Starring Eric Lively, Michelle Rodriguez, Oliver Hudson, Taryn Manning
Directed by Nicholas Mastandrea
The breed, the breed, the breed
I think I hear ‘em comin’
When you hear the dogs barkin’
You better start runnin’
The breed, the breed, the breed!
-Master P rap song over the opening credits
Ah, the killer dog subgenre. Ever since a couple of satanic Rottweilers stalked Gregory Peck and David Warner in The Omen, killer canines have continually howled on the silver screen. We’ve seen The Pack, Earl Owensby’s Dogs of Hell, Cujo, Man’s Best Friend, and Rottweiler. Joining the hunt is The Breed, a completely serviceable if formulaic genetically mutated killer dog flick.
Five college students head to an isolated island for a weekend of fun. Heading up the group are two conflicting brothers, studious Matt (Eric Lively) and party boy John (Oliver Hudson). Also along for the ride are party girl Sara (Taryn Manning), cut-up Noah (Hill Harper), and outdoorsy Nicki (Michelle Rodriguez), the object of both the brothers’ affections. But our hapless coeds aren’t alone; it appears a pack of wild dogs is roaming the island. And these aren’t just any wild dogs – they are genetically enhanced, smart dogs from that training center located across the island.
Debuting helmer Nicholas Mastandrea does a functional job on the proceedings. On the plus side, he really keeps the action rolling swiftly and captures the South African location well. Unfortunately, he plays it safe with the entire film, which is too bad given his past associations; he got his start under George Romero in the 70’s and eventually became the assistant director for Wes Craven, who serves as Executive Producer here. There are some questionable directing choices, such as a having a character being attacked by a dog jumping through a rolled down car window. The guy dispatches of the dog but continues down the road with the window still open! Also, the soundtrack is populated with some ill-fitting rap songs from Master P and Snoop Dogg that scream post-production insertion.
The film’s biggest flaw, however, is the formulaic script by Robert Conte and Peter Martin Wortmann. You can guess who will die and the order in which they will perish the second the characters are introduced. When the attacks begin, it literally becomes a carbon copy of Night of the Living Dead and the writers rarely deviate from that path. In addition, the script is heavily contrived. For example, lead Matt just happens to be studying to be a vet and John is a whiz at fixing pretty much anything. There is also some of the most laughable exposition imaginable (“Hey, didn’t Uncle Frank lease some land across the island to people to train dogs?”). Conte and Wortmann also do themselves and the audience a disservice by inserting some clunky one-liners like “Bitch!” (Haha, get it?) and “Say ‘Hello’ to Cujo for me!”
In terms of acting, everyone is fine. Michelle Rodriguez actually drops the sneering tough chick persona she utilizes for nearly everything and plays a somewhat vulnerable character. Hill Harper, as the token black guy, might be setting the cinematic record for playing a college guy in his early 20s as he was nearly 40 when this was shot! In all honesty, the best performances come from the dogs. The production has assembled a perfect pack of performers that appear incredibly well trained and hit the vicious mark flawlessly. That says something about the film when the most memorable performances come from the four-legged co-stars.
Given a limited theatrical release by First Look Studios, The Breed is not going to break any new horror or killer dog subgenre standards. As it stands, it is an acceptable time killer that won’t challenge or offend. Nevertheless, if you are looking for an evening of canine carnage, The Breed features more than enough bite behind its bark.
3 out of 5
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