Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #137
Number of Views: One
Release Date: 12 June 2009
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Running Time: 89 minutes
Director: Jake West
Producers: Mike Loveday, Gerry Toomey, Terry Stone
Screenplay: Dan Schaffer
Make-up Effects: Cesar Alonso, Jennifer Latour, Robin Pritchard
Special Effects: Scott McIntyre, Grenville Charles
Cinematography: Ali Asad
Score: Richard Wells
Editing: Julian Gilbey, Will Gilbey, Jake West
Studio: Carnaby International, Carnaby Film Productions, Hanover Films
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
Stars: Danny Dyer, Noel Clarke, Emil Marwa, Lee Ingleby, Keith-Lee Castle, Christina Cole, Terry Stone, Neil Maskell, Emily Booth, Stephen Graham, Victoria Hopkins, Deborah Hyde, Nicola Jane Reading, Joelle Simpson, Deborah Perry, Tree Carr, Ria Knowles, Lorry O’Toole, Annie Vanders, Joanne Cutts, Lynda Dagley, Julie Dunne
Suggested Audio Candy:
Ida Maria I Eat Boys Like You For Breakfast
Boys will be boys. Inside every grown man is a young lad with a Batman cape on striving to get out. We are all manchildren; that’s a fact that no male in his right and truthful mind will argue the toss over. Like Peter Pan we point-blank refuse to grow up as that urge for mischief is just too strapping. Despite our childish leanings, not every male drags an over-sized club around, groaning “Ug!” and using a deceased pterodactyl as a paper aeroplane. We’ve evolved enough to leave that poor flying creature be or, at the very least, use it for something constructive such as scraping the freshly formed ice from our windscreens using its beak before we set off every morning to pretend to play big man.
Jake West’s Doghouse charts the exploits of a posse of suchlike manchildren. These football ringtone-sharing louts are harmless enough, still evolving and reasonably early in that process. Led by mild-mannered Vince (Stephen Graham of Snatch fame) and chauvinistic Neanderthal Neil (Danny Dyer) they all set off for a jaunt away from the old ‘balls and chains’ as they escape their nagging spouses for a weekend away and some man-time.
Some men hold poker nights, others congregate with their Turtle Beach headsets whilst playing Call of Duty: Black Ops in their jockeys, one spud hanging free and a bowl of nachos to keep them company. Together they concoct symphonies with their musical asses, each attempting to be the baritone. The dogs in this house prefer a skinful of cheap lager and a minibus to off-the-beaten-track Moodly to enjoy a collective bromance of sorts. They are all depicted as typical stereotypes through the overused introduction via comic book styled insights into each of their lives at the commencement. There’s no real brain food on offer, we’ve seen every last typecast male a thousand times over in various different British boys own movies over the past decade.
Within a five-minute spell we are given all the insight we need; West is disinterested in delving any deeper as, anyone familiar with his previous works will attest, he’s not striving to knock Richard Attenborough from his perch. He has plied his trade through crude, low-cost splatter and this is his first step into something more mainstream. It’s a baby step at best, his script is unashamedly simplistic and his protagonists caricatures. Take Dyer for example; I am fond of this laddish lout and never expect lavish Merchant Ivory productions from his ever-swelling resumé. Like fellow break-out Brit Jason Statham he needs the correct material to excel as his range is limited. Having said such, and again like Statham, if he’s cast correctly he has more than enough charisma to pull off a convincing turn. Here he only needs turn up and be Danny Dyer and this is ample for us to enable to relate in one way or another to his character.
Joe Rose Till I’m Dust
He is joined by a motley crew of fellow man-children at varying stages of evolution who all wish to ‘celebrate’ Vince’s upcoming divorce. Graham’s character has a touch more attention lavished on him to provide a more rounded example of a mid-life crisis waiting to happen or, in his case, already underway. He’s more pensive than his brethren, they regard him as losing those unique Vince-like qualities which made him a personal hero to them all but, in truth, he’s just starting to grow the fuck up. He has a monologue at one point whereby his inner angst plays out for his remaining pals and his casting is more than justified as he adds an extra facet of depth to a shallow affair.
If you don’t expect Shakespeare then you’ll come away from Doghouse the way I did; mildly amused but not at the tail end of an epiphany. It’s crude, mostly one-dimensional and easily forgotten once those credits roll from the screen ultimately. Is it a stinker? Hell no, it offers a constant source of mild distraction from our everyday lives and will at least raise a smile on a few occasions in all but the most pompous critics. Does it excel in any way? Negative; West plays it safer than he’s done in the past and the result is a somewhat neutered affair.
The plot could be written on a beer mat; their destination is full of shuffling death-junkies, all of the female persuasion, who are all hell-bent on placing the fellas over their knees, pulling down their draws and spanking them with a paddle, occasionally dipping the odd disembodied digit in cake mixture to keep their Atkins diet on course.
This is Doghouse‘s strongest hand; the creations are, if nothing else, amusingly animated and include West regular vixen Emily Booth as a hairdressing scissor-wielding shuffler who does a wicked short back and sides. As events play out the Zombettes level up, becoming faster, more vicious and even more menstrually challenged.
When it occurs the pace is cranked further still and we are treated to some wonderfully outlandish scenarios as the dwindling numbers attempt their escape. One hapless Harry is flattened by an airborne flesh muncher (for argument’s sake let’s call her Rosie) and there are numerous moments of amiable amusement to be gleaned from proceedings.
The FX is well handled as would be expected from the man who gifted us the ludicrously affable Razorblade Smile and Evil Aliens. Here he is afforded a less modest kitty and does well with some good gross-out grue although not quite as ingenious as his previous works and evidently playing it safe to allow for its widest audience and maximum return.
The past few years we’ve seen The Cottage, Severance and Botched, to name but a few, all attempting to walk the line between horror and black comedy and in all three cases they do so with more guile than Doghouse. Having said that, make no mistake, I rather enjoyed my vacation to Moodly. Self-motivational meditation tape playing Pat is a strong point and the pace rarely lets up for its 89 minute duration. Just don’t expect too much, West is a decent talent but he is in that metamorphosis period whereby larger studios are beginning to have more say in his work. I’m sure he’s laughing, at the end of the day he’s reaching a broader audience and who can deny the man his dream? In years to come I would imagine better things are on his horizon and, in the meantime, this will do just fine.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Doghouse features some marvelous dripping grue and pours on the red sauce like a Trucker at a roadside cafe tucking into a full english. Heads are split, fingers snapped off and a bouquet of monstrosities created to quench our thirst for the macabre. As it only plays for laughs for the lion share the effect is somewhat neutered but that’s par for the cause.
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