How scary can killer dogs be? I imagine in real life they’d be terrifying but in the horror genre (perhaps, Cujo aside) they’ve seldom gotten the aesthetic right and especially so in The Breed, a movie about some hard partying college kids on a remote, plane-only accessible island who find themselves hunted by a pack of angry, homicidal pooches. There isn’t much to it, it’s shot in striking broad daylight and the island isn’t much to look at scenery wise so in terms of atmosphere it’s kind of a dud. Honestly it’s strongest asset is the very young duo of Michelle Rodriguez and Taryn Manning, two edgy, cult actresses who don’t usually do the bikini clad slasher scream Queen stuff and as such are a standout here. The male actors are a few forgettable cookie cutter dude bros who make zero impression whatsoever. The production feels cheap, rushed and tactfully awkward, the dogs are good enough actors but, like, how hard is it to slather up some puppets in corn syrup blood, get a PA to dangle a drumstick on a string and have it look like they’re chasing people around an island? Oh and don’t be fooled by Wes Craven’s name above the title, he has nothing to do with this beyond an arbitrary executive producer’s credit. Silly times.
I miss films like The Vault, and it’s refreshing to see there’s still artists out there who care enough to make them. You see, in today’s hyper meta, incredibly self aware age of remakes, redos, reimagining and reboots, everything has to be bigger, better, have cutthroat innovation and just be… more. Neglect often rises in terms of making good old, straight up, no bullshit genre flicks, the kind we fell in love with in the first place, the kind which without, we’d have none of the throwbacks of our era. I suppose you could in fact call this one a throwback because these days the lines of definition are impossibly blurred, but there’s just something so earnest, endearing and straightforward to it’s formula that reads as effortless and totally in it’s groove. Picture this: bank robbers unwittingly siege a branch that turns out to be haunted. It’s obviously more complicated, but come on man.. a haunted bank! The concept alone gets one giddy. During a hectic warehouse fire that conveniently gridlocks a whole city block, a roughneck crew of outlaws take hostages, led by sisters Francesca Eastwood and Taryn Manning, who have bad blood for each other right out of the gate. Outside, a wearily sarcastic Detective (Clifton Collins Jr) tries to keep the peace, clueless of the crime in progress a few doors down. Inside the bank, all hell breaks loose, literally and figuratively, as the perps slowly discover that beneath the building’s modern veneer, deep in the old abandoned vault, something evil has awoken. It’s a neat premise, and both the crime and horror aspects are handled well enough to keep one glued to the screen. Manning is an actress I haven’t seen in a while, but I’ve always enjoyed her scrappy tomboy style, and she’s a hyperactive gong show here. Eastwood has quietly been putting out great work for some time now (check out her brief but affecting cameo in Twin Peaks), she does the tough but sexy turn really nicely. Q’orianka Kilcher has been all across the board since she came onto the scene playing Pocahontas in The New World, showing up in the least expected places, like a cool bank teller role here. James Franco has a solid supporting turn as the bank’s strange assistant manager as well. Much of the film is a hyper kinetic, pulsating thrill ride with stranglehold pacing, eventual pauses coming for the schlocky elements to breathe and the scare tactics to effectively come forth, a great mixture. This one is simplicity itself in terms of genre, with no cheeky pretence or smirking, meta undercurrent, just a good old school horror hybrid, and a damn enjoyable one too.