Films like Dogged, that are this low-budget, from new directors and featuring an amateur cast are always tough to review. I always try to see the best in every film I watch, because I understand that making a film is hard. Even making a bad film is hard. The cast and crew’s blood sweat and tears has gone into this and what am I going to do? Give it 2.5 stars and tell them their film was a bit rubbish. It breaks my heart.
Dogged follows Sam (Sam Saunders) as he returns to his home town from University to attend the funeral of a young girl. Supposedly she fell from the clifftops, but Sam soon starts to learn that this quiet tidal island is hiding more than a few secrets.
Sam trudges around the town, trying to escape from the unwarranted emotional abuse from his father and pursue a relationship with the priest’s daughter. Tut tut Sam, I can imagine that’s not going to end well. Obvious decisions like these ring alarm bells, alerting us to this film’s slow descent into a cliché-filled hell.
The camera’s instant shakiness and the off-grey-green colour grading is a warning that this is going to follow the Horror 101 handbook. Creepy locals? Check. Forbidden love? Check. Mask-wearing cult people? Unnerving woodland setting? Mysterious deaths? Check, check and check. From The Wicker Man to Kill List, and lesser-known horror films like 2016’s Sacrifice, the inspirations for Dogged scream a love for cult-focused horror, but will unfortunately draw more attention to this film’s downfalls, because this pales in comparison.
It’s about 30 minutes too long and truly suffers from its slow, meandering pace, that I can only assume is trying to drum up the film’s mystery. Sadly, the film feels like a culmination of 10 different ideas, touching and teasing on intriguing sub-plots that never really go anywhere, so the near 2-hour runtime is a slog. As well as having this incomplete and unexplored multi-stranded narrative, there is an ugly use of editing that attempts to give the film a mind-boggling edge, suggesting a weirdness that the film never delivers.
Characters mumble about “weird magic” and the townsfolk shun the “dirty hippies” implying a dark supernatural underbelly lurks beneath this increasingly odd town. Alas, the town’s secret is revealed an hour after it becomes apparent to the audience, so will garner nothing more than a nod of understanding or a yawn of disbelief; “is that it?” you’ll probably ask. Unfortunately, yes.
Dogged is slow, dull and unoriginal in its themes, story and execution. It’s an excusable debut from director Richard Rowntree, but here’s to hoping that his next endeavour is a scarier and more creative tale of horror.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Richard Rowntree
STARS: Debra Leigh-Taylor, Nadia Lamin, Philip Ridout
RUNTIME: 116 minutes
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