Doghouse (2009)

DoghouseReviewed by Gareth Jones

Starring Danny Dyer, Stephen Graham, Noel Clarke, Terry Stone, Christina Cole

Directed by Jake West

Women. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. That is, of course, unless you happen to be a member of the male cast in Jake (Evil Aliens, Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes) West’s entertaining Doghouse – in which case you can most definitely live without ‘em.

Stephen Graham stars as Vince, withdrawn and depressed at the back-end of a nasty divorce. In an effort to help cheer him up and escape from the shackles of their own better halves for a weekend, Vince’s pals Neil (Danny Dyer) and Mikey (Noel Clarke) arrange for them and a few more mates to take off for the rural village of Moodley. There, they’ll be staying at Mikey’s grandmother’s cottage in order to get drunk, ogle the (supposed) lovelies and rediscover their inner blokes.

Things don’t go to plan, however, as shortly after arrival they find themselves greeted by eerily empty streets, mutilated military corpses and a gang of mutated killer women hell-bent on tearing anything with a scrotum limb from limb. The zombirds are out in force, and Vince and Co. are about to discover that the wailing harpies they left at home are nothing on this lot.

Considering Doghouse sees director West ‘s biggest budget and most high-profile cast to date, it’s a good thing to announce that it’s also his best piece of work so far. Content wise, it’s comparable to Shaun of the Dead with a stronger British “lad” mentality, largely eschewing the over the top splatstick humour of Evil Aliens in favour for some slightly more organic laughs. The gore itself is toned down – this is by no means a complete gorefest – but it still holds some extremely satisfying and juicy kills. Technically it’s extremely solid with some nicely staged shocks and visual humour, tight direction and editing and a nicely complimentary (if not particularly memorable) score.

The cast are what brings everything together, however, and a failure in this department would have sent Doghouse directly to its namesake. Each of the main cast members manage to come across as a real group of friends, and the amount of fun everyone seems to be having appearing in the flick is infectious – exactly what the tone of the material requires. Danny Dyer is perhaps the weakest link, throwing out his Cockney GEEEZA! routine for the millionth time in his career (but, surprisingly, still managing to imbue Neil with some individuality through it). His character also makes a couple of slips into the nastier side of misogyny (and not against the zombirds) which makes him particularly difficult to relate to at times.

The film itself doesn’t particularly think highly of women, but for the most part it’s all tongue-in-cheek. For example, each of our protagonists are introduced in the middle of informing their partners that they’re off to Moodley to console Vince, and each and every one of their partners is reacting like they just told them they’d fucked every other female in the family and were off abroad for a bigamist wedding. Luckily, West puts a lot of effort into never letting this undercurrent become too serious, lest the film turn into a much more thematically repugnant piece of work.

A real home run for the flick is the monstrous zombie women themselves. Each is given a distinct look and personality, including the corset-wearing, sword-wielding owner of the town’s occult store, the scissor-snapping hairdresser (Evil Aliens’ Emily Booth), the obese foodie (with whom Dyer finds himself invited for a little finger food) and the hilarious mutant granny, complete with zimmer frame. These are only a few of them, but a lot of effort has gone into giving each of them a large amount of individuality, and they really get to strut their stuff in the later stages when it’s discovered that their initial rages are nothing compared to the next stage of the infection.

Overall, a few minor negatives hinder Doghouse as a complete package. The humour only strongly hits on a few occasions (such as a great attempt to distract the zombirds with a remote control car, and one character deciding he’ll finally get to play some golf this weekend) with most of the laughs along the way resulting in mostly amused chuckles. The same can be said for the horror elements, with it never being genuinely scary either but it does throw out a few good jolts and a surprisingly dramatic death scene. The ending, however, is its biggest let down with the pacing of the final scene not giving any indication that the filmmakers are about to pull a Butch Cassidey, making it feel that West simply ran out of steam and didn’t know how to end it all sufficiently.

Despite middling for the most part with both of the horror and comedy elements, Doghouse is a very entertaining time-waster and definitely one for the boys – break out the beers and just have some fun. There’s a feeling of something so much more bubbling under the surface, and it’s a shame it wasn’t fully realised, but as it stands it’s still more than worth at least one viewing.

3 1/2 out of 5

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Gareth Jones

Copywriter and critic sporting a lifelong obsession with all things horror. A little bit sane.