Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… Richard Brauer’s Dogman.
Dogman centers around Hank, his wife, and their nephews as the small town in which they live is plagued by something. Starting off with pretty minor offenses such as a snowmobile going missing or Hank’s bow and arrows disappearing, it seems like nothing to worry about. When animal attacks by something big start to occur, though, everyone gets worried. From there they all try to figure out what exactly is going on.
Like many of the movies we tackle here on Cult Corner, Dogman is very low budget. You can tell this from the very beginning when you see that all of the opening credits are in the font Papyrus. This doesn’t look or feel like the kind of movie that I should be able to go out to the store and buy. It looks like the kind of movie that I should be seeing at my friend’s house after hearing that he filmed it with some people he knows. This is microbudget filmmaking at its core, and it appears that writer/director Richard Brauer was at least somewhat aware of that when making this. For a good long while it plays out like a mystery. Weird things keep happening and nobody knows who’s behind these events or why. The villain is kept in the shadows and you rarely see it. The problem? The movie is called Dogman. Why try to hook us in with a mystery that we already know the answer to? It’s pointless and feels like lame filler.
Keeping the titular creature off-camera is a pretty common way to make up for a lack of money in these kinds of movies, but the way that it’s executed here is incredibly bad. There are two basic ways that they go about it. First off, it seems that they didn’t get the “show, don’t tell” memo when it comes to visual storytelling. They constantly have us discover the aftermath of the monster only to have the effected character then explain what happened. This seriously hampers the experience because it feels like we were completely screwed out of getting some cool werewolf attacks. Some action peppered throughout would have made the slow plodding pacing of the film much more bearable. On the other hand, the few attacks that we do get are pretty awful, so maybe having more wouldn’t have helped.
When the werewolf does show up, the attacks basically consist of the victim reacting, clutching their arm, screaming at something off-camera, and running away. In one of them you barely see anything of the beast at all. In the other, you see literally nothing. It’s terrible. It looks like they were attacked by wind or something. The fact that the attack where we see at least something is before the attack where we see absolutely nothing doesn’t help the pacing issues at all. Maybe some of these scenes getting rearranged would have helped. There are moments with potential, and timing them correctly could have really kept my interest a lot longer, but for most of the movie we see nothing and nothing happens. The first attack doesn’t happen until half an hour into the film and there is no hint or mention of the monster before then. We don’t see a single hair of it again until and hour and twenty minutes into the film, where its reflection is shown in a car window. That’s the last time we see it. Yawn.
The ending of this film is ludicrously anticlimactic. The characters are barely in any danger, they barely encounter the monster, you see nothing, and then it fizzles out with a whimper. There’s no climax. There’s no big showdown with the beast. It just screams, “we couldn’t afford a cool werewolf costume,” and if that’s the case then this just isn’t the kind of movie they should have made. Without ever getting any real werewolf action it feels like this movie never leaves the beginning of the second act because the tricks that they use to hide it at the end (such as the aforementioned car window scene) are the sorts of things that we’d generally get at the beginning.
On the upside, there’s potential here in some of the components. The cast are far more capable than this script deserves with Larry Joe Campbell’s Hank ending up as a pretty earnest and likable character. A brief glance at his IMDb shows that he’s been in some more high-profile movies (Wedding Crashers, Pacific Rim), and it’s easy to see why. Granted he’s not in a starring role in those bigger movies, but the fact remains. A mention must also be made for Richard Brauer’s camerawork and directing, which is surprisingly above par for the movie itself. There are some pretty inventive angles used throughout, and a car chase through a cornfield that looks like it was shot via crane or helicopter. Either way, it looks way more ambitious than other films of this budget would attempt.
Dogman is a victim of its low budget and its script. The cast and director are fine, but without the story to stand on, they don’t really help matters much. If you’re attempting a microbudget feature, you better make damn sure that you get a story that can actually be achieved. I know that everybody rags on pictures like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity these days, but they’re such a perfect example of low budget filmmaking. Do you know why they work? It’s because the budget isn’t apparent. Whether you love or hate those movies, they work because their stories that don’t need more money to function. There is absolutely nothing in either one of those films that could have been improved by a higher budget. They were designed specifically for what kind of funds were available. The Devil’s Rock would be another good example. One location, three characters. Nothing that would be improved by more money. Dogman on the other hand is more ambitious, and they can’t deliver a cool werewolf story because they can’t deliver the monster itself. Oh well, skip this one. Maybe the sequel is better.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.