The Breed (film, 2006)

This was the first film I’d reviewed for a while. I think I got  a bit over-excited about it. It’s about scary dogs! On the other hand, there is definitely something I’d call ‘cinema bias’. Going to see a film at the flicks on the big screen, with a massive sound system, certainly ups one’s enjoyment levels. Obvious, I know, but attending a preview, with lots of excited people, free beer and a really nice environment only furthers this intensification. More stars are added as a result. From Death Ray 1.

2006/87 minutes/UK 15/ US R/

Director: Nick Mastandrea

Starring: Michell Rodriguez, Taryn Manning, Oliver Hudson, Eric Lively, Hill Harper

The premise of the The Breed seems a real dog ­– schlocky, low budget fare. Five friends go off to stay in an island cabin, only to find that escaped super-canines from an abandoned research centre now rule the place. It screams CHEAP, with baddies Barbara Woodhouse would have sorted in seconds.

With a story like that, you might well expect all kinds of horror-dross hokum, especially seeing as Wes Craven is executive producer. Craven’s output veers unpredictably between sheer genius and utter rubbish, and massacre at mutt island certainly sounds like the former. But actually, this is a very well crafted little horror flick, with nary a poorly-stuffed pooch or teen scream-queen in sight. Surprisingly, it is the premise, so dumb-sounding on the surface, that makes it work so well.

Animals are often used by production teams because they are cheaper than special effects. Witness the number of werewolf films with alsations standing in for their supernatural lupine cousins; or the pathetic hairy pig with bits stuck on it masquerading as a Klingon Targ in Star Trek. Here though, dogs were chosen because they are more real than special effects – a refreshing change in these days of CGI overload. And it works; the dogs present a far more immediate threat than any CGI’d extra-dimensional gribbly. From the audience’s point of view, a dog barking unexpectedly is enough to make anyone start, especially when pumped out of a Dolby Surround system. This is so effective we can forgive the film its over-reliance on jump-scares.

The Breed also eschews most of horror’s bollocksy clichés. It has well-rounded characters that behave logically, it avoids needless exposition (the bane of many a horror flick) and the action is set primarily in daylight. The story is likewise believable – the dogs have only been slightly modified for military work, no Resident Evil style T-Virus nonsense in sight – and remains credible throughout.

The only place where the film falls down is with Hill Harper’s character, Noah. Harper’s black, so guess who buys it first… Of course, in films where the lead’s of African descent the character tends to survive, but it’d be nice to see a horror where a black guy in a supporting role makes it all the way through to the end. (Witness Samuel L Jackson’s fate in Deep Blue Sea, it happens a lot).

So, a refreshing angle, great cast and effective baddies. It’s probably not worth a cinema trip, but is a definite DVD winner. I guess every dog has its day after all.

Did you know…?

The survivors of the film leave the island infected with an unknown disease. In the film this appears to give them some sort of connection with the dogs, but it is never really explored. Sequel set-up or evidence of the editor’s scissors? Time will tell.


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