saws off men’s finger and eats them with icing.

You  keep waiting for the double-bluff, the moment when you’re made aware that it’s all an elaborate parlour game, and it’s actually  ridiculous male cliches that are being lampooned as much as the women, but it never comes: the film makers actually seem to think that we should care about our six gormless heroes simply  because, well, they’re MEN innit?  The finale is indeed stomach-churning , but because of its naff, boys-will-be-boys sentimentality instead of the gore. I guess there are one or two genuine  chuckles  to be had, but much like it’s direct ancestor, Scooby Doo, the majority of it is just forced ,  corny  and worst of all non-frightening: when attacked by more than one female zombie, do exactly nothing, because they’ll all just start scratching each other’s eyes out over you, just like normal bloody women, eh fellas? Overall, the movie leaves a bitter taste in the mouth worse than all that black goop. If you only make it out to see one moronically sexist and embarrassing  Brit-horror movie this year….actually I wouldn’t bother seeing Lesbian Vampire Killers either, if I were you. Just rent a DVD of An American Werewolf in London, THAT manages to be damn funny AND damn scary, and best of all, not a Danny Dyer in sight.

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