Directed By: Claudio Fragasso (as Clyde Anderson)
Written By: Claudio Fragasso (as Clyde Anderson)
Produced By: Clark Tyrrel
Cast: Alice Cooper, Victoria Vera, Pepita James, María José Sarsa, Carlos Santurio, Emilio Linder
MPAA Rating: NR
Runtime: 80 minutes
Review Date: September 3, 2010
Camp can’t be created in a lab. This is why I don’t particularly like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the musical remake of Reefer Madness, or the work of John Waters. Filmmakers setting their sights on a campy tone will invariably fail. Camp stems naturally from a combination the filmmakers’ utter seriousness and incredible incompetence. I say this to justify giving Monster Dog a three-star review: it’s a poorly made, remarkably stupid movie that manages to entertain through laughable attempts at scares and gore.
Rock star Alice Cooper stretches his acting muscles as rock star Vincent Raven, who has returned to his hometown for the first time in 20 years. Vincent’s unofficial exile came as a result of an angry mob of townspeople blaming his father for wild packs of dogs murdering locals. See, they thought Vincent’s dad was a werewolf, capable of controlling the minds of all dogs and leading them to murder along with his big, bulky werewolf self. Vincent never believed the rumors, but the crimes never had a more logical explanation and mysteriously stopped after the mob killed Vincent’s father.
As Vincent and his pals roll into town to shoot his latest music video, the sheriff stops them to announce that wild dogs have resumed their killing spree. The sheriff suspects Vincent and alludes to his family’s origins. So does a mysterious old man covered in blood who shambles out of the woods to warn them to stay away. So does Angela (Pepita James), Vincent’s sexy psychic friend. She has prophetic, gore-filled dreams of Vincent turning into a werewolf and killing everyone. This leads Vincent to question himself and his family, and it also leads his longtime girlfriend, Sandra (Victoria Vera), to do the same.
The introspection doesn’t last long, however. They have a music video to shoot. Their arrival at Vincent’s childhood home might be the moment that defines this movie’s campiness. You see, Vincent’s childhood home is terrifying, reminiscent of Carfax Abbey in the 1931 Dracula, but nobody seems to notice it. In fact, they arrive at the huge, ominous structure and cheerfully praise the huge WELCOME VINCENT sign flapping eerily in the wind.
In this age of irony, characters would have commented on the ridiculous, over-the-top horror-movie castle as looking like something out of a bad horror movie. But Monster Dog actually is a bad horror movie, so its characters simply accept the setting. Overall, the movie is pretty humorless, aside from an intentionally silly music video for Cooper’s “Identity Crisis” bookending the film to pad its runtime. Yet, writer/director Claudio Fragasso (who made the notorious Troll 2, another camp classic) approaches the subject matter with a heady blend of sincerity and stupidity. This makes a movie that could have been dull and agonizing into a charming, briskly paced unintentional comedy.
Cooper and Vera deliver surprisingly credible performances, but there’s more to the story than that. When I first heard Cooper speak, his voice seemed eerily familiar, and not because I’ve seen Wayne’s World about 900 times. Something about his folksy speech pattern made me first think, “Who does his voice remind me of?” and then, “Wow, he missed his calling as a voiceover guy.” Turns out, he didn’t: it’s not Alice Cooper’s voice. All of Cooper’s dialogue was dubbed by legendary voiceover artist Ted Rusoff, who dubbed voices in an inordinate amount of bad European exploitation films, from Cannibal Apocalypse to Black Emmanuelle 2. I have no idea who dubbed Vera (who is Spanish, like the rest of the cast), but like most dubbed movies, the incongruity of voice and action/expression adds an additional layer of goofy charm.
Make no mistake: this is not a good film. It entertained me, but not because of any of its redeeming qualities. Those who enjoy silly horror/exploitation films could do a lot worse than Monster Dog. Those who think life is too short to spend 80 minutes watching a bad (but smile-inducing) film should stay away.
D. B. Bates is a freelance script reader and writer.