DIRECTED by JAX MCMULLIN CONDO - 11min 47s - 2017
Man Dog Man is the first short film written & directed by Jax McMullin Condo under the production label Space Kraken Media. For anyone a hard follower of independent horror, you may recognize him in Dave Jackson's Cat Sick Blues, playing in a couple of small roles. Further, if you happen to catch any of his own work first hand, you'll probably recognize that his filmmaking style bears some resemblance to Jackson's. This isn't a coincidence. Jax not only collaborates on various projects with him, but also happens to be a student of his as well. So it's only natural that some of that crazy will rub off. Make no mistake though, despite the inspiration, Man Dog Man is Condo-crazy, through-and-through.
Now, before I sink my teeth into the meat of the film, there's one part of its production I absolutely have to talk about first; the score. Typically, I usually don’t focus much attention on soundtracks when it comes to short films (the lower budget tends to limit in that regard), but this one stood out to me, so I wanted to acknowledge it. And while all of the set pieces are scored very well, it was the "ManDogMan Piano Track" which stood as my favorite; it fit the tone of the story perfectly, so a round of woofs for Felix Watson and Timothy Ian McMullin. Great work.
Ok, so let’s get into the story...
Mourning dog owner (played by Matthew C. Vaughan) is trying to cope with the loss of his beloved pet. He replaces his furry companion with a man (Julian Adams) wearing nothing more than a dog collar and underoo-bottoms, and the interactions between Vaughan and Adams are awkwardly hypnotic. We all know caring for a new pet involves many frustrations; Condo’s short, puts an emphasis on these issues. We’ve all been there. Walking into a dark kitchen, craving an ice cold drink in the fridge when suddenly, the warmth of a mini piss-ocean sloshes in between your toes like a crashing wave. Ah, the things we put up with for those little fleabags. Of course, everyone has a boiling point, and over time our main character reaches his. This is where the short truly begins to shine. I don’t want to spoil the finale, but you’re in for a darkly comedic dogie treat.
Man Dog Man is a hilariously grim 11 minute romp that hints at some of the lengths Condo is willing to go in order to tell his story, this being an indication of what we'll get from the budding director, there's good reason to get excited for his career. It’s also worth mentioning just how fitting it is that Matthew Vaughn stars in this, because it would work as a great mini feature to watch before viewing Cat Sick Blues (a film which too, tackles the heart-breaking nature of losing a beloved pet). I can’t recommend this film enough for horror fans to check out, just as soon as it’s available to the public (we'll be sure to share any festival dates). Make a mental note though, of Jax McMullin Condo & Space Kraken Media, you'll most assuredly be hearing much more of them in the future.
...I mean, look at the poster art for this madness; it alone speaks volumes. You have to know right off the bat, given the title, given the premise, given the artists involved - this won't be your run-of-the-mill..well, anything really; and thank god for that. Although Man Dog Man isn't the first film we've covered that's attempted to tackle grief in such a way, it still remains its own uniquely grotesque - heart felt - beast. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that Condo's film actually does the job of conveying the sentimentality associated with the loss of a deeply loved pet better, than Dave Jackson's aforementioned Cat Sick Blues. Maybe it's the melancholic score, or perhaps the more human connection which plays into the admittedly bizarre narrative - and I can't give too much away in that regard - but there was a deeper sense of sadness that came through in the dejected look of Man Dog Man's titular characters, this despite how much I laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all.
Yes, you will laugh too, how can you not? Nevermind even getting into the fact that you often find comedy in tragedy anyway, but that Matthew Vaughan and Julian Adams are able to deliver some great physical comedy here, just makes it that much easier to catch a fit of giggles. Vaughan, who's demonstrated in his previously starred-in feature film that no one does violent spasms quite like him, has his intensity taken down a notch and plays this much more subtly. Yet underneath his sometimes blank expression, you sense a building of frustration, a bubbling of pent up emotion - heated by the frustrating tragedy of the situation itself - and threatening to boil over into lethal rage. And on the potential receiving end, is Adams - as the Man Dog - who perfectly captures the little doggy nuances as such, that anyone who's had any level of experience with dogs, would instantly recognize them. Oh, and the not so nuanced parts too, he absolutely nails that as well; dogs don't feel shame about having their kibbles and bits hanging out and about, so why should a "man dog" either? There's a lot of Adams on display, so let's just sum up his performance in total, by calling it brave. I wouldn't have it any other way, and I'm glad Jax McMullin Condo feels the same.
I haven't even touched on the grotesqueness mentioned earlier; though honestly, it's better I keep it that way. We know that Man Dog Man is - to put it very simply - about two distraught dog owners who come to a mutual agreement in how they approach the healing process. Well, let's just say it's not enough, and leave it at that. The finale is a payoff worth experiencing for yourselves, at a festival, with a large crowd of pet owners; and Condo, probably somewhere in the back, grinning from ear-to-ear.