5 out 10 

Release Date: 12th June 2009

Director: Jake West: (ABCs of Death / Evil Aliens / Razor Blade Smile)

Cast: Danny Dyer, Stephen Graham, Noel Clarke, Emil Marwa, Lee Ingleby, Keith Lee Castle, Neil Maskell, Christina Cole, Emily Booth with Terry Stone and Billy Murray

Writer: Dan Schaffer


JOE PESCI II aka Matt Usher writes from his lair in the icy northern wastes:

Never blame the parents. Just as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels…begat numerous lame would-be cash-ins (though sadly never a Four Weddings meets Lock, Stock…), now Shaun of the Dead begets Doghouse.

Doghouse is a fascinating sort of dire. For one thing, I can say, hand on heart, that this is the first film in decades that I have viewed with hands held over my eyes. Alas, it was the quite astonishingly embarrassing ‘comic’ elements which repulsed me, none more than the drag scene – my word, and to think that one of those actors is also credited as producer. (Terry Stone (SHANK) – this is at least the third time I’ve seen you and you are certainly some sort of legend.) The golf balls come a close second, though I liked the ponytail bloke (KEITH LEE CASTLE).

But I’m getting ahead of myself….what is this film? According to Brit Pic Dick Doghouse is too old for this site. Tough. It demonstrates many of the traits of British cinema in the 2010s (at least the ones I’ve been blackmai requested to review) and therefore deserves to be examined as a precursor to much current cinematic activity.

A bunch of ill-assorted pals drag one of their recently divorced number (STEPHEN GRAHAM – BOARDWALK EMPIRE) away for drunkenness and women. They unwittingly stumble on a village of zombie women (it’s something to do with government experiments…maybe) who proceed to try to eat them. Regular Britpic stars Danny Dyer (THE AGE OF HEROESand Noel Clarke (FAST GIRLS) lead the way, effectively playing Danny Dyer and Mickey from Dr Who. The film attempts to copy Shaun of the Dead’s real life / zombie invasion dichotomy. Badly. Sadly the zombies aren’t up to much and the real life element is amongst the most unreal I’ve encountered on film. Early on, Dyer has an altercation with a barmaid about him smoking a cigar in the pub. Dyer’s dialogue: ‘Shut up’ ‘You’re outnumbered’ and ‘Slag’ somehow enable him to win the day. Surely, she’d have just ejected him before he could utter his hilarious catch-phrase ‘women love me’. It’s little things like this which don’t ring true, though I liked that all the blokes (for blokes they are) had Match of the Day ringtones.

It’s the big things as well though. How do these blokes know each other? I suppose we’re meant to accept that women have ruined their male camaraderie, but there’s a cockney, a scouser, a gay lad, a black mummy’s boy, a new age hippy and a comic shop geek, plus a podgy Neil Maskell (ST. GEORGE’S DAY) stealing the show in his usual way. The scene which perhaps demonstrates all that is wrong with the film sees our blokes spotting a woman shambling along and assuming she is homeless. It directly echoes the bit in Shaun of the Dead where our heroes spot a zombie girl and assume she must be drunk. Anyway back in Doghouse, our blokes start looking for change to give her. This would not happen! They would pretend to be coinless, or throw insults, but clearly the film-makers don’t want their blokes to be too mean so we spiral into an unreal world, which is not the best place to be when zombies attack. Fortunately a few seconds later Terry Stone appears and utterly fails to give the film the energetic kick it desperately needs.

Obviously, the film really gets going with the appearances of the zombie women. Except it doesn’t. The village has a frankly bizarre collection of women who seem to be wearing fancy-dress costumes rather than, you know, real clothes. Emily Booth (last seen by me in THE REVEREND (2012) as an abused prostitute / cult movie buff) turns up and is unrecognizable as some sort of scissor-wielding zombie. This should be one of the marks of great acting. (Unrecognizability not zombie scissor-wielding). But… After that we are treated to a succession of woeful set-pieces involving amongst other things toy guns, the aforementioned golfballs, lots of swords, axes and a witch. And I don’t think it’s possible for even a zombie to take quite so long eating one finger. We keep cutting back to this scene, where no progress has been made – it’s like in Penelope Pitstop when the Hooded Claw is dangling her to her death but she never gets any nearer to the crocodile. There, I’ve compared Danny Dyer to Penelope Pitstop. Mind you, he does get to utter his best ever line outside of a Harold Pinter play (yes, he does proper acting in theatres but keeps that quiet): ‘It’s a knob in a box.’

The kill order is pretty predictable, though the one surprise really isn’t worth the name. The gore is sticky enough. At least one head is split open. Surprisingly, I don’t think any genitalia is attacked, which given the level the film aims for, is a bit of a missed opportunity.

Stephen Graham is an actor who was previously unknown to me though it now seems that he’s everywhere. All I can suggest is that his recent employability cannot stem from his performance here, which hovers between banal, boring and bad. His climactic speech, where he decides to put his past behind him because he’s a bloke with his mates is embarrassingly badly thought out; Graham looks embarrassed just spouting it.

Although not in the so-bad-it’s-g00d category, there is something weirdly watchable about it, in a bad way. Some of it’s quite well made, there are a few decent jokes. True, there is no wit, and it relies heavily on swearing and casual insults (just like in real life you may point out; this is very true; but a film is not real life, particularly when it’s about marauding zombies munching mercilessly and mirthlessly through a motley bunch of blokes). Plotwise, I think they made it up as they went along, what with ‘phase two’ and the conspiracy theory bit, neither of which make much sense and which everyone seems to forget about. One watches with a kind of grim fascination, laughing not at the jokes but at how the jokes have been mistimed, or over-acted (take an exaggerated bow Noel Clarke), or are so staggeringly obvious that you can’t quite believe they’ve gone ahead with them. It’s like a bad Carry On without the wit.

Is it anti-woman? Yes. Or is it in fact anti-man? Yes. The attitudes on display certainly suggest that men are downtrodden, but perhaps the point is to demonstrate just how crap men really are? You’ll just have to sit through it and decide for yourself. Personally, I think it’s anti-filmgoer.

Oh, by the way, it is in no way scary or suspenseful AT ALL.

5 out of 10

by Joe Pesci II aka Matt Usher – 18th Sept 2012



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