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More Than Just Film

Dyer Diary 11: Doghouse (2009)

It started in 2009 with Doghouse.

Danny Dyer’s losing streak ran for four years and seventeen critical and commercial stinkers. These are the films which cemented his reputation for playing nasty thugs in low-budget lad-fodder, films which leave a nasty taste in the mouth.  The very same films people assume I spend all my time watching for Dyer Diary and which I’ve actually been avoiding like a genetically modified zombie virus.

Films exactly like Doghouse.

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In a nutshell: A tiny village littered with decimated corpses and infested with vomiting hordes of female zombies, that’s what greets a group of lads out for a weekend of male bonding and drinking irresponsibly. Can they avoid being devoured by monstrous man-eaters on their messiest night out? Can I make it to the end of the movie without dying inside?

The self-defence system of Jake West’s Doghouse is interesting to say the least. Rather than try to disguise its failings, it rubs them in your face with such gleeful abandom that to actually mention them would be…

a) a pointless exercise in stating the bleeding obvious, and

b) merely announcing to the world that you’re a joyless arsehole.

But mention them I must.

It’s just a pale imitation of Shaun of the DeadThe only difference being…

It’s deeply misogynistic: The female zombies are referred to as zombirds. If you find that funny then you’ll probably enjoy how all the (non-undead) female characters are irrational killjoys who throw things and cry, and you’ll love the running gag about the fat ugly zombie that wants to have sex. It’s hilarious and it makes you think.

This alone wouldn’t make it misogynistic. The film-makers would probably argue that the gang of lads, portrayed as shallow, immature and out of step with the rest of society, are the real butt of the joke. But this would fool no one. Critically, Doghouse revels in the lads’ loutish behaviour, it shows us everything from their perspective and all too often they act as mouthpieces for the filmmakers’ own distaste for political correctness.

Doghouse is a love letter to the video nasties of the 1980s which Jake West (just like yours truly) grew up watching. These films gave children excessive amounts of everything they desired – gore, nudity and violence. Revisiting them as an adult though, some thirty-plus years later, there’s no getting away from the prevalence of ‘sexy’ gang-rape scenes through which the films titillated male audience whilst articulating anxieties regarding the second-wave feminism of the 60s and 70s.

The reason for keeping the old school sexism front and center in Doghouse is purely to antagonise  the ‘the pc brigade’. Going against the grain of what is deemed socially acceptable isn’t necessarily a bad idea. If handled with a degree of self-awareness or imagination, the film’s battle of the sexes concept could have been great fun whilst saying something pertinent about gender politics in 2009.

As it is though, Doghouse merely reminds us that flying in the face of political correctness is more often that not an excuse for exhuming tired and lazy stereotypes thirty or forty years past their tell by date. 

How was it for Danny? Danny plays Neil, the gang’s ring-leader, who arranges the weekend away to shake his best friend, Vince, out of his funk. I’ve previous stated (several times) that Dyer is too cherubic and inherently likeable to play really nasty characters and Doghouse proved me completely wrong. Neil is the real monster in the film, a truly despicable cunt, and Dyer clearly cherished every minute of it.

One way the film could have seen off accusations of sexism would have been to have given Neil a really nasty death. At one point it looks like he’s about to be torn to shreds by a zombie horde but no such luck. Despite losing a couple of digits (a very mild form of symbolic castration), Neil ends the film in reasonably good shape.

The film’s rationale for this is that in the world of romantic and sexual encounters it’s the Neils of this world that come through unscathed. This is a fair point but the film then goes on to advocate this kind of extreme-laddishness. When Vince realises that his failed relationship was down to him trying to be a nice guy, he arms himself with a golf club and announces to Neil, ‘we’re gonna go down there and bash the living shit out of anything in a dress’. (And Danny wonders why John Simm turned this role down).

Say something positive, dammit: It’s fast-paced, bloody and full of jokes.

But… It’s not actually scary or exciting and only occasionally funny. It’s just a group of lads running around in circles like an episode of Scooby-Doo (Scooby-Don’t more like) until it staggers to an underwhelming conclusion.

Quote for the poster: Brought to you by people who still don’t know the difference between sexy and sexist.

or

Dogshite more like.

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