Director: Richard Rowntree
Writers: Matthew Davies (screenplay) Christina Rowntree (based on a short story by) and Richard Rowntree.
Starring: Debra Leigh-Taylor, Sam Saunders, Toby Wynne-Davies and Tony Manders.
When Sam returns home to the tidal island where he grew up to attend a funeral, he soon discovers that the seedy underbelly of this small community harbours more than just a few secrets.
Dogged begins by introducing us to Sam (Sam Saunders: Reversible Lines, #Selfie and Absent Friends). Sam is returning from university to the family home on Farthing Island, the tidal island where he grew up. Sam has been summoned home to attend the funeral of Megan Lancaster (Abigail Rylance-Sneddon). Straight away, Sam begins to suspect that something about Megan’s death is being concealed.
There are several reasons for his suspicions. First, and most important, the villagers all look as though they have recently relocated from The League of Gentlemen’s Royston Vasey. They study unfamiliar faces with untrusting curiosity and there’s something in the way they regard Sam that makes it clear there is a ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality on Farthing Island.
Then there’s the not-very-convincing-story about how Megan died: she went to help an injured deer and fell off a cliff. This story is relayed by Farthing Island’s resident priest, Father David J Jones (Toby Wynne-Davies: Blackline and Escape from Cannibal Farm). Admittedly Sam adds to the creepiness in this scene by making googly eyes at his love interest Rachel (Aiysha Jebali: Locked In, Start Again and Call of Babylon), which seems a touch inappropriate during a eulogy.
And, without wishing to slip into the territory of spoilers, there’s a sinister island cult and their nefarious way of dealing with outsiders and recalcitrant locals. Admittedly, about halfway through the film I was echoing Sam’s exclamation when he asked Sparrow (Nadia Lamin: Viewpoint, Meadow Lane and Human), “Excuse me, but what the fuck is going on?” However, by the end of the film, the story had reached a satisfactory resolution.
Dogged works on a level of paranoia and suspicion that has invariably played out so well in many British horror films, such as The Village of the Damned (1960), The Wicker Man (1973), and even the hilarious Pegg/Frost vehicle Hot Fuzz (2007). Perhaps it’s because none of us trust unfamiliar villages and their residents and their insular little local ways.
On another level, it’s possible to see Dogged as a parable for the division in the UK caused by Brexit. There are factions of little islanders, all of them adamant that they know what’s best for the community, with so many of them convinced that outsiders are a diabolical influence, and none of them willing to compromise on a satisfactory resolution.
There are some genuinely creepy scenes within Dogged as main characters explore the eerie local scenery. The overall story is well-played and the effect of the animal-head masks used by the local cultists is wholly disconcerting. The use of colour cleverly conveys an intensity of emotion and the story has some vicious twists and turns. Father David J Jones steals every scene in which he appears with a criminally charismatic performance.
This is definitely one to watch, but not if you’re planning a holiday trip to any quiet, isolated village.