As the dog days of summer have now begun to descend, it’s time to reflect on another environmental horror film in the vein of when animals attack, at the helm director Burt Brinckerhoff accompanied by writer O’Brian Tomalin’s script. This flick truly is nothing more a silly variant of the classic and highly superior suspense horror-thriller Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963), where multiple bird species worked together to terrorize a town, but herein dozen dogs, work over a town and college campus. The film goes through the motions with exceedingly little suspense, but likely more lays at the hands of the production team for this breed of terror. Dogs, also known as Slaughter, feels quite mauled over by a screenwriter delivering his only horror tale, and in fact only penning one other feature ever, consequently in 1976 called Acapulco Gold. Brinckerhoff stays quite leashed in this flick, relying on his career of television productions most noted for specials, episodes, series and movies, playing very safe, and never ventures in the wilds. His only other horror production clocked in at 66-minutes and a TV-Movie called The Invasion of Carol Enders (1973), sometimes, when given the invitation to proceed in a new direction, it likely best to decline the invite. Note, this film has nothing on nutty or gross as the surprisingly interest nature attacking film from director Jeff Lieberman, Squirm of killer worms also from 1976, aside from an delightful shower scene, otherwise a timeless z-grade cult flick.
This film obviously involves dogs, and attracting the killer instincts in them, though pooches in need of new owners and the film itself sent to the pound, never the less a review of the mayhem begs for a revisiting treat 40-years later. Most the film revolves around laidback shaggy Harlan Thompson (David McCallum), a professor at an unnamed Southwestern University (though some sources believe the location actual is Chula Vista). He’s assisting the local sheriff and ranchers with a series of lethal animal attacks on cattle, and quickly becomes a goofy investigative mystery, resulting in visiting a farm to inspect a dead cow and later a morgue (all without gloves). All of it quite comical, never truly believable it just feels awkward. Baffled by the evidence and requiring tiresome debate Harlan seeks out new hotshot university hire Dr. Mike Fitzgerald (George Wyner, noted from Spaceballs (1987) and Fletch (1985)) for some help talk of pheromones, pack and hive mentality. Meanwhile, the local dog population maintains a gentle and loving obedience during the day but becoming more agitated, as the talk of unorthodox dealings of the nuclear power plant hints to possible environmental causes. Everything speeds up a bit after a school attack starts, with terrorized children and frighten townsfolk, and hint of romantic rekindling between Harlan and his girlfriend Caroline (Sandra McCabe). Now, the good citizens, not wanting to miss out of the vicious of their superior race gather to wipe of the menace at night, with limited lights and powerful pooches. Fret not, these mutts bring the teeth to the gunfight, and actually has viewers in between groans rooting for them to have victory of the ineptness of the director and writer. Harlan and Mike who start as adversaries become a bit buddy to each other and start with dull scientific chatter to fill screen time. In fact, the attacks for the most feel extremely well rehearsed and stage wonderfully boring, with the victims hugging the pooches as they fall to the ground keeping them on top of themselves. While some dogs have the vicious teeth flashing on the screen for the instilling the power such as the Dobermans and German Shepherds, it becomes ridiculous to witness poodles, and even small dogs get themselves some screen time. One must note though two cool scenes, a great shower scene that truly heightens the blood play and the student massacre at the library, where the previous number of students dwarfs the remains, wondering where they all went.
The entire killer animal and environmental horrors constantly overlap, and while many point to The Birds as the best ever, it never halted the 1970s to cash in on the spree of films; some think Jaws (1975) started the trend. Sadly, incorrect, likely pointing to Frogs (1972) from director George McCown, which starred Sam Elliott as it incorporated various animals to join in on the mayhem. Now, this was not the movies spiders, bears, bunnies, rats, bats and more terrorized the daylights out of countless citizens for the harm of the nature, though cult movie Day of the Animals (1977) had much of this concern many point to the higher quality flick Long Weekend (1978). As for killer dog movies the treats keep coming with snarling results The Breed (2006) and The Pack (1977), just to name two out of countless others.
Dogs presents a mix bag of qualities first the television movie saturates the screen, and while the 70s look can’t help but to date the film, the flat performances and a series of one-takes short change the possible room for excitement, accelerated by the pitiful dialogue. The cast much who had made this their one horror film, others continued onward to good solid careers such as Linda Gray, but none of the combine efforts safe the film. The movie does serve violence, preying on fears, generous amount of blood, and the weakest choreograph dog ravaging ever, leading to laughing sequences from the audience, it missing the mark sadly tongue wagging satisfaction.
40-years since released has not improved the movie from becoming the iconic lost cult classic, and a status likely not changing for quite a while, and though fun to venture down the path of least watch horrors, found on YouTube. The film becomes a rarity if ever shown on television, a hint to sequel in the last frame about cats, though thankfully it never purred to life. Ideally, Dogs reserved for horror completists, for those seeking to unsettle the young minds of children and spook someone who already has an unreasoning fear of dogs.