Written and Directed by: Claudio Fragasso
Starring: Alice Cooper, Victoria Vera and Carlos Santurio
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
“Listen, werewolves DO exist!"
Monster Dog is a film where Alice Cooper plays a guy who may or may not be a werewolf who controls the hounds of hell…and somehow, it turns into a dull, uneventful home invasion thriller. If you ever needed more evidence of Claudio Fragasso’s tendency towards incompetence, here you go. I know most will argue that Troll II provides all the evidence you’ll ever need of that fact, but that film is at least wacky enough to be kind of a blast. It feels like it was conceived by people who actually knew exactly what they were doing, whereas Monster Dog feels like it never got developed past its “Alice Cooper meets devil dogs” pitch.
The shock rocker really stretches himself with a role that requires him to play shock rocker Vincent Raven, who is returning to his hometown to shoot a music video. He hasn’t been there for twenty years, and the film gives you no compelling reason for why he’d return--maybe the area gives good tax breaks for film productions, I don’t know. It sure doesn’t seem like the most photogenic place since it’s perpetually shrouded in fog and blackness--in fact, I’m not even sure we ever see the actual landscape because Fragrasso apparently shot this thing through black felt curtains. Luckily, Raven’s family abode is still standing to provide both light and an impressive backdrop for a music video--and a horror movie, and that’s exactly what he and his crew find himself in when the local pack of hellhounds go nuts and start attacking.
The casual nature of all this is pretty funny--everyone just accepts that this town is plagued by killer dogs in the same way a place might be terrorized by bears or coyotes or something. Eventually, there is a reason for it all, and Cooper drops the big secret he’s been sitting on about halfway through--which might have been good information for everyone involved before they decided to stay in a big, creepy mansion. You might expect that mansion to be relentlessly under siege by these dogs, and you would be wrong. Instead, a bunch of absurdly bearded and grizzled locals descend on the place due to Cooper’s family secret and proceed to have a good time tormenting all the gals. One guy is especially proud that he’s going to shoot Cooper with a sliver bullet--“because that’s how you kill a werewolf,” as he proudly exclaims.
Fragasso eventually does remember that there should be killer dogs, and they show up in the form of actual dogs and some puppets. The latter get more screen time, especially when all of the actors are forced to wrestle with them and hold them up to their face to simulate being bitten. By the time all of this happens, there’s an impossible 20 minutes left, but they’re at least they’re gory and feature one pretty bitching werewolf transformation. If you’re looking for Troll II levels of absurdity, you won’t really find much--Monster Dog is serious as a heart attack, right down to Alice Cooper’s perpetually glum, stone face. I think the werewolf puppets show more range than he does at times.
The only time Cooper ever feels natural is during a couple of music video bits, which are probably the best parts of the movies. Unfortunately, one rolls before the opening credits, but it’s so good it plays again before the final credits, only it’s mixed in with footage of the film you just watched. Truth be told, you can pretty much get the gist of the entire movie from this. Amusingly, it's for a song called "Identity Crisis," wherein Cooper boasts about his chameleon like qualities, though he never seems to quite pull off "actor." If anything, Monster Dog perhaps proves that Fragasso might have been better suited to be a music video director, if only because you would only have to put up with him in short bursts. I mean, Monster Dog is kind of vaguely competent from a visual standpoint--the film is generally well framed, and the continual bleakness of the surroundings is actually a little atmospheric. You kind of feel like everyone’s wandered into some weird, purgatorial outpost on the edge of hell. It’s just too bad the film is edited to resemble cinematic molasses and plods along to the point of feeling interminable even at 84 minutes.
And of course it’s very European--it was a Spanish production, so you get the typically laughable dubs, with Cooper’s Midwestern inflection feeling especially out of place. He probably accounted for a good portion of the budget since there are literally only a couple of locations and not much in the way of…well, anything. It’s Alice Cooper vs. killer dogs vs. local rednecks (as imagined by a bunch of Spanish and Italian dudes). And it’s not on DVD--instead, you’ll have to sniff this one out on Netflix instant, where it isn’t in HD, but it looks pretty good. There’s actually an edited, unauthorized DVD release, so avoid that one. My guess is that MGM will eventually release this as part of their Limited Edition series, if at all. Monster Dog would have been pretty well suited for their old Midnite Movies collection--it’s a dumb, cheap creature feature that would make a good drinking game double feature with Rats (which Fragasso ghost directed). Just save Monster Dog for the bottom half of the bill, where your brain will be sufficiently drowned in alcohol and will allow you to somehow enjoy this. Rent it!
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