Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Jake West
Written by: Dan Schaffer
Starring: Stephen Graham, Danny Dyer, Noel Clarke, Lee Ingleby, Keith-Lee Castle, Emil Marwa & Neil Maskell
Zombie movies are a dime-a-dozen. Even more tedious are lame zombie-comedies (check out some of the selections on Netflix to see what I mean). DOGHOUSE is a British zom-com that tackles the war of the sexes in gory over-the-top fashion. It pits a group of dumbass womanizers against an army of pissed off man-eating cannibals. Though it has a solid amount of jokes that work, the film also has its share of flaws that take it down a notch. Jake West’s third film (after a micro-budget alien flick and a PUMPKINHEAD sequel) is never quite as funny or accomplished as it acts like it is. However, if you’re a fan of something like DEAD SNOW or horror comedies in general, then you’re bound to find something to like in DOGHOUSE.
Vince is a depressed divorcee. Neil is a womanizing asshole. Mikey is a bitter husband. Matt, Patrick, Graham, and Banksy are all suffering from their own problems (marriage-related or otherwise). These friends are all banding together for a “boy’s weekend” in the isolated town of Moodley. This forest-surrounded community is a supposedly wondrous place where the women outnumber the men four-to-one. Upon arrival, the guys find the town apparently deserted and soon discover that all the females have somehow changed into monstrous zombie-like creatures. Stuck in a town full of literal man-eaters, the guys must use their ingenuity to take down as many psycho females as they can and make it out of Moodley alive.
DOGHOUSE shows its small budget in some cheap looking effects (most notably in the final 30 minutes), but is well-shot and has creative gory kills executed with good practical effects work. The make-up on the female monsters is all physical and bears some distinct resemblance to the Deadites from EVIL DEAD. It’s also very apparent that the protagonists aren’t made out to be the most realistic people in cinema. Bickering between the characters shows contempt for Vince’s objectifying of women and it should come as no surprise that not all of these guys make it out of Moodley in one piece (or at all). Some of the deaths are well-done. Only one of which actually came off as a sad loss, because the victim was likable. However, this is purely set up as a rowdy gorefest that revels in a battle between dumb guys and killer women. There’s less of a plot here and more of an excuse to move from set piece to set piece. Some of these work better than others. Also, a few one-liners can take away from what might have been pretty clever moments.
Annoying puns set aside, the running gags range in how well they work. Some of the best ones (e.g. the guys all having the same ringtone) are dropped within the first act. The script is rather obvious in its humor as well. It’s not as if there’s a whole lot Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg level of British comedy happening here. Everything is blatant and dumb, but also has a certain charm that can only come from a trashy zombie-comedy. The really big problem that detracts from the overall quality of DOGHOUSE is that it begins with solid momentum and loses it as the film goes into the second act. I felt like the script wore out its best jokes in the first 30 minutes. This is made all the more apparent when the final minutes come off as very anti-climatic. It’s almost as if screenwriter Dan Schaffer had a good premise, began with a lot of running jokes, and then progressively got more lazy as he went along. Some exposition given in the final third (revealing what exactly is happening to the women of Moodley) is sloppy and doesn’t have a single workable joke in that entire sequence.
Though it has its fair share of flaws and exhausts itself before the credits roll, DOGHOUSE will entertain certain demographics. It’s bound to delight gorehounds or a group of male friends just wanting to get drunk and watch a ridiculous horror comedy. I laughed throughout the first act, but that’s where the best material stayed. It’s a decent enough horror comedy that plays far better than many bad low-budget films of this type, but never fully embraces how far it could have gone and how darkly hilarious it might have wound up. In the end, I had fun with DOGHOUSE, but it’s cinematic junk food. Satisfying in the moment of watching it, but makes you crave something more afterwards.