Monster Dog is a Puerto Rican-Spanish film from an Italian director, dubbed into English. That makes it international, in the same way that smallpox and race riots are international. How bad is it? Almost the entirety of the budget went to paying Alice Cooper (or “Uncle Alice,” as Sean and I call him), and yet they had another actor dub his lines. Let me reiterate: Alice Cooper delivered his lines in English, and they were later dubbed, into English. That’s confusingly bad, and that is what I like.
Alice Cooper plays rocker Vincent Raven, a.k.a. Vincent Roberts. The film opens with a bad song and a much worse music video, that nonetheless serve to remind us of why Alice Cooper rules. The song, “Identity Crisis,” introduces both a major theme of the film and an important truism: life’s biggest problems are best represented by wearing various hats.
Vincent hasn’t been to his hometown in 20 years, and is now returning with his girlfriend and a vanload of sweater-wearing fools. His record company has sent him to get some “hometown inspiration” to add “punch” to the new music video. It would have been cheaper to just buy him some high-end blow and underage hookers, but okay. The Scooby Doo gang in the van must therefore be Vincent’s back-up band and crew. Judging by the musical quality of “Identity Crisis,” though, I think my ten-year-old nephew could do a better job with a Casio keyboard and a drum machine. And he’d work for Spiderman stickers.
At the family mansion, the caretaker, Jos, is preparing a welcome party. He’s hung them a welcome banner, and made delicious party snacks! Sure, his name sounds like a line of premium European underwear, but—wait. What. The fuck. Is. That. Is that one can of Fanta? What kind of a snack is this? An entire wheel of cheese, an unopened pack of tiny cereal boxes, and one goddamn Fanta? Then—you know what “Jos,” if that is his real name, does next?—he hides the cheese in the fridge. That’s right. He cut up all that cheese for his own private use. What kind of people are these Puerto Rican-Spanish-Italian-English, anyway?
In the next scene, a police roadblock stops Vince ‘n’ crew, and the sheriff makes some increasingly uncomfortable jokes about how baby Vince used to piss all over his lap. He goes on so much, you start to think he must have liked it. And the police in this movie are as ineffectual and arbitrary as they are in any other movie (see: Peanutch); let’s see how this roadblock situation would play out in the real world, shall we?
Cop: “License and registration, sir.”
Motorist: “What’s the problem, officer? This is the third roadblock I’ve hit on the way into town.”
Cop: “A pack of wild dogs has killed five people.”
Motorist: “Holy shit! Is anyone going after them? What’s being done?”
Cop: “Well, we would go after them, but we have to man this series of roadblocks we’ve got set up here.”
Motorist: “To—to what? To make sure no more dogs drive into the city limits?”
Cop: “Sir, if you had a stockpile of fluorescent orange jackets and 10,000-candle strength flashlights, you’d want to use ‘em, too.”
Motorist: “Well. Okay. Have a nice night when you inevitably wander off into the fog and get your ass eaten.”
After passing multiple roadblocks, hitting a dog with their van, and meeting a blood-soaked old man who intones for no reason, “You will all die! You’re already dead!”, Vince ‘n’ Pals are clearly in danger—of boring me to death. And it’s only been twenty minutes. It would have been almost less boring if the film to this point had just been a blank screen with an Alice Cooper album playing in the background. Anyway, finally arriving, the Scooby Doo gang dig into Jos’s snack spread (“Right on!” they say, clearly enjoying single-serving boxes of Smacks and Golden Grahams more than people their age should). Vince runs around the house with a shotgun, looking for Jos, but it’s hard to tell at this point what’s supposed to be frightening me here. The weird dubbing? The subpar snacks? The inefficient use of police resources? The rural south…of Spain? Because I’m certainly not scared of a pack of well-groomed German Shepherds and schnauzers.
Apparently no one minds very much that Jos is missing, because the next scene is that all-purpose hallmark of American (/Puerto Rican/Spanish/Italian) cinema: The Dream Sequence. One of the girls, Angela, “awakes” in the middle of the night to discover that the blood-soaked old man has followed them home. He chases her around the house, helpfully and rather cheerfully reminding, “You are all going to die. You’re already dead. At the tone, Pacific Standard Time will be…” Wait. No. Anyway, she finds two of her friends’ dead bodies. For all we know, they died from spontaneous bloodsplosion. Then, in a leap of moon-logic that’s spectacular even for a dream sequence, the girl accuses the old man of “lying,” and says that Vince would never do “that,” because “he’s our friend.” Whaaaat?
Imagine if you were watching a news report about swine flu with your girlfriend, and all of sudden she turned to you and said, “I know you’d never kill me with swine flu! I know this isn’t your fault! I don’t believe anything they say about you!” The only proper response? Bitch, you be trippin.
Also, Angela’s sleep shirt reads “CREAM” in big red letters. Little weird, miss. That’s a little weird. That’s like if a dude slept in a shirt that said “WET DREAMS.”
