The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at] I'd love to check out what you got. And check out my book, Chad in Accounting, over on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Battledogs (2013)

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I saw this was added recently to Netflix Instant, and I really wanted to give it a look.  It's an Asylum joint with a prodigious cast, and it's about werewolves.  All things I could go for.  The Asylum has had a pretty decent track record lately, and this looked like it had every chance to be another winner.  Let's see what happened.

Battledogs is about a woman who is bitten by a wolf in a forest outside of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and it's given her the werewolf virus, which she proceeds to give to a bunch of people in JFK airport after she lands there and turns.  Not cool.  President Bill Duke calls in the big guns: General Dennis Haysbert and contagious disease specialist Major Craig Sheffer.  Now they have all the werewolves from JFK in quarantine under armed guard while Sheffer races for a cure, the only problem is, Haysbert thinks a cure is a bad idea, and he wants werewolves to fight in the US Army.  I can't imagine that wouldn't end well.

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I didn't care for this.  First off, we get some sweet werewolf action right away, and then it tapers off to a dull howl until we get to the end when it becomes that silly craziness we've come to expect from The Asylum.  In the middle, we're treated to two plot devices that I don't like: first, our hero is looking for case zero, our lady from Yellowknife, and he's talking to her, telling her how he needs to find case zero, and she falls asleep from the drugs before she can tell him, so we're given 15 minutes of our hero trying to figure out what we already know, which was very annoying, especially when it was in lieu of hot werewolf action; and second, Haysbert as our baddie was more like a heel with more power, which is always a bad baddie.  His main evilness was that he was too stupid to figure out what was going on, which isn't fun.  We need a calculating baddie who schemes much more effectively than the average heel.  This isn't the worst we've seen from The Asylum, but I think the bad outweighed the good, so overall it's a pass.

Craig Sheffer as the main hero was pretty great though.  He seemed like such a nice guy, but he had all those lantern-jawed 50s schlock scientist lead type qualities that worked so well.  What might have worked better, is if he and Haysbert had been on a team, as opposed to adversaries.  Like one of Haysbert's soldiers, playing the perfect heel, lets a werewolf out and then they all get out or something.  And then Haybert and Sheffer working together would've made for a fun crew, maybe leading different groups and coming together in the end to finish things off.  Then I think we would've had the movie we wanted.

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As I mentioned above, this movie is full of name actors.  The Yellowknife woman was played by Ariana Richards, who you may remember from Jurassic Park.  She and I are about the same age, so I won't do the "it's crazy how much she's grown up since then", because I have too-- kinda.  The great Ernie Hudson pops in as the TSA head at the airport.  We always love to see him here, and he doesn't disappoint.  Veteran Canadian character actor Kate Vernon plays a doctor working with Sheffer, and like most Canadian character actors, she's solid and helps fill out the movie.  I can't forget Wes Studi, who plays a colonel working under Haysbert.  When you talk about character actors who take care of business, he's another one.

Oh, and I almost forgot, Bill Duke as the President.  I was trying to think if he was the best person cast for the President since we've been doing this at the DTVC.  We have Jerry Springer in the Dolph flick The Defender.  Rutger Hauer, who isn't even American, played him in Scorcher.  I gotta put Bill Duke up there though, if only for his iconic roles in The Predator and Commando.  No, he didn't buy a car and run over the salesman as he drove it through the showroom window, nor did he have his brains splattered on a rock, so that was disappointing, but you can't have everything.  It was an inspired casting decision, and it's too bad the rest of the film didn't live up to that.

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Finally, Buffalo played the part of NYC in this, only with plenty of CGI filling out the rest of the skyline.  I remember one scene when Sheffer drove by the HSBC Center, which is where the Sabres play.  I see they've gone back to their old logo, which I love, it reminds me of their old Adams Division days playing against my Bruins.  I know a lot of the Rust Belt cities have been having a bad time of it since the recession-- or more accurately before the rest of us felt it--, so it's nice to see some movies shot there to help boost the economy.

So this is a pass for me, but it has some elements that I think some people might enjoy, especially those Asylum touches we're used to.  There are also some good inside jokes, like Sheffer finding the remains of a guy's face on the floor, a la Nightbreed, so someone might forgive the bad parts more than I did.  You can check it on Instant, or SyFy might show it from time to time too.

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