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Dogtooth (2010)

February 4, 2011

VERDICT:
6/10 House Arrests

Strange as they come.

Dogtooth is about a Greek “family man” and his wife who’ve created a commune/prison/bio-dome of sorts out of their humble home in order to raise their three grown children in seclusion from the outside world. So the kids spend their days engaging in various games and endurance contests, counting the stickers they’ve won, and that’s cool by them because that’s all they know. But then Pops starts paying an outsider to sex up his only son, she starts causing trouble, accidentally exposes the eldest daughter to some of the outside world’s simple pleasures, and that’s when things start to go downhill.

In a nutshell, it’s like a bizarro dark dramedy about The Fritzl family, only without all that paternal rape stuff. No idea what would compel someone to write a script about something like that, sure wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when I saw the dad’s creepy-ass mugshot, but for something so insanely weird, it’s actually pretty watchable.

Geez, I really don’t know where to start with this one. As tragic and horrific as the whole Fritzl story is, there is an odd fascination that comes with it all. Like, how does someone get to the point where they can manufacture a life like that for their freakin’ kids and how would you deal with it as the said kids even if it was “normal” to them for all intents and purposes. And that’s what this is: a bubble where right, wrong and morality have been tossed to the wind in order to create a subjectively pleasant existence fueled by competition, family “values” and sibling incest.

Good times!

But as much as this movie left one big “WTF” expression on my face from beginning to end, it is kinda funny, too. Stuff like the parents giving them the wrong definitions for words (eg: a “zombie” is a tiny yellow flower, a “pussy” is a bright light, yada, yada, yada) so that when one of them asks for the “telephone” at the dinner table she gets the salt shaker passed her way. Even better is when they listen to an LP of their “grandfather” singing “Fly Me to the Moon” while their dad translates the lyrics into a ditty about how much Ol’ Blue Eyes loves his home and obeying his parents.

I’m sure I’m doing a shit job at selling this out of context and it’s not like this is gut-bustin’ material to begin with, but the way the characters are so dead serious/ambivalent about the otherwise ordinary aspects of their lives makes it come off that much crazier from a third-party perspective. That’s the formula for every laugh here, and for some reason it often works.

It’s also one of those movies that doesn’t come with an MPAA rating but probably would have landed an NC-17 with ease had it been made stateside. With the exception of one scene that plays into the charming screengrab below, it’s not so much a tough movie to watch as it is taboo by all our normal, civilized standards. Let’s just say that this family is about as shy with their bodies as Adam and Eve were before that whole forbidden fruit incident went down, and if that eldest son needs satisfyin’, he’s gonna get it from someone, family or otherwise. If The Bradys got busy with The Mansons, this crew may very well be the next two generations of spawn to pop out. Those dirty hippies from The Village ain’t got shit on these guys.

I wouldn’t blame you for giving up by now, but there’s actually more to this freakshow than everything I’ve mentioned thus far. To his credit, writer/director Giorgos (or Yorgos) Lanthimos does have a solid script at his disposal and does do a good job of making these Looney Tunes surprisingly easy to connect with. He keeps the tone consistent and the tone is just right since this would have been royally depressing without the humor to balance things out. And while there ain’t much about these folks that I can empathize with, they do actually feel like a family which their own unique wants and desires and a dynamic that ebbs and flows at a gorgeous pace.

Good acting from everyone, too. Rather than riddle off everyone’s unpronounceable Greek name, I’ll just address them as a whole since they all get really into their roles. Very deadpan, very enthusiastic, and very convincing considering the nutso nature of the being. Might be the biggest aspect that ties all the madness together into one neat little whole.

So, yeah, Dogtooth is fuckin’ bonkers. I’m personally amazed that I’ve managed to squeeze this much to say out of a movie that could have easily been summed up with a verdict of  What the hell was that?/10. It’s not a bad movie by any means and it’s actually really strong in some regards, but as much as I’d like to give this a 7, it does eventually cross that fine line where things get too weird and start to overshadow the stuff that kept me invested. Definitely an original take on the whole innocent lost riff and it sure makes those moms from Toddlers and Tiaras look like dream parents, just wish I had a better grasp on the deeper meaning behind it all. Tough movie to recommend, but sure will make for some interesting conversation and I can totally see the right audience loving this thing to pieces.

But I do dig that poster. No idea what it means, but the simpler and cryptic-er the better is what I always say.

Pretty sure I say that, like, 30 times a day.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2011 12:12 am

    Only a 6? Boo.

    • February 4, 2011 9:15 am

      Haha. Sorry, man. Ended up being too much for me. What’d you think of it?

      • February 4, 2011 3:20 pm

        Hah no worries. I’da given it an 8. Keep it up, yo.

      • February 5, 2011 11:20 pm

        Will do, homey.

  2. February 4, 2011 10:37 am

    Like I said in my last comment, it’s slightly of-putting at first but afterwards, thinking about it overall, it’s pretty well crafted, right down to the (as you put it) dead pan acting. The father’s nearly mad plot was so well executed to the point the kids almost start to pass for normal until the wait for an airplane to fall from the sky or like you said, pass the phone (salt). Also, in a bizarre way, you could cite that the daughter had a satisfying character arc by the end.

    Agreed, not easy to recommend and 5 or 6 is what I’d rate it. Not for everyone but apparently it’s still good enough to be up for a Foreign best picture award…wtf? Though the very thought of it makes me wonder if the academy saw the film or only the trailer prior to casting their vote. Me thinks trailer:)

    • February 4, 2011 10:54 am

      Your dead-on about the daughter’s character arc, that was really well done, and it is one of those movies that you keep thinking about after seeing it. But idk, starting to seem like a good deal of folks really liked this and its 90-something % rating on Rotten Tomatoes only cements that. Definitely a unique movie, but a little too weird for my blood after a while. Breaking point for me was the wife and kids barking at the gate at the end while the dad searched for the daughter. Fucking steerange.

  3. February 4, 2011 11:01 am

    When you mentioned the Fritzl case it sent shivers down my spine. That was the creepiest news story of 2008.

    I haven’t seen Dogtooth yet, but if it comes across as anything like a docudrama of the Friztls, I might have to pass.

    • February 5, 2011 11:19 pm

      That was without a doubt the most unsettling news story of 2008. This is definitely not on the same level, but the inspiration is there. Still worth checking out though. I’m getting the impression that my lower rating seems to be in the minority here.

  4. February 4, 2011 6:35 pm

    This seems like Irreversible in that I don’t want to see, but I’ll probably have to.

  5. February 4, 2011 8:55 pm

    Well done.

    It never occured to me the violent bits could be called ‘extreme’…the subject matter, yes, and the kind of quiet horror permeating throught the thing, but as for the more literally disturbing parts, I’ve seen worse in a Saw sequel. Maybe because this is realistic. Ish.

    • February 5, 2011 11:18 pm

      Thanks! “Extreme” never really came to mind while watching this, just more along the lines of “Can this possibly can any weirder?” Definitely dig your sentiment of the “quiet horror permeating throughout”, but as a whole, it was just too bonkers. Not a snuff film like Saw XVII in the least, but definitely more horribly realistic. Ish.

      What a weird family.

  6. February 5, 2011 4:06 pm

    I started watching this yesterday but stopped after five minutes since I had a high fever and thought I was completely tripping out. Tomorrow’s another day.

    • February 5, 2011 11:14 pm

      hahaha. worth giving a look on a full bill of health. let me know what you think after.

    • February 8, 2011 4:32 pm

      Can’t say I would consider watching this sick, or tripping for that matter.

      • February 8, 2011 5:11 pm

        Tripping might actually make sense for this one.

  7. February 13, 2011 1:59 am

    I loved this movie. It was so inventive in little ways to the point where it became almost unsettling.

    It made me think about how life would have been entirely different if scientists were allowed to use humans as subjects for extreme experimental conditions.

    • February 17, 2011 2:50 pm

      Definitely inventive, definitely unsettling, will give you that. Not that I didn’t like the movie or anything, just got to be a little much for my taste after a while.

      And all I could think about was the Fritzl family, so that was pleasant.

  8. February 15, 2011 12:49 am

    I didn’t care for this movie at all. I think it’s simply absurdity for the sake of absurdity and doesn’t to anything interesting or meaningful with a setup that could become an interesting social commentary.

    I also didn’t find it all that amusing. Sure, there were a couple of funny lines, but otherwise, I didn’t think it was an entertaining watch.

    • February 17, 2011 2:52 pm

      Hahaha. Was waiting for someone to come out and say something like that. Don’t blame ya’ for it, this is definitely one of those movies that some will find brilliant and others just won’t and they’ll both have damn good reasons for it.

      Definitely some odd shit.

  9. February 20, 2011 11:10 am

    You wrote a nice review. I like it.

  10. Paragraph Film Reviews permalink
    September 28, 2015 9:19 am

    You still here bro?

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