Written and directed by Australian filmmaker Kieran Galvin, 2005's Puppy plays a little bit like a down under take on Black Snake Moan. A girl named Elizabeth (Nadia Townsend) has been living with her sister and her sister's boyfriend for some time but after running over and killing their dog, she's asked to leave. She tries to kill herself by routing her car's exhaust in through her window but a man in a truck drives by and saves her, taking her unconscious body back to his house outside of town.
When Elizabeth wakes up, she's bound to the bed. The man tells her that his name is Aiden (Bernard Curry) and he keeps referring to her as Helen. He seems to be under the impression that she's his wife but his erratic behavior leaves no question in our minds as to why his wife may have left him in the first place. Aiden's a bit nuts. Regardless, Liz has no choice but to play along, at least initially. Aiden's a big guy and he's got a pair of really big, mean dogs outside who wouldn't think twice about chomping down on the poor girl should she try and escape. Liz soon realizes that the only way she's going to make it out of here is try and outsmart Aiden who seems content to let her roam around the house and cook for him while wearing a big leather dog collar but those are the least of her problems... or are they the least of Aiden's?
While the film starts off showing some decent potential, it soon turns into a dull, slow and predictable picture that fails to impress or pick up much steam. The acting is mediocre across the board and the supposed connection that keeps the two leads from doing even more harm to one another is tenuous at best. Neither character is fleshed out enough for us to really care about them; in fact, everything we know about these two individuals pushes us to dislike them. If we can't care about either of them, where do we connect as an audience? Elizabeth uses people; she's a thief and a liar while Aiden is off his rocker and prone to violence. Both of these people suck, and honestly, they deserve one another - it's hard, nigh impossible, to have any sympathy for either of them. Obviously Elizabeth didn't deserve to be abducted and help captive by a complete stranger but even when she's left to fend for herself against Aiden, something that should make us cringe on her behalf, it's just too hard to care.
If the characterization problems weren't bad enough, the film simply looks bad. The camera angles are fine but the picture looks too hot and a tad hazy. Obviously the filmmakers were going for a specific look with this movie and it may work for some people. You could argue that the visuals reflect the tone of the picture or serve as a metaphor for the emotions that are running very high throughout the story, and if that works for you then fine but really, on a cosmetic level, Puppy doesn't look any better than it plays out.
Underneath all of this is a confused morality that, when taken at face value, seems to want to alleviate the two leads of their reprehensible behavior. You could see it as a sweet and unexpected final twist but its skewed world view seems at odds with the build up that it works so hard to establish.
Puppy is presented in 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen on this DVD and honestly the image quality isn't all that impressive. The color scheme for the film looks like it's been baked in an oven too long and much of the film has a sort of overly bright and bleached look to it. This could very well have been a stylistic choice on the part of the filmmakers but it makes for a rather ugly looking picture. Detail levels are average and black levels are fine throughout. Some shimmering is evident throughout the movie and that's mildly irritating but it isn't a constant. Overall, the image is watchable and stable even if the film isn't all that pretty to look at.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track on the DVD is serviceable enough. There aren't any alternate language dubs, subtitles or closed captions provided, however. A couple of times the film's score does bury the dialogue in the mix a little bit but aside from that this mix is okay. Not reference quality, just okay. There aren't any major issues with hiss or distortion and aside from the periodic fluctuations in the levels, there's nothing to complain about here.
Well, there's a menu with chapter selection on it. Does that count as an extra feature? Nope. Nothing to see here, kids. Keep moving along...
A mediocre psychological thriller from Australia, Puppy gets an A for effort but never really takes off. The barebones release from Dokument Films doesn't do the movie any favors and while the film has a couple of interesting moments, they're few and far between. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.