Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Werewolf of the week: Alexander Yellen/Shane Van Dyke's silly/fun time-waster BATTLEDOGS

From yesterday's sublime Scapegoat, we move to today's ridiculous BATTLEDOGS. But, hey, ridiculous can also be fun. Further, it's been about a year since I tried an unknown werewolf movie -- Werewolf: The Beast Among Us -- via Netflix streaming, so when, all of a sudden, up cropped this more recent genre adventure, I jumped at it. The title Battledogs may remind you of Dog Soldiers, the wonderful Neil Marshall movie from 2002 and the best "werewolfer" since 1981. That, by the way, was the banner year for werewolves-on-film, as both The Howling and An American Werewolf in London hit theaters. No surprise: this new one ain't nearly as much frisky, scary fun as Dante's, Landis' or Marshall's movies.

In fact, Battledogs turns out to be a product of the SyFy Channel, and consequently suffers from a case of the "dumbs," as has every one of the channel's made-for movies I've so far encountered. That said, the film, as written by Shane Van Dyke and directed by Alexander Yellen (shown at left), is short, relatively swift, and has enough action, plot and special effects (the CGI werewolves are pretty well imagined and created) plus a decent B-movie cast to keep things jumping. By the point at which you're ready to toss in the towel, the end credits have already started rolling and you're up and clearing the dinner dishes and maybe thinking about bedtime....

The movie begins in an airport in New York (and goes back there for a few more visits later), where a woman (Ariana Richards, above right, with the movie's hero, played by Craig Sheffer) is clearly having some physical problems. She heads for the rest room, closes herself into the handicapped stall and -- oh-oh. Bad. This woman does indeed have a handicap, and within minutes the airport lobby looks like the shot below.

Soon the city is quarantined, and so are the wolves (who, in typical werewolf style, easily change back to human form), as our hero, our pretty Patient Zero, and a helpful doctor (Kate Vernon, below) race against time and the bad guys (no, they are not the werewolves) to prevent total annihilation.

Those bad guys are, as often happens in the movies and perhaps in life itself, military men, with their commander (Dennis Haysbert, below) intent on training these WWs to become American weapons. Yes, all this does not make really good sense, but you don't watch stuff like this for good sense.

On the other hand, it would be nice to have some sense, but as Battledogs battles along, this is mostly lost.  But then, on the third hand, which the special effects in some of these SyFy movies can easily give you, you've got these naughty man and woman wolves doing their thing -- marching out of isolation, through the subway system and into Central Park...

...occasionally being subdued via drugged-up darts or Mr. Sheffer's calming voice and hand (above). We also get one pretty good car chase and a few of the kind of special effects that go with it, as our good little group tries to find a quickie cure for these really unpleasant transitions from human to wolf -- and the carnage that goes along with them.

And then it's over. And you roll your eyes and think, "What did I just watch?" But, hell, you like werewolf movies, and you've certainly seen worse. So you chuckle to yourself as you realize guiltily, "Shit, I could have been reading Proust..."

Battledogs is currently available via Netflix streaming and probably elsewhere (like, whenever they show it again on SyFy, but with those pesky commercials to distract from the art).

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