For anyone who ever thought the only thing Shaun of the Dead needed was a heavier ratio of sexism to plot development, here comes Doghouse, a sufficiently splattery but depressingly moronic zombie film about a bunch of British "bros" who get stranded in a small village where all the women have become murderous mutants. Director Jake West seems to think exaggerating old "ball and chain" myths about men and women to a cartoonish degree will get him off the misogynist hook, but cliche and stereotype suffocate any attempts at laughs over an incredibly long 89 minutes.
In order to help their friend Vince (Stephen Graham) get over his recent divorce, Neil (Danny Dyer) arranges a guy's weekend in a little village called Moodley, which is supposed to be almost completely man-free -- a perfect paradise for their wild bunch of eligible (and not-so-eligible) bachelors to drink and party. When they arrive, however, they find a ghost town populated only by snarling, awkward women who want to feast on their flesh. With the help of a single remaining soldier (Terry Stone), who seems to know what they're up against, the group try to figure out a way around the nagging dead and back to the relative safety of home, evil girlfriends notwithstanding.
With the exception of Vince and a slightly hyperactive comic shop nerd named Matt (Lee Ingleby), the group's label of chauvinist pigs is well-earned, especially Dyer's Neil, who fancies himself a real ladies' man. Not surprisingly, West and screenwriter Dan Schaffer don't plan on having Neil learn anything much on their brief holiday in Hell; there's some half-hearted awareness that the characters are sexist, but no setup-and-payoff consequences, which is doubly disappointing when the concept seems ripe for these kinds of moments. In fact, there isn't really any set-up/pay-off usefulness to anything, including a self-help tape, the repeated rescue of an old lighter, the re-appearance of an old girlfriend...it's all just there, as if showing something, and then showing it again later is all the development one could ask for. Instead, the film meanders around without much of a goal or story. The characters end up separated throughout the town without any rhyme, reason, or plan, and Doghouse only feels like it's building toward a conclusion at the last second. Sure, West piles on the gore effects, which will please some viewers with both quality and quantity, but once you've seen one dismembered limb, you've seen 'em all.
Then again, nobody learning anything from their predicament might be an improvement over what does happen. Despite showing signs of being the only nice guy during the opening scenes, in the final act, Graham's Vince finally steps up to the plate in a way that distastefully suggests it's time men put their foot down at women's endless requests for change, as if guy-dom is being repressed. In a movie where someone's PS2 being thrown away is meant to be a crime punishable by death and the drunken, fratboy heroes take great joy in spraying the insides of their lovely zombie attackers everywhere, such a message is sure to leave a worse taste in the viewer's mouth than the entrails on screen.
Ultimately, Doghouse is an idea in search of a movie. Certainly, the battle of the sexes can be fun and self-aware, but the film as it exists doesn't have any grasp on what it wants to say, other than reinforcing some of the worst stereotypes about both men and women. Other than a brief turn early on by Christina Cole as the boys' bus driver Ruth, there aren't any female voices of reason or counterpoints to the film's heroes, and watching the movie blindly feeling around in the dark for a plot thread to follow is a chore. By the time the film is copying beats from Shaun (the zombified return by one character's mom, and a bit of fakery in order to trick the zombies), it's the final nail in the coffin. Do mankind a favor, and leave Doghouse outside.
Doghouse comes with loud, brash cover art that sprays fonts, colors, and blood around haphazardly. It's quite text-y and painfully Photoshopped, which in my opinion is never very good for horror movies, because Photoshop artists tend to give all the zombies and creatures and bodies the same color-drained, dead-skin look.
The Video and Audio
The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors and detail are alright, but the film's cinematography is meant to be a bit hazy, a quality that doesn't lend itself to SD-DVD. In almost every scene, there's at least a hint of digital artifacting because of this misty look, usually in the background or whatever part of the screen is meant to be moving in and out of focus. The image is also on the dark side, with details being lost in thick black shadows as the sun goes down.
Dolby Digital 5.1 is mixed with plenty of chutzpah, succeeding where the questionable video often fails. It's on the loud side, but there's plenty of spread across the channels and lots of satisfying dripping, screaming, groaning, and yelling. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also provided.
Identified only as "Making Of" on the DVD menu, this dry, clip-heavy documentary (46:07) covers pretty much every aspect of the production you could ask for, but doesn't provide enough levity or candidness to really mean anything. It's a shame when substantial documentaries are so perfunctory, but that's the gist of this lengthy piece. Three deleted scenes (3:17) are included. The first only serves to make a scene more like one in Shaun of the Dead, and the other two are forgettable. An unremarkable, overly long blooper reel (8:10) wraps things up.
Trailers for Coffin Rock, The Human Centipede, Exam, and The Possession of David O'Reilly play before the main menu. Two original theatrical trailers and some TV spots for Doghouse are also included.
For those guys who don't like asking for directions and think women need to stay in the kitchen, Doghouse may just be the comedy of the year. For everyone else, it's a skippable shadow of Edgar Wright's funnier (and more progressive) zombie comedy.
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