A guilty pleasure starring two fan-favorite actors and an equally impressive dog performance written and directed by the writer of “Child’s Play”.
A dog that has been genetically modified escapes the laboratory and shacks up with an unwitting couple that soon learns he’s not the cuddly creature he seems to be. Let’s dig into 1993’s “Man’s Best Friend”, directed by John Lafia!
As I See It
Way back before the days of streaming or even high-speed internet, the way I got to see newly released-for-home-viewing movies was on this little illegal box that piped PPV into our TV (as well as some spicier channels that I of course steered clear of…). And that is how I got to watch this movie, over and over.
When a new movie came to pay per view, it just played all day on the cracked feed. I haven’t re-watched it in over 25 years, but I was still able to revisit the feelings I had as a ten-year-old. The super dog’s eye welded shut with a blow torch; the doomed cat running up the tree; the arch-nemesis mailman who becomes the first body buried by the serial killer dog in the crawlspace.
It was way more impactful to my ten-year-old brain, but it made me laugh hearing the echo of that young horror fan.
Chucky (Child’s Play) designer Kevin Yagher is back in action here creating the animatronics when the real Mastiff isn’t being utilized, which makes sense since Writer/Director John Lafia co-wrote the screenplay for Child’s Play with Tom Holland (not Spider-Man) and also directed the sequel.
All the requisite killer dog scenes are in place. Chasing (and eating) a cat. Eating a bird. Revenge on a twisted Junkyard owner. Killing the Mailman. Attacking animal control. It’s all cliche heavy