Wednesday, September 14, 2005

It Came from Netflix! Rottweiler

Rottweiler was a lot better than I had anticipated (although that's hardly a bold statement), especially given what seemed to be a premise of “You know how Wolverine has a metal skeleton? Let’s put that in a big killer dog!” Instead, it proved a pleasing throwback to the genre films of the ‘70s, when it was thought you actually had to attach an actual, you know, ‘movie’ to your horror movie.

I mean, the film isn’t Citizen Kane or anything, but stuff is actually character motivated, including the violence and even the obligatory sex scene. I especially liked the fact that not only isn’t the film’s protagonist much of a hero, but that the movie seems to know this. First, it’s entirely his stupidity that gets him in trouble in the first place. Then he continues to survive through basically a combination of (mostly) luck and (much more rarely) occasional cleverness. Hell, even the dog acts like a dog, rather than a movie character.

Set in the near future, in which Spain seems to have become a police state, Americano pretty boy Dante and his girlfriend Ula are part of a group trying to illegally enter the country. However, Dante and Ula are going so merely as a game of ‘Infiltration,’ apparently a rich kid’s extreme sport that involves getting yourselves into dangerous situations. That’s a nifty, and entirely believable, concept, especially since Dante has that rich kid attitude that nothing really bad will be allowed to happen to him. Sadly, he proves grossly mistaken.

The film is a bit arty—nearly, but not quite, a bit too much so—and much of this backstory is revealed along the way in flashback. In the present, Dante has spent the last year in prison and early on manages to escape, whereupon he is hunted by a sadistic guard and his steel-toothed, apparently cyborg Rottwieler. (As a gag, the guard’s name is Borg, but luckily they don’t make a big deal of it.) Dante is determined to find Ula, and just barely manages to stay a step ahead of the murderous pooch, although at the cost of several innocent lives that he never acknowledges any responsibility for.

Again, Dante is no action hero. At one point he and a woman are besieged in a house by the dog. The woman has a shotgun, and the smart play would be to remain barricaded inside, which would give her a clear shot at the dog should it attempt to batter its way in. Instead, in a classic Movie Lead moment, Dante reaches for the gun, saying “Trust me.” By this he means, ‘Trust me, even though I’m an escaped convict, I won’t hurt you.’ He means it, too. Sadly, the reason the woman shouldn’t have trusted him is that he’s incompetent. Within ten seconds he’s witlessly lost the gun and their best chance of survival.

The weirdest part of the film is the implication of supernatural influences, which are usually represented by a black scorpion. These touches come and go, but don't really seem to jibe with the rest of the movie.

Again, I don’t want to oversell the thing. My experience was no doubt enhanced by the fact that I underestimated the film, and thus anyone reading this shouldn’t go in looking for a masterpiece. Still, compared to the often incredibly lame DTV horror stuff the video market is flooded with today, this is a sadly rare solid entry.

It was especially nice seeing Jacinto Molina/Paul Naschy playing the head villain, and he gives a pretty decent performance. The film is decently directed by genre vet Brian Yuzna, who produced the marvelous Lovecraft film Dagon.

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