The production of this film has had quite the journey. Starting first as a creepy award-winning short of the same name, Dogged showed a lot promise early on. It was tense, creepy, unnerving, and absolutely stylish in its depiction of a mystery that sat on the foundation of occult horror. I remember the distinctively punchy poster that flooded my social media, the tweets which pointed to each new festival showing, the Facebook posts filled with glowing reviews, and finally, the email which asked if our site would be interested in reviewing the film itself. Of course, there was no way we'd turn down the opportunity, and so it wasn't long after, that our own opinion joined everyone else's in unified praise; you can read that review here.
Then came the Kickstarter. A tireless campaign set to fund the full length version of Rowntree's successful short film, and just like its cinematic pre-cursor, it too saw a massive push by its creator. Across all available channels, to anyone willing to listen, Dogged was once again brought to the attention of the horror community. And we listened. And we shared. And we joined our fellow horror hounds in fevered anticipation. The dedication to the campaign, and the positive buzz surrounding it, there was no denying that the Dogged Kickstarter would be a successful one. The only question that remained was, would the qualities that made the short film such a horrifically endearing experience, translate well to a full length feature film.
To cut to the chase; yes, they would. While pacing has to be taken into account, this is a fantastic expansion or elaboration on the original concept. We have in Dogged, a wonderfully intriguing mystery thriller that - thanks to its increased running time - has room to really stretch its narrative legs. The film starts off rather tepid, but even at its slowest point, you get the feeling that something is...off, and your attention is immediately captured. This air of uncertainty and general feeling of unease is striking and oppressive, and not just because it opens with a funeral. Everyone in this quaint little town exhibits body language and behavior that comes across as suspect, and It doesn't take very long before Sam (Saunders), who's returned after an extended departure, picks up on this. As he digs, pokes, and prods at things better left alone, secrets are revealed, mysteries unraveled, and by the time anyone realizes what's happened, animal-masked occultists are raining down violent retribution in the most gruesome of ways.
And speaking of, it was quite the surprise to see just how convincingly graphic some of the on-screen violence actually was. I'm not really sure why, but the original short film had me convinced this would be a tamer affair than it turned out to be (relying solely on atmosphere and plot). Color me impressed! This effectiveness, achieved in part through tonal contrast, really pushed Dogged over the top for me; I'm actually glad I didn't see it coming. Similarly, the film's narrative twists and turns were a welcome surprise indeed; even when I knew I had it all figured out, there'd be further curve balls thrown my way, allowing the film to stay one step ahead of me. Ultimately, its final pitch, coming at the tail end of the ordeal, tied everything neatly together and provided a grimly satisfying conclusion.
Its abundantly clear that Dogged was a labor of love. From starting concept to its final feature production, this was a - sometimes challenging - expedition, one that assuredly tested the resiliency, fortitude, and perseverance of people who wanted nothing more than to simply make a movie. And sure, it has its issues (mainly those you'd expect from a film with a budget this small), but when so many would-be filmmakers fail to even get their projects passed the conceptual phase, its easy to understand then why Dogged is a success; because not only does it exist, but its pretty damn entertaining too.
"DOGGED" /ˈdôɡəd/ adjective - having or showing tenacity and grim persistance