Cast: David McCallum, Linda Gray, Sandra McCabe, George Wyner, Eric Server
Director: Burt Brinckerhoff
Nutshell: Every pet owner’s worst nightmare. Frighteningly inept
The poster of the horror movie Dogs has taken pride of place in my bedroom for as long as I can remember. All horror movie poster aficionados have their personal favourite and I have been lucky enough to surround myself with some of my most valued possessions such as Terror Train and Maniac from the 80s along with Phantasm, Up from the Depths and Devil Within Her/Beyond the Door from the 70s as well as The Evil of Frankenstein. I managed to finally watch Up from the Depths which underlined the fact that most dreadful horror movies often have the best posters. I always feared that Dogs would turn out to be a dog but threw the DVD on from among the pile of movies that had been bought but never watched over the years. Other than the poster, there was David McCallum, long remembered as Ilya Koryakin from The Man called UNCLE and that loveable lush Sue Ellen Ewing from Dallas (Linda Gray) and it would be fun to watch her in a role other than that of Sue Ellen.
The film is set out in the sticks in California at a University that boasts the finest research center and teachers in the land. There is an Annual Dinner going on and a new faculty member is inducted. Meanwhile a local rancher complains of having four of his herd killed by some unknown animal. McCallum, who is the university head of Biology heads off to check out the dead animals but is subsequently unable to say for certain what killed the man.
The disgruntled teachers go about their work but there are more reports of animal killings where the victims have been slaughtered and mangled but not eaten. McCallum begins to think that it could be the work of a pack of dogs and warns the Mayor who refuses to stop the dog show that is being organized by the townsfolk with a whole lot of children as participants.
The cute little mutts start to growl alarmingly and turn on their masters in a scene that may have been trying to recreate the horrors of The Birds when the feathery creatures launch an attack at the school children. Here you have cute little poodles and pugs chasing grown-ass men and women in a scene that is supposed to be heart-stopping terror but ends up more like a farce.
The body count starts to mount but most of the attacks are at night and you really don’t get to see anything other than the odd silhouette of a fang and little else. Most of the gore is saved for the mutilated bodies discovered after an attack has occurred and it’s all rather tame. At no stage do any of the dogs appear truly menacing and its bordering on The Night of the Lepus territory attempting to make cute little domesticated pooches appear as bloodthirsty beasts. The attempt may well be sincere but it’s totally unconvincing. The opening shot of the film has a man petting the camera which is supposed to be a dog and then this camera goes wandering around in a party eliciting various reactions. The scene is totally unconvincing as is the rest of the film. Sue Ellen Ewing shows up with drink in hand as one of the gossipy teachers at the Annual dinner and gets chewed up later on in proceedings as do numerous other cast members. Even though the body count is fairly high, you see no graphic gore at all and there is a total lack of atmosphere or tension in any of the pre-attack scenes.
David McCallum tries his best but is stuck with an ass of a script with nowhere to go. Linda “Sue Ellen” Gray appears for barely a few minutes and acts, looks, talks and behaves exactly how we knew her from Dallas without the shoulder pads. The rest of the acting is pedestrian and functionary which is more than can be said about he movie on the whole. It is so tepid and uninteresting that it takes considerable will-power to avoid dropping off to sleep or fiddling with your phone or scratching the dog or just giving up. Several badly staged attack scenes on and the film dawdles towards its underwhelming conclusion and then slaps you with a truly classic moment suggesting several sequels with Cats coming next, goldfish after than followed by hamsters and canaries.
Dogs doesn’t have anything going for it other than its breathtakingly beautiful poster which simply adds proof to the old adage that most of the worst horror films have to end up relying on superb poster art in order to dupe unsuspecting audiences in to parting with their money. The production values are threadbare at best and the director displays not the slightest ability to create any tension or fear from his script. The whole affair appears like a very tacky Z-grade TV show from the 70s. There have been evil dog movies before with The Pack from the 70s, Cujo and Man’s Best Friend coming to mind, even Zoltan Hound of Dracula had its moments. All of those appear like towering classics when compared to this dead duck of a movie. With “Dogs” you would be best advised to cross the street and walk away, briskly.