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Psychological Horror Film

Where The Dogs Divide Her

To say this film is surreal would be something of an understatement. It's a kind of ghostly mystery overflowing with nightmare imagery. It is very stylish but is it style over substance?

The film opens with Everard Fletcher sitting in a bathroom. He has apparently just committed some kind of murder and now seems to be caught in an unpleasant loop of strange dream sequences. A vague narrative gradually unfolds itself and it has something to do with the ghostly figure of his mother.

There's a scene about ten minutes into the film where Everard is licking a burned dolly hanging inside a plastic packet that confirmed this wasn't going to be an enjoyable viewing. The lack of dialogue, the constant droning soundtrack of screaming babies and flies buzzing, and the disjointed imagery offering little in the way of explanation proved frustrating. I tried to maintain an open mind, the direction is good at times, the visual style is arresting and the music is well chosen but ultimately this left me feeling cold, bored and a little irritated.

Where the Dogs Divide Her is a micro-budget, debut feature from director Martin Rutley, written by his brother Andrew. The big influence he mentions is Lynch and it is pretty clear he's a big fan. The trouble is that heavy sense of foreboding, or even sheer terror that Lynch manages to conjure from what is, on the surface, an innocuous scene is completely lacking here. It does nail the extremely unpleasant imagery but there isn't enough character or narrative to hook you in and because the nightmare sequences are so relentless there is no real impact, you become inured to it.

As the film wears on the narrative emerges a little more with the appearance of Everard's father. He tries to warn his son off but to no avail. Everard seems to be intent on pursuing some kind of evil family secret which is tantalisingly out of reach.

There might be an interesting story in here somewhere but the director definitely seems to be more concerned with the visual aesthetic. The scenes have a meticulous quality to them and there is obviously a skilled hand at work when it comes to technique but we get bombarded with various visual styles and everything else seems to be an afterthought.

It's safe to say that most horror fans would not enjoy this. It is too slow and the film makers are trying too hard. You can get away with focusing this heavily on visual style in a 15 minute short but 95 minutes is an ordeal.

The cast seem to fulfil their roles but there isn't enough dialogue and it's tough to believe John as Everard's father. The bulk of the action rests on Jon Stoley's shoulders and he unleashes plenty of moody looks but his character isn't a sympathetic one so you won't find yourself naturally rooting for him.

Going back to the original question the answer is yes, this is style over substance. The truth is my main emotion when the final credits rolled was relief. That's never a good sign. It is due to be released some time in early 2011.

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