Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Two-fer Tuesdays! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, a pair who might benefit from a team building exercise or two, but would rather just have a weekend away in a town overrun by monsters, if that’s alright!
Today’s film offerings: Severance / Doghouse
Andy: We talk about a lot of supernatural horrors on this blog. Werewolves. Witches. Vampires. There are, however, far more mundane horrors. For some, true horror is the dreaded corporate retreat. What could be worse than being stuck with the people you can’t stand 9-to-5 for an entire weekend? Other than insane paramilitary war criminals joining in the fun, of course.
Severance follows the trials of Palisade Defence’s European sales team, as they head up into the mountains of Eastern Europe, for a relaxing weekend of fun, frolics and, for one member of the team, drugs and hookers.
Unfortunately for them, they find a dilapidated cabin, no food and a band of well-armed psychopaths who seem to have something against their company and their ability to keep breathing.
The cast is notable for having a high proportion of actors more known for their comedy work as opposed to horror – Tim McInnerny, Andy Nyman and Danny Dyer make up some of the hapless crew – and there is a really vicious streak of black comedy throughout the whole thing. It’s not ‘haha’ funny, except for a few instances, and a lot of the deeper humour comes from the more overzealous corporate types trying to push the weekend activities forward even after it’s become apparent things are very, very wrong.
Overall though, it lacks the heart that makes something like Shaun of the Dead tick – if you populate a cast entirely with bland but likeable or fairly horrid characters (Mr.Dyer excepted of course), there’s no-one to root for, and when the movie reaches the inevitable point where horror takes over entirely, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done elsewhere and much better. It probably doesn’t help that so-called ‘torture porn’ as a genre lacks the mythology of the zombie genre to riff off of, but it doesn’t change the fact that someone being violently murdered is nowhere near as intrinsically funny as zombies shuffling around while all in the foreground remain oblivious.
It sounds like I’m ragging a lot on this movie, but it’s not bad per se – it’s just that the horror-comedy bar is set very, very high at the moment. I would tentatively recommend it; if anything is more subjective than what makes people scared, it’s what makes ‘em laugh.
Kudos though, for the awesome setup where a guy explains the mechanics of a fairly grisly sort of demise to an incredulous coworker, and then is happy rather than upset when he is ‘proven’ right. And for giving us Danny Dyer tripping his balls off in the middle of a forest.
Lilly: And then there is Doghouse.
Set in some remote village out in the middle of who-knows-where, Doghouse is a charming tale of a few lads trying to cheer up their buddy after a divorce got him down. The group, headed by chauvinistic charmer Neil (portrayed by the fantastic Danny Dyer), get to their destination to only find that the female population of the town (of which it was supposedly three-to-one in favour of women over men, according to Mikey, played by Doctor Who’s Noel Clarke) have turned into homicidal monsters. Lucky they came in a bus and could drive away–but wait, their bus driver was a woman, and whatever turned the locals was air borne. Oh no!
Let me open up this discussion of Doghouse with the fact that I am a feminist. Surprise! I am. I think about representation of women in films, I think about the Bechdel test, my mind is ever working to try and be better when it comes to my own thought process re:women and men in this world. So, with that premise above, you can well imagine my tiny mind was working over time to figure out if it was okay or not. I’ll tell you the exact moment where I stopped thinking. It was when Neil, known womanizer, cannot shoot their bus driver who has gone monster, and his friend yells at him ‘Now is not the time to stop objectifying women!’ Okay. You got me, film. You got me. Because this is a film that takes the struggle I felt internally and makes it a physical threat. Is it okay to be treating women this way? In real life? No. In this situation? Yes, or else they will eat your face.
And sure, even as monsters, they are objectified by the men, but almost instant karma comes of any sexualization of the creatures, and I love that. Throw in the fact that the cast is full of fun actors like Keith-Lee Castle and Stephen Graham, you have to stop thinking too hard on if the film is ‘okay’ and just accept it is a comedy horror which was not meant to be taken seriously. You see how both genders are stereotyped and abused in the plot as well, with men acting like fools because of women (even monster women) and women eating the flesh of men in a fit of rage because their brains are taken over by a chemical–that’s a stereotype, right?
Horror wise? This was a scary film. I mean, just think if half the population was suddenly transformed into monsters. Think about it! I’ll wait. Because that’s scary stuff. And the creature design was definitely aiming for that, while still having these creatures being ‘familiar’ enough to see the women they were. Creepy, shudder-inducing stuff.
As for the comedic aspect of the film, I think finding humour in situations can be different for everyone–I was straight up laughing just at the synopsis of the film, so I was an easy sell on this one, plus I think Danny Dyer is just such a fantastic bit of fun that whatever, I’m not going to nitpick about how some of the jokes fell flat or there were some parts that were clearly meant to be funny but just didn’t quite manage it because it was too close to the horror side of things. Comedy horror isn’t easy, and you do sometimes get films that don’t really manage both genres. However. Sometimes, you have films you hold to different standards, and this is one of mine. I think there are lots of films out there that are that for others that I don’t get (see: our reviews of The Thing which Andy loves and I ew at) and that’s okay.
Should you watch Doghouse? Yes. Absolutely yes. For me, it’s like if Shaun of the Dead was mashed up with At World’s End, and then Danny Dyer came along and punched it in the teeth and all the bromance happened. With a few touching moments, a few genuine scares, and a few hilarious moments wrapped around moments of ‘You IDIOTS’, this is a fun film to just pop on and have some popcorn to. Enjoy!