Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell

(1978) **1/2

I'm not going to bother with a re-cap because Johnny Sweatpants already wrote one and his is freaking hilarious and hard to top. And he's right: it's precisely at the moment Mike Barry goes to see the psychic about his dog, you can practically hear the shark splashing beneath you in the water as you sail over it in your waterskis.
It's as if the filmmakers decided to procrastinate a bit before rolling out their unimpressive flaming dog effect in the final showdown. They thought, "Okay, we can buy some time by padding this psychic chick's scene a bit. And next, oh fuck it, let's send him to Ecuador." Mike is wearing the same clothes before, during and after his trip to South America. Logically, he just didn't want to go home to pack. I think it's also possible that the writers just didn't know where Ecuador is. "It's in Mexico, right Elinor? Sorta close to the border?"
It's a pity too --- that first hour has some zip. Mike's formerly loving children become startlingly cruel shortly after the dog arrives. "See how you like it when you find your dog dead," Mike's daughter Bonnie intones to their neighbor. It's not an idle threat either. Son Charlie chillingly tells Mom, "Forget all about this," when she finds an inkwell filled with blood in their room. Betty, the mother, is the last to turn. She tauntingly confesses to Mike that she's slept with the kids' principal to mollify the principal after he airs his suspicions over the kids' behavior in school. The wife and kids make little effort to mask their malignance. Why should they? With Satan wagging his tail next to them, they're holding all the cards.
Mike shows the greatest resistance to the devil dog, but even he isn't entirely immune. In one scene, Mike is fixing the lawn mower, when the dog magics the motor into the on position and hypnotizes Mike to draw his hand closer and closer to the blade. This scene reminded me of the scene in Bad Dreams when the two psych patients leap confidently into an industrial sized fan blade. Mike has the same look on his face. It seems to say, "Of course this is what I'm supposed to be doing. This is right. This is good." Mike manages to break free. He gazes at the dog afterwards. The dog stares back at him blankly. "I fucking own you," its eyes seem to say.
I noticed, looking at Devil Dog's IMDb page, that it was originally a made for TV movie. That would certainly explain its tepidness and tameness. There's nothing going on here that wasn't done better in some other place.


JPX said...

That cinches it, I need to see this damn film! Nice review, Marc.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

The more I think about this movie, the more it dawns on me that I love it. I mean, it's called Devil Dog!

"The dog stares back at him blankly. "I fucking own you," its eyes seem to say." Love it!