Dogged; adj: having or showing tenacity...
Sam (Sam Saunders) returns to his home of Farthing island to attend the funeral of a young girl who fell to her death from a dangerous cliff on the island. From there we are slowly introduced to our colorful cast of characters ranging from Sam's father (who for no apparent reason seems annoyed throughout the entire movie) to Rachel (the love interest he left behind) and Rachel's “we're definitely hiding a secret” family. As the story unfolds we are riding along with Sam as he slowly starts to discover the details behind the young girl's death and how the members of the village are involved.
Writer/director Richard Rowntree based Dogged off of an original short-film he created, so I would imagine that he took his original short and expanded everything about it to create a feature length film (I have not seen the original short, but have read very positive feedback about it). This was both a blessing and a curse for Rowntree. Blessing: He was able to bring in some wonderful talent onto this production including a strong cast, and award winning musical composer James Griffiths who created a brilliant, compelling score for the film. Curse: Using the feature length film opportunity, he wrote a script that was most likely much tighter and leaner on paper, but ultimately became drawn out and unengaging when filmed.
Rowntree includes several editing elements which slowed the movie down by not adding to or moving the story along. E.g. There are several flashback scenes of the young girl who died. If used more sparingly, and possibly in a film with a shorter run-time, they might have had more impact on the viewer. Here though they seem to pop up to the point where it almost becomes annoying. Also, throughout the movie a title screen appears to alert the viewer what day of the week it is. But why? It's never discussed in the dialogue nor is it ever reviewed as a plot point.
At just shy of a 120 minute run time, Dogged seems like it's going to be a slow burn, but the burn never heats up. You're constantly waiting for some big moments to happen but they never do. Or when a major scene occurs which informs the viewer of a plot point, it doesn't seem to hold any weight. There's no emphasis, no push from the director to make us take notice of the moment. This includes the finale which was totally unsatisfying and weak in energy. And to be very frank- the town secret, the skeletons in the characters closets- they were painfully obvious from the beginning. There's even a brief shot of a DVD case for the movie The Wicker Man in Sam's bedroom; an obvious nod towards the script's source material.
Even with all of the positive aspects of this movie they're still not enough to save it from the negatives; drawn out run time, unnecessary editing elements, and a script that didn't bring anything new to a story outline that has been visited many times before. Writer/director Richard Rowntree has talent, no doubt about it, and there was a lot to like in this movie. The problem was that the final product wasn't as tight as it could have been, which robbed the viewer of the tense, creepy experience that Dogged was looking to be.
Dogged is a great look at a small village with awell kept and sinister secret. From the beginning of the film there is a feeling that something just isn’t right but none of the townspeople seem to notice it and if they do they refuse to acknowledge it. One of my favorite things about this film is how high the tension is damn near the whole time. This movie creates and maintains suspense from beginning to end.
For about half of the film you’re left wondering just what the hell is really going on in this little town. Just when you think you’re starting to figure things out or that you have an idea of where things are going you’re given another layer of secrecy and lies. In a time when most movies give away the plot early on and any twists are visible from a mile away, it was nice to be left guessing and trying to piece things together. Even when the exposition happens, it is just enough to keep you invested.
I really can’t think of many negative things to say about this one, the acting is pretty good, there’s some beautiful camera work going on, and there were a couple of moments that I found downright disturbing. If you want a movie that makes you think a little bit and you don’t mind never looking at small remote towns the same way again, give this one a shot.