Friday, May 20, 2011

Doghouse (UK, 2009)

After stumbling badly with Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes (2006 / trailer), director Jake West returns to the horror comedy genre with Doghouse, and though the film never reaches the same delirious and gore-drenched heights as Evil Aliens (2005 / trailer), Doghouse is definitely a step back in the right direction and mostly a lot of fun.
A bunch of blokes – or is that lads? – get together to help one of their own regain his joie de vivre following his divorce. Vince (Stephen Graham of Snatch [2000 / trailer]), it seems, has been in the dumps since his ex-wife divorced him. Neil (Danny Dyer of Severance [2006 / trailer]) organizes a trip to the town of Moodley where women should outnumber men 4 to 1 and Mikey (Noel Clarke of Centurium [2010 / trailer]) has an aunt at whose house they can crash. The plan, as Neil puts it, is: "When we get to the country, we are gonna piss up all the trees to mark our territory, then we are gonna find a pub and get so drunk we can't remember how to speak, and we'll communicate in grunts like Neanderthals, before passing out in the woods!"
All the lads seem to have with less than stellar relationships with their gals (with the exception of the happy lad Graham [Emil Marwa], who has less than stellar relations with his [obvious] bottom other half), but luckily the aspect of all the significant others is simply used for some introductory humor and not dwelt upon again after it serves as an expedient later on to have everyone leave their mobile phones in the van.
The chartered van from West Tours (as in "Jake West," the director) driven by the sexy driver Candy/Ruth (Christina Cole of Surviving Evil [2010 / trailer] and The Deaths of Ian Stone [2007 / trailer]) shows up and off it is to the middle of fucking nowhere. Once in Moodley, the lads head off to the local pub of the oddly deserted town for a beer, but before long they come to realize that all the women in the town have mutated into murderous, man-eating zombies – "Zombirds" – and, having killed all other men in town, now have their sights on the interlopers. The guys head for the van, but Candy has gone zombird, too, and with no way to escape they must fight for their survival. (That she even goes zombird is a flaw in the story: it is revealed somewhere along the line that the chemical agent causing the mutation requires extended dosage over time and is not viral – and therefore not in the air – so Candy's changeover after simply entering town is illogical.)
Yes, Doghouse is funny despite its overt misogyny and occasionally noticeable dislike of women, an accusation that the film could have easily avoided simply by making its lads – especially Neil – a tad less obviously sexist and so totally disrespectful of woman – although, let's face it: we men do often talk like that when alone on the range. (In the same vein, with the exception of Candy, who is actually the funniest [and sexiest] lad of the lot until she changes over, all the non-zombie women – the various significant others – are spectacular bitches.* Good for a laugh, perhaps, but a tad one-sided... although, keeping Graham in mind, one could argue that it is less women who are pains than simply "significant others" as a whole.)
The gore is present but low in comparison to the almost baroque excesses of Evil Aliens, which was, in comparison to Doghouse, extremely equal opportunity in the direction of its jokes, but for that there is still enough body fluids and visceral to satisfy the average gorehound. The group of friends does lack certain credibility – perhaps they might once upon a time have been friends, but they are too broad in type and thoroughly different to conceivably still be best buds that still enjoy each other's company – but were the group not so large and wide, there would have been far fewer jokes to laugh about. Every introduction of a new zombird, stereotypes one and all, but for Candy, is also good for a cheap laugh of recognition, and not always due to sexist or misogynist reasons. On the whole, however, the film leaves the feeling that it could have been so much more, been so much better, been so much funnier.
Doghouse particularly loses steam at the end: pretty much once Vince gives his (in the eyes of every man, truth-based) rant about sexist assholes and women, Doghouse begins to fall apart, and the ending is both forced and mildly groan-inducing. Luckily, however, up until then the visual gags and dialog and situation comedy are often and fast enough to make one's beer and the film flow quickly and easily. But unlike Evil Aliens or even the far less mean-spirited Shawn of the Dead (2004 / trailer) or the ten times gorier and funnier goldie-oldie Brain Dead aka Dead Alive (1992 / trailer), you probably won't find yourself thinking "Gee, I really want to see that again!"

* With the exception of the one-night stand Neil tactlessly disses and dumps at the start of the film – she is less a bitch than justifiably enraged.

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