29th Nov2021

‘Like Dogs’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Annabel Barrett, Ignacyo Matynia, Ryan Q. Tran, Shay Denison, Katy Dore, Nicole Bleacher, Clay Coleman-Davis, Chris Calabrese, Dustin Miller | Written and Directed by Randy Van Dyke

Opening with the on-street kidnap of Lisa (Annabel Barrett), Like Dogs set’s its stall out early. We’re in degradation and humiliation territory as Lisa awakens in a “dog pound”, chained up and fed tin meat that resembles dog food. She’s out through what is a very Pavlovian “training regime” where she’s awoken by wardens at set times to eat – however her food is tainted so that it also keeps her docile. After a while she gets a room mate in her “pound”, Adam (Ignacyo Matynia) and the two bond over their plight.

So far so familiar. But this behavioural experiment is tainted. Figuring out how to escape Adam knocks out one of the wardens of the facility and steals their keys, freeing himself and Lisa, allowing them to make his escape… But that doesn’t happen. Why? Well in the FIRST of Like Dogs many, many plot twists and swerves, it turns out Lisa is actually in on the experiment!

Yes, whilst Like Dogs opens in what looks to be familiar territory, writer and director Randy Van Dyke has VERY different plans about what his film is, subverting expectation at every turn – throwing curveballs in his script that effect everything you know about the cast of characters, the situation everyone is in, the reasoning behind the experiment and, ultimately, Lisa motivations.

To say any more would seriously detract from what is arguably one of the years better horror films. This is clever, insightful and terrifying all at the same time. With a cast of performers who throw themselves into their roles in such a manner that line line between performance and reality truly is blurred – even moreso when it comes to Annabel Barrett as Lisa. How she kept track of every aspect of Lisa’s motivations, the various plot threads that all unravel slowly through the film before succinctly come together at the end… Hell, how she even played those opening scenes without giving away the salient point that Lisa was a willing participant, one of the behaviouralists conducting the experiment and NOT a prisoner; how Barrett did all that AND remained compelling and convincing is astounding.

There are shades of other films at work in Like Dogs, as if writer and director Randy Van Dyke has truly studied films with similar themes of human experimentation, medical sadism, kidnap and imprisonment; and he’s taken all the best aspects of those to craft an superb film of his own. One that knows the audience of horror fans will have seen similar movies before and knew what is to come… and then totally demolishes their expectations! There aren’t enough adjectives to praise what Van Dyke has created in Like Dogs, honestly.

***** 5/5

Like Dogs is available on digital now from Terror Films.

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