A young man named Sam is returning from university to his boyhood home, located in a village on a tidal island called Farthing Island. The purpose of his visit is to attend the funeral of a young girl who died in a tragic, albeit mysterious, accident, and to also attend the community’s annual Festival of Thanks.
Of course sometimes going back home isn’t as comforting an experience as one would hope, and in the wake of the recent tragedy this small town is cloaked in a shroud of secrecy. Something clandestine is afoot on Farthing Island, and Sam will learn he isn’t just paranoid as he uncovers a disturbing part of the village’s history.
Richard Rowntree was at the helm for Dogged, which he and Matthew Davies co-scripted with. Rowntree has successfully taken his original short film, which had a duration of merely 4 minutes, and turned into an entertaining feature. I would liken this story to a darker and more disturbing premise for an episode of Midsommer Murders…without DCI Barnaby DS Troy/DS Scott. And for me to say that is a compliment because it just so happens I really enjoy that series…at least the episodes starring John Nettles. While the films story follows the main character Sam, it also utilizes the supporting cast very well to round out the story and develop the dynamic of the village’s residents. They also waste no time in making it apparent that this is a locale that has some dark secrets, and it begs the question of the complicity of the entire village. Mystery and paranoia, twists and turns and a great deal of tension are utilized throughout the film in the construction of a truly creepy tale. What’s even more unsettling is that rather than coming to a clean and tidy conclusion, the end is left like the frayed and ragged end of a cut rope.
As for the performances, it’s difficult for me to single out any one actor or actress for their portrayals. And given that this story is very character driven, it was essential that the cast chemistry be solid, which it absolutely was. Now at times the performances did tread into the melodramatic, but I chose to forgive that since it helps to typify the personalities of the village residents.
The use of locations in Osea Island, Essex and Iver, Buckinghamshire in England provide a beautiful and picturesque backdrop for this film. On the other hand, it’s a setting that helps to create a feeling of remoteness and isolation from the rest of the outside world. Such locales are what make the UK, with it’s charming, rustic, quaint, rural villages, the perfect home for “folk” horror.
The cinematography and editing were solid, although some my question the choice of certain shots and their composition. Of course ignoring the “180 degree rule” or “jumping the axis” could be used as a visual element to put the audience ill at ease or make them feel as if things are off kilter. It would appear that natural lighting was very much in play and was used quite well, thus giving a very natural appearance to the shots. Also the inter-cutting of images during the editing process helped to act as a visual cue that continually hinted at a dark sense of secrecy in the community. The image flashes, were visible long enough to be recognizable and obviously weren’t intended to play on any subliminal level.
James Griffiths’ soundtrack deserves a mention also, as it almost acts as a character in itself. It looms in the background, creating an aural layer full of eerie tension and mystery, while providing perfect emphasis to the visuals it accompanies.
What this film didn’t need to rely on, was a great deal of heavy gore and bloody practical effects. And while some scenes did in fact employ such effects, the film did not suffer in any way from their limited use.
Dogged is a film that builds its disturbing elements on the back of its story, its characters and its isolated location. It also stands as an example of what good can come from taking a gamble on turning an incredibly short story into a full length feature. I personally feel that the loose ends of this film could potentially be tied directly into a follow up feature. AHEM…I hope Rowntree and his creative team are paying attention. Horror doesn’t always have to be about mythical monsters, demons or ghosts or contain massive amounts of blood and gore, and is often more horrifying when based in some realism or something with which we have a sense of familiarity. And in the end, that is the main reason this film works well in my opinion. 7 /10