Vince, troubled, stays awake in the family library to read a leather-bound book entitled, Werewolves: Myths, Legends, and Scientific Realities. His girlfriend, Sandra, finds him there and asks, “Just…what exactly are…the scientific realities?” with all the finesse of a costar in a Kevin Trudeau infomercial. Apparently the “realities” is a heart disease that causes a person to become a madman, howling at the moon. “Werewolves do exist,” he insists, but Sandra disagrees. “Oh, bullshit, Vince. The year 2000 is just around the corner. I am a recognized expert in electronic video!” She’s right AND she has my dream job.
But then Vince relates the story of how his father was afflicted with the werewolf disease. Twenty years prior, when a pack of intelligent dogs started killing people, the townspeople blamed his father and murdered him with pitchforks. Sandra apologizes, promising that they’ll go on vacation as soon as the video is over (to “one of 130 Polynesian islands,” no less), and they kiss—and Alice Cooper quite clearly slips her the tongue. Go Uncle Alice.
After a video prep montage that involves a lot of techno music, girls mugging awkwardly for the camera, and rain ponchos, it’s finally time to shoot the music video for “See Me in the Mirror.” Lightning flashes, Vince Raven walks around the house looking spooky, Angela/CREAM wears a wedding dress and…Jos’s bloody corpse crashes through a plate glass window and falls on her. Haha! Then everyone goes upstairs to destroy the crime scene by tromping around in it, leaving Angela alone downstairs. They ditch her ass so fast, it was like they planned it. The old man (“You are all going to die!”) appears, and for no real reason, beckons Angela outside to walk aimlessly through the hillside. Vince Raven takes a rifle to go look for her, while everyone else *coughpussiescough* barricades themselves inside.
But not for long. A gang of three rednecks and one Che Guevera wannabe show up, toting guns, and claim to be old friends of Vince Raven’s father. In a profoundly stupid move even for a genre known for stupid moves, the kids invite the guys in for some beers. You know what? Even if there weren’t rampaging dogs, moronic cops, and pitchfork-wielding townspeople afoot, I still wouldn’t let these guys into my house. That’s like inviting the hicks from Deliverance over for a hottub party, or asking Freddy Krueger to babysit your kids.
While Vince is out rescuing Angela, the numbskulls back home are quickly beaten and taken hostage. In a kinda-surprising turn of events, Raven and Angela make it back to the mansion, only for her to accidentally get shot with the silver bullet meant for Vince.
Here the movie gets AWESOME. First Vince Raven shoots some of the rednecks, because, well, he’s Alice Cooper. Then the Che Guevera-reject lights himself on fire. Next, the dogs break into the house and start eating Vince’s friends alive, while Sandra stands there freaking out and doing nothing, even though she has a gun. Actually, she does better than nothing: she shouts to her friend, who is bleeding from multiple bite wounds and is armored only by a tacky sweater, “Fight them off! Frank, fight them off!” Finally, the werewolf himself arrives, and Sandra and Mary Lou run up the stairs with the gun while the dudes get horribly slaughtered.
This is the only time I’ve ever enjoyed watching a woman flail ineptly in a horror movie.
After the attack, when only Sandra and Mary Lou are left alive, Vince Raven suddenly appears with no explanation as to his previous whereabouts. But luckily and suspiciously, he’s able to calm the pack of dogs, and he and the girls escape in the rednecks’ car. Except the werewolf is INSIDE THE CAR! What a shocker. That’s about as shocking as a babysitter finding out that the murderer has been inside the house the entire time, or as shocking as a teen couple arriving home from Makeout Point to find the serial killer’s hook hanging from the car door. That is to say, not very shocking.
But what is the twist ending? Is Vince Raven the werewolf? Will he survive the night? Do foreign movies have to dub laughter, and does it sound pretty okay? Can Kim keep from falling asleep before this all ends?
You’ll just have to watch the film to find out!
Um, just kidding. Turns out Vince isn’t the werewolf; it’s Mr. Cheery “You’re all going to die!” (surprise), who promptly bites Alice Cooper and then literally disappears into the fog. Sandra, the recognized expert in electronic video, is the sole survivor. She kills Vince, then laughs crazily to herself—and yes, the laughter is dubbed, and no, it is not even a little okay.
You know what? No matter how crazy I go, assuming that one day I go crazy (and if you’ve watched as many reruns of Quantum Leap as I have, it’s an inevitability), I’m going to make an effort not to do that crazy-laugh thing. It is the cheesiest thing since cheese. Jos Brand Cheese: The Cheese of the Future!
Final Assessment: Monster Dog isn’t a bummer the way Die You Zombie Bastards! and Terror Toons are, mostly because of Alice Cooper. But it is brain-drainingly boring. I think Sandra sums up my feelings best when she slowly states:
“I can hardly believe…this nightmare is…finally over.”