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October 5th, 2012


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11:30 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: Monster Dog
Monster Dog is one of those movies where, when you first hear about it, you want to know how it can possibly have slipped past you. "Alice Cooper? In a werewolf movie? Directed by the guy who made Troll 2? And it's just as hilariously bad?! Sign me up!" Then you see it, and it turns out not to be hilariously bad, just bad. This is why you've never heard of Monster Dog: it is not a good movie, and in fact, it's not even fun. The worst bad movies are boring bad movies, and Monster Dog fits squarely into that category.

So. Plot and premise. Alice Cooper plays Vincent Raven, an Alice Cooper-esque rock star, except I'm pretty sure that the real Alice Cooper could've lived a bit higher on the hog than Vince Raven does. The movie opens with Raven riding shotgun in a van packed with wholesome-looking twentysomethings. They're on their way to the house where Vince grew up where they intend to shoot a music video. I'm not sure who the kids are. Probably his crew, possibly just the crowd Vince hangs with -- the sound isn't very good. There's also a woman named Sandra who is Vince's... manager? Girlfriend? Manager/girlfriend? Beats me. At any rate, she describes Raven as "the hottest rock and roll star in the world," which seems unlikely.

Actually, I lied. The movie doesn't open that way. First, we see Vince Raven's most recent video, a low-budget affair for the not-quite-top-40-quality single, "Indentity Crisises." And before you say anything, no, it's not Identity Crises. Vince Raven, in a number of thrift store disguises, sings that extra syllable as if he's being paid for it. If you stick around, I'll link to the video at the end of this post, but... you don't really want to see it.

Anyway, while Vince is on the road, the old homestead's caretaker, Joss, is getting attacked and eaten by German Shepherds. During a confrontation with two police officers, Vince learns that the town is being plagued by dog attacks. They also run into an old man in blood-stained clothing who gives them the standard old-guy-in-a-horror-movie speech: "You shall die! You'll all die! It's comin' and there's no way out and we're all doooooooooomed!" before promptly disappearing into the woods. Two of the girls follow him, and narrowly escape being eaten by the-- oh, bloody hell. I'm just going to call it the Monster Dog.

They get to the house, discover that Joss is mysteriously missing, and generally find the place to be pretty creepy. There's an old family portrait featuring Vince as a boy with a werewolf leering out of a bush in the background. Vince stays up all night reading a scientific treatise on werewolves (you know, the kind that no family library should be without), and one of the girls has a bad dream about Vince being the Monster Dog.

The next day their plans to work on the music video are derailed by the discovery of Joss' mutilated corpse, and the invasion of the house by armed rednecks. These are the same armed rednecks who killed Vince's dad, and they're here to take care of Vince. The film climaxes in an incomprehensible mess of chases, gunfights, and attacks by both the Monster Dog and a pack of wild German Shepherds, culminating in Vince's escape with Sandra. At this point, we're suspicious that Vince must be the Monster Dog, but no, it turns out to be the Bloody Old Man from the beginning (so that's how he knew they were all going to die!). We learn from the old man that he became a werewolf after being bitten by Vince's father. The old guy bites Vince, dies, and then leaves Vince to plead for Sandra to shoot him before he changes. Finally, after Vince's death, we get a reprise of "Identity Crisises", complete with a montage of scenes from the film we just finished.

Monster Dog is -- I'm just going to say it, point blank -- a stupid movie. At 84 minutes long it feels tedious. For this, I think we can blame the writer/director, Claudio Fragasso. Mr. Fragasso, better known for the unbelievable Troll 2, which was a perfect storm of incompetence and ambition. Monster Dog was Fragasso's first movie, and it is neither ambitious, or totally incompetent. Fragasso is known in Italy for making low-budget exploitation movies, and that's exactly what this is: cheap exploitation. People will argue about the definition of the phrase "exploitation film," but I think exploitation is what you do when you can't afford to aim higher: you get as much use out of the resources you have, and hope that you can hit some target of audience satisfaction. Exploitation films are usually lopsided, and it's not unusual for them to compensate for poor writing or technical skills with transcendent amounts of gore or nudity. Sometimes they go they other way, but we call those "art films."

Where was I? Oh, yes. Monster Dog is just about the cheapest exploitation film I've ever seen. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could afford to make a movie of this caliber. Oh, I don't know the first thing about lighting a shot, and I'd have to rent a smoke machine, but there's nothing in the movie that would be expensive or difficult to replicate -- even the rubber mask special effects look like something I could get from the picked-over clearance table at the local Halloween store on November 1st. Of course, I wouldn't be able to pay my cast very much (if at all), and I probably couldn't afford Alice Cooper. I might be able to get Eddie Money, though.

Here's the trailer in Italian, because I couldn't find it in English. Oh, fun fact: Alice Cooper's dialogue is dubbed by somebody else.

...And the video for Identity Crisis...es.

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31 Days of Halloween: Monster Dog - Garmonbozia for the soul.

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