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My Movie Year–Day 19: The Plague Dogs


So this is going to be a quick one. How quick? This quick: it’s sad.

See you tomorrow.


No, I’ll see you now. I’ll sea you, even (that’s how expansive this thing’s going to be…not unlike the sea).

Let’s go!


What’s a (insert name of film here)?: A Plague Dog is a very sadly drawn pup forced to do experiments, take injections and suffer in other, various ways within the confines of a small research facility (the acronym of which is ARSE) in some part of England. These particular dogs escape one night, kill a sheep (or maybe a shep—I’m not sure what the singular of sheep is—a fuzzy, maybe?) out of a starving desperation for food, find themselves embroiled in a case of manslaughter and generally run for their lives with a fox named The Tod in tow.

Who did this to you?: The same people responsible for another traumatic kiddie film, Watership Down. This is based on another of the author’s (Richard Adams) books and was directed by the same person (Martin Rosen) responsible for that film. John Hurt, Christopher Benjamin, Nigel Hawthorne and Patrick Stewert all “do” voices.

Why now?: I have no good answer for this. I think Netflix had been suggesting it for a while. I’d never heard anything about it before, but the synopsis (which accentuates a sub-plot involving plague paranoia amongst some of the scientists) seemed interesting enough. Also, it’s animated in a sort of Bakshiesque roto-scoping style that looks quite nice at times.

Did you like it?: (as a single tear roles down his face) yes.

How come?: I’m a dog lover, so it’s not difficult to get me to sympathize with sick doggies (cute wittle sick doggies at that), especially when their ailments are depicted in such a stark and savage way. First you’ve got your Snitter, who’s had the top of his skull cut open and his brains scrambled following the mysterious (for a time) death of his owner. Next you’ve got your Rowf, who aside from having an adorable name, is first seen frantically treading water and sinking to the bottom of a quietly observed tank in the middle of the research facility. Then you’ve got your me, crying like an Irish catholic woman at JFK’s funeral through it all. It’s just that easy.

I know I’ve been using the word “shocked” a lot lately and I’m making great strides to expand my vocabulary (more 1337 speak is on the way!) within these reviews, but unless you’ve seen this film you honestly have no idea how disturbing and (yes) shocking it can be at times. Yesterday I posted a clip of perhaps the most shocking(!) scene in the film, involving Snitter ostensibly shooting a man in the face (watch the clip if you don’t believe me). I’m not saying that this moment is any darker than the rest of the film, or that the preceding 30 minutes involved a street-wise mutt teaching an orphaned cat named Oliver the essence of street savoir-faire though song (damn, I haven’t thought of that movie in a long time), but it’s not anything that you ever expect to see and almost completely original in its brutality. This is like a Bret Easton Ellis movie for kids (with fewer yuppies complaining about coke-dick). After that scene I felt like there was nowhere that the story wouldn’t go, and while I don’t feel as though it’s ever topped, I wasn’t disappointed by anything that came after it.

What else?: The animation, which has the virtue of being unique, if not a little stiff and ugly at times. Still, there’s a nice painterly sense to the backgrounds, which is something I miss as animation studios move firmly into the realm of photorealistic CGI landscapes. Fuck (I got too far up my own ass just there, so I saved it with a curse).

What’s the moral?: All dogs go to heaven…after suffering through hell on earth…and let’s be honest kids, there may be no God.

Are you sure you want this to be your written record of how you feel about this movie?: It’ll have to do.

Best Scene: I’ve already mentioned it. The dog SHOT A MAN!

Breast Scene?: This was, not surprisingly, rated PG-13, and while there’s plenty of other sorts of mind-feckery on display, there are no nipples.

Death Scene?: I’ve mentioned the gunshot to the face, but there’s also the slaying of a sheep and an ending so ambiguous it would make John Carpenter…

Weirdest Scene: There’s nothing really “weird” about this movie, except for the fact that it exists. Those bothered by the social commentary in Wall*E should steer clear, lest their children learn to treat other living things with dignity and respect.

Worst Scene: The worst thing about the film in general is actually sort of clever, so it’s hard to criticize, but the dog’s have their own frame of reference and names for things (that I like) which they repeat throughout the film at a furious clip (that I don’t like). Any repetition of the phrase “white coats” after a certain point just began to grate.


What’s next?: Something lighter. Irreversible


3 Responses

  1. ooooo I’ve never heard of this and am intrigued!


  3. That was my reaction, exactly. Like I said, the scene is at the end of yesterday’s post if anyone wants to see it.

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