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Dogged (2017)

Dogged started life as an award winning short film in 2015 that was shot in a “single, tortuous, 18 hour day for a budget of just £200.” The film went on to win critical acclaim – finishing fifth overall on the BBC Three show “The Fear” – a televised competition designed to unearth the most promising new horror directors, as judged by Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project). Official selections followed for a number of festivals over the following 12 months, culminating in winning the award for “Best Micro Short” at the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival in November 2016.

This short film, through crowdfunding then became a full length feature that has left director Richard Rowntree firmly established on the British horror scene. Rowntree is no stranger to the film industry, having worked on some major blockbuster movies including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and hit television shows like Doctor Who, Peaky Blinders, and the upcoming Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams but the question remained as to how would the Slough born director handle his first full length movie?

The film opens in a slow Hammer Horror like fashion with slow introductory scenes that at first make you feel that this may be a long watch but these scenes are broken up by stark flashing images that become meaningful later. Thus, this initial slow pace serves as an extreme juxtaposition of what will happen later.

In this introduction we meet Sam (played by Sam Saunders) who is returning home to the tidal island where he grew up to attend a funeral. Think Woman in Black and you will get an idea of the tidal island, only it seems even weirder set in a modern setting. Sam is not at ease with returning home with little seeming to change from when he left. Soon though a chain of events unlock a Stepfordian world that same never knew existed; a world he now needs to survive in.

Dogged was fully in danger of falling into a cliché catacomb but instead trod carefully around the edges and whilst it does wear its influences on its sleeve (The Wicker Man) it delivers something that becomes more shocking as its pace increases. This is helped greatly by the many clever layers to the story (check out the Bible reading at the funeral) that on second viewing make you appreciate the movie that little bit more.

Whilst the acting cast delivered in general throughout the movie the big star for me was the movie’s soundtrack which managed to punctuate every key moment and mood and help create an ambience that kept you locked into the movie as a viewer. It manages to haunt in the background of even the most chatty scenes in a way that would make David Lynch proud.

Verdict: 8/10. What started of as a short film has grown into a movie that takes risks and delivers. Especially impressive is the fact that this is Rowntree’s first full length feature. Where others often spin off on tangents he has stayed true to the vision of the story he originally set out in the short film. As I watch it now I wonder what it would be like if Rowntree could flesh out this weird world he has created even more perhaps as a television series?

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