A lot of time marketing companies look for little quotes in reviews they can use on the DVD box. How about:
“Ah, “The Breed”! It’s a lot like “The Birds” except with dogs and retarded people.”
“The Breed” comes with cinematic red flags popping out all over it’s DVD box. First, it sat around for about 2 years before it’s DVD release. Also, it’s got the dubious distinction of being of those Wes Craven Productions, so it’s got a pedigree that includes “Wishmaster”, “Mindripper”, and “Dracula 2000”. Finally, the writers have one other notable credit, the John Candy comedy “Who’s Harry Crumb?”. Things aren’t looking so hot for this one, are they?
What’s most exciting was that this is a pack-of-killer-dogs-on-an-island movie. We haven’t had one of those since I can remember, like what was the last one? (1977, actually, “The Pack”, it opened 3 days after “The Car”. Eat my brains and gain my knowledge, folks.)
Killer dog movies rock, and because dogs aren’t an unrealistic threat, just watch the evening news. Killer domestic dogs have made great monsters in movies before from “Cujo” to “Man’s Best Friend” to, um, “Zoltan: Hound of Dracula”. Ok, then, ah yes, and moving onward…
Well, things get off to a pretty good start on “The Breed”. A group of college friends land on an island via seaplane (you’ve got one in the backyard too, right?) to visit Daddy’s Cabin On The Strange Island With the Abandoned Research Facility. We know they’re going to have to deal with pack of wild dogs because the movie opened with one of those handy pre-credit sequences involving a now-assumed dead couple-in-a-yacht. There’s the token 10-15 minutes of greetings, salutations, and hey where’s the corkscrew before we get to the first dog attack.
The first attack comes on brutal and fast and sets the pace for the rest of the film. Here’s where the movie finally moves into gear. I’m so impressed by this one fact: Real dogs, guys, real dogs.The movie uses nothing but real dogs in these scenes. If there was a CGI dog in this whole movie, I missed it, they fooled me.
Once it’s past the “Oh, shit! Dogs!” moments, the second act of “The Breed” is actually scary. A large part of the film is dedicated to the cast being trapped in the cabin while trying to plan their escape off the island. Here’s where we get a few really choice set-pieces. One involving an attempted rooftop escape with a cable attached to a garage is pretty damn good. Also, when the cast is roaming the woods and the dogs start to appear out of every nook: In the brush, behind you, on the tree things are really rather frightening. There’s one particular “Holy crap” moment involving Michelle Rodriguez, a large German Shepard, and a bow-and-arrow that took even me by surprise. I will say no more. Director Nick Mastandrea (who cuts his teeth on films with Romero and Craven) handles these scenes exceptionally well.
But…the films got some problems. Some things don’t work because we’re asked to believe our friends, which include a medical student are complete numbskulls. No amount of decent set-up is ever going to convince me that you’d be afraid of two dogs, a good 20 feet, chasing you in a lake. Look, man. Dogs don’t swim. They “doggie paddle”. It’s laughable moment that a worse film wouldn’t recover from.
Also, once they get this car in the garage started they never shut the sunroof and at one point fail to roll the passenger side window back up. I mean, COME ON! ARGH!!! I know, I know what they were going for. I know that the stupid dog bursting through the open car window moment had to happen but, but….but did these people have to be so damn stupid?
I know what you’re thinking, “They can’t be that brainless, can they, Mike? Like senseless enough to go into the basement alone to change a fuse after they’re trapped by the dogs?” Yea, that dumb.
Also, we have to thank the writers for coming up with another thankless Token Black Character who has nothing better to do in the movie than be a 5th wheel, says things like “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about”, “Won’t you let a brother…”, and be completely fucking annoying. Come on writers, it’s the 21st century. We can do better than this with our black characters in horror movies. I won’t even blame the actor, it’s not his fault the character was written that way.
Finally, everything completely goes to the dogs (I had to!) when the movie attempts to explain why these mutts are the way they are. Something about using the rabies virus and DNA and…look guys, seriously, you had an island full of angry German Shepards. That was scary enough. Way to bungle the entire 3rd act, which could have had some great escape sequence with the “let’s go explore the Abandoned Research Facility and find out why” routine. If I’m ever caught on an island of killer dogs, I don’t care why they’ve just ate my friends neck, just get me the hell home.