Schlocky, but mildly amusing as long as a little lighthearted misogyny doesn’t bother you, Brit horror-comedy “Doghouse” pits a ravenous pack of mutant “man-hating, feminist cannibals” against some blokes who just wanted a weekend of male bonding. Pic is nowhere near as enjoyable as breakout hit and obvious exemplar “Shaun of the Dead,” but it’s still slightly better than like-minded genre-mate “Lesbian Vampire Killers,” thanks to better one-liners. “Doghouse” bit into a meager domestic B.O. bone of $91,000 on its June 12 opening weekend, but should get more meat from its natural diet of ancillary earnings.
After some brisk, character-sketching introductions, the pic quickly gets down to business by packing off seven disparate buddies to the remote English village of Moodley (credits list West Sussex as a location) where the women are said to outnumber the men four-to-one, odds that will not work well in their favor once the mayhem begins. The lads’ objectives are to get drunk, pick up some femmes (or not, in the case of token gay character Graham, played by Emil Marwa) and help recently separated nice guy Vince (Stephen Graham, “This Is England”) heal his broken heart.
However, it soon becomes clear that some kind of ill-explained airborne virus (“Bird flu?” someone suggests) has turned all the town’s women into flesh-eating “zombirds.” The men are forced to take shelter as the newly zombified womenfolk (all dressed in stereotypical gear like bridal wear, shopkeepers’ aprons and hair curlers) shuffle into the streets and besiege their hiding places.
Punchy script by newcomer Dan Schaffer walks a fine line between sending up men’s fear of women and endorsing it. When inveterate skirt-chaser and all-around dog Neil (Danny Dyer) hesitates over killing a female attacker, Vince urges him on with one of the pic’s best lines: “Today is not the day to stop objectifying women.” Auds may feel less comfortable, however, with cries like “Take that, bitch!” as subsequent zombirds are slaughtered.
Still, “Doghouse” never takes itself too seriously and clearly doesn’t expect anyone else too, either. Pic takes an admirable relish in baiting p.c. sensibilities: In a moment of quiet, the men discuss which of the zombies they’d most like to shag, were circumstances different.
Helmer Jake West (whose previous features include “Evil Aliens” and “Razor Blade Smile”) clearly knows his target aud’s tastes, and salts the pic heavily with references to the gorefest canon. There’s plenty of blood but hardly any scares, and the atmosphere remains playful, even cheerful, especially at the goriest moments. The actors seem to be enjoying themselves, especially Dyer and Graham.
General low-budget look doesn’t do any harm, given the intentionally slapdash, made-up-as-it-went along tone.