Ah, the nature run amok movie. This horror movie staple has been around for decades and every few years we see a resurgence in the genre. From classics such as The Birds to Jaws, these movies keeps coming back, and they've really found a like with direct-to-DVD movies. (You see more sharks, alligators, and spiders in the video store then you do on Animal Planet.) While big predators can be scary whether or not they are running amok, some movies, such as The Breed try to make more common animals seem threatening.
As The Breed opens, five friends arrive on a remote island via sea-plane. Brothers John (Oliver Hudson) and Matt (Eric Lively) have inherited their late uncle's cabin on the island and they've brought three friends, Nicki (Michelle Rodriguez), Sara (Taryn Manning), and Noah (Harper Hill), along for a vacation. The group makes themselves at home in the rustic setting and begin to have a good time. Sara is delighted when she finds a puppy. But, things get ugly when a bigger dog arrives and attacks Sara. While the group is stunned, they assume that this was the puppies mother and the attack was quasi-justified. However, they learn the truth when the cabin is suddenly surrounded by big, vicious dogs who have apparently been trained to kill. The dogs are determined to get in and the old cabin can only take so much abuse, so the group must fight to find a way out.
Have you ever had a burger from McDonald's? Of course you have -- you've probably had dozens. But, every once in a while, you get that Big Mac which has just come off of the grill and the cheese is melted to perfection and it simply tastes better than a fast-food burger should. If you replace burger with horror movie in that scenario (and yet, keep the cheese), you have The Breed. The movie isn't great, and seems very pedestrian at times, but it's also somewhat satisfying.
The factor which makes The Breed watchable is that it's a well-made movie. Director Nicholas Mastandrea makes his feature-film debut here, but he's worked with Wes Craven since 1991 and before that, he worked with George Romero. (The "Wes Craven Presents" tag means that Craven is one of a long line of executive producers.) So, the man has spent plenty of times on the set of horror films. And he proves this by showing a true understanding of the beats necessary in a scary movie. While some other aspects of the movie may fail (more on that in a moment), The Breed has the most "jump scares" that I've seen in a movie in quite sometime. These dogs can attack at anytime and anywhere and even when I knew a scare was coming, I still jumped a few times. A movie which can elicit a physical reaction like that goes a long way with me.
Mastandrea's understanding of pacing and "shock" moments help the movie to overcome some of its more lackluster elements. In short, the story is full of plotholes, some of which can't be ignored. The explanation for why the dogs are attacking and why there are so many of them is lame and never fully explored. There is a strong implication that a bite from one of the dogs passes along a disease to the victim, but this never comes to fruition. It's almost as if this were a werewolf movie at one point, but then someone thought better of it. We definitely get a suggestion that Sara takes on dog-like traits after she's been bitten, but this is never explored. And the shock ending is cheap and predictable. But, there is one shot in which many viewers will give up on The Breed. I won't give too much away, but it shows the dogs doing something very silly and it's unintentionally funny. If you decide to check out this movie, I'd urge you to keep moving past this scene, as things do improve.
I must give a word of warning to animal lovers in the audience, The Breed doesn't pull any punches in showing the humans fight back against the dogs. There must have been a deleted scene where we witnessed Oliver Hudson's character being bullied by a dog as a child because this man has no fear of the animals and he kills as many as he can. If you've ever wanted to see a film where a character WASN'T frozen with fear when charged by a vicious dog, then this is the movie for you. There is very little gore here, but the animal violence, while clearly fake, is nonetheless shocking.
The Breed goes to the dogs on DVD courtesy of First Look Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer looks good, as the image is sharp and clear. There is hardly any grain to be had here and there are no defects from the source material. The movie has been shot in a very natural style, and both the daytime and nighttime scenes are well-balanced, with the action always visible. The colors look good and flesh tones are realistic. Aside from some mild artifacting, the transfer is fine.
The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, and sound great when the dogs attack the house. Likewise, the dog's deep growls and one explosion are well-served by the subwoofer. I was disappointed in the lack of overt surround sound here. With the dog's surrounding the house and the constant howling, we should get constant surround sound action, but what we have is very discrete.
The lone extra on The Breed DVD is an episode of the Animal Movie Magic TV show (24 minutes) which focusing on the making of the movie. There is a ton of behind-the-scenes footage, with comments from the cast and crew, but the bulk of this special focuses on the animal effects and the dog trainers.
The movie may be silly and derivative of the 1977 film The Pack, but "nature attacks" fans should get a kick out of The Breed, and trust me, I've seen much worse. The dogs in the film may look harmless at times (some seem to be smiling), but the attack scenes are very well-done and your not likely to find such graphic man vs. dog action anywhere else. But, what's with that cover art? A. It looks like this is some sort of cave-woman movie, and B. That dog's head is not to scale.