Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monster Dog (1984)

Original title: Leviatan

Rock star Vince Raven (a two-hundred years old looking Alice Cooper), his girlfriend Sandra (Victoria Vera) and a van load of fodder are on their way to Raven's old family mansion to shoot a new video for one of the singer's songs there, the last one being "shit". Not surprisingly, given that this is a film directed by Claudio Fragasso, the audience has the fortune to see that clip two times during the course of the movie. It is indeed shit.

Anyway, Raven's return home after an absence of more than twenty years comes at a somewhat inopportune time. People in the area have been attacked by a pack of roaming wild dogs that act surprisingly intelligent, and are accordingly nervous. Even before the singer and his gang have arrived at the house, they have already encountered a police roadblock (which is what the inhabitants of planet Fragasso consider to be an ideal defence against dogs, animals known to always travel by road), have run over a dog, and have met an older guy in bloodied clothes muttering the mandatory "you are all going to die, but I'm not giving out any useful details" warnings. Raven and Sandra also see a creature that does not look like a dog as we know it at all, but like a werewolf.

When the meat finally arrive at the house, the fun really begins. The caretaker is missing, the mandatory psychic among the group has a bad feeling and later an extensive nightmare about Raven being a werewolf and killing everyone - how could things get any worse?

Well, the next day, the caretaker's corpse is somehow thrown through a window that's rather high up in the mansion's wall, for one. Then, the local group of psychopathic werewolf hunters arrives, planning to kill the singer as a werewolf as they did with his father before him, the fact that the murders were already happening before Raven arrived in town notwithstanding.

And that's only what happens before the dog pack and their supernatural leader attacks.

Say what you will about the movies of Claudio Fragasso (for example that they are shoddy and stupid beyond belief), but don't pretend they are not designed to be as entertaining as possible just by virtue of stuffing as much stuff that was exciting in other movies Fragasso vaguely remembers into a ninety minutes running time. Monster Dog seems out to prove my case here.

Nothing that happens is any good in a traditional view of the art of filmmaking, of course, but what the film lacks in quality, it sure tries to make up for in the sheer quantity of silly crap. Seen from this angle, the film is something of a mother lode of the crazy, even though it does not show Fragasso at his most insane. But when someone's most insane is Troll 2, even his third most insane is pretty mad.

The greatest strength of Monster Dog lies in the absurdity and sheer stupidity of most of its details. And boy, does Fragasso love to put a lot of needless yet stupid details into his movies. There's not only no good reason to, say, have the dead caretaker crash through an upper window that should be quite unreachable from the outside, it's an idea so actively nonsensical I can't help but admire Fragasso for not only having it but putting it on screen without any explanation. We can only assume that the werewolf/monster dog is either really, really good at throwing full grown men or is some sort of spider dog scuttling around house facades like Peter Parker. Excitingly enough, this is only one example among dozens, one of them as awe-inspiringly stupid as the next. Did you, by the way, know that lycanthropy is a heart disease?

If the overabundance of stupid details isn't enough to make a viewer happy, she can further delight in moments of Very Bad Acting, Alice Cooper staring sinisterly right into the camera, Very Bad Special Effects (though Fragasso mostly tries to avoid showing us too much of Monster Dog), and lots of scenes of people acting like utter fools, even for horror movie characters. Yes, sure, let's invite the armed, not the least bit suspicious men in; they say they know Vince after all, while leering suspiciously. Yes, let's leave the screeching, traumatized woman alone with the mutilated corpse. And so on.

It's all enough to make a boy dizzy with admiration for Fragasso's very special art.


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