Directed by: Richard Rowntree
Starring: Sam Saunders, Nadia Lamin,Toby Wynn-Davies, Aiysha Jebali
I have a soft spot for British horror, which is why I was quick to jump at the opportunity to review ‘Dogged’. It does a good job at reeling you in with its striking poster, intriguing synopsis and one-word title. Why is it called ‘Dogged‘? What’s wrong with the island? What does Dogged even mean? Thankfully one of these questions is answered early on as a title card reveals the dictionary definition of “dogged”, which happens to be: ‘having or showing tenacity and grim persistence.’ This makes sense once you’ve watched the whole film, so I won’t spoil it for you.
‘Dogged’ is an independent folk-horror film, following university student Sam (Sam Saunders) as he returns to his hometown on a tidal island to attend a funeral. The film spans over several days, during which, Sam starts to realise that something weird is going on with the island’s residents. So far, really intriguing. But sadly, my interest in the film soon disappeared and I found it incredibly difficult to watch for the wrong reasons.
For starters, it runs at 2 hours, yet feels much longer. It takes a while for the story to get going, as there’s far too much exposition and following Sam as he gets reacquainted with the island’s residents. The film could certainly have benefited from snappier cuts as it would’ve shortened the run-time and kept viewers more engaged with what was happening on screen. I really liked the different characters and the way they were acted, but the dialogue could’ve been so much punchier.
Cinematically, ‘Dogged’ does a good job of portraying the island as a creepy, agoraphobic place. It has gritty visuals throughout and I loved the bleakness of it all; instantly you can tell the island is not a friendly, welcoming place which foreshadows whats to come. This kind of opening is also the classic way to present a horror film, though this was one of the few ‘horror-esque’ things about the film.
Overall, I found myself disappointed by the lack of horror, as it felt more than a mystery or thriller film. I am fully aware that horror is subjective and it’s not a case of simply saying “well this didn’t scare me, so it’s not horror”, but ‘Dogged’ failed to follow a lot of the familiar codes and conventions we’d associate with the genre. As mentioned above, the very slow pacing was an issue and didn’t create any suspense throughout the narrative, which was the main problem for me.
I appreciate what the filmmakers were trying to achieve with ‘Dogged’, but ultimately it fell short and the eventual payoff wasn’t worth the two-hour runtime. There was a lot of potential with the plot and characters, but the end result wasn’t what I was expecting at all. The last half hour was where things started to pick up and I genuinely enjoyed a lot of the scenes here, but when the end credits rolled I mostly felt disappointed with the film’s climax and how they decided to end it. The potential is definitely there and I hope the next film from this team is an improvement from this one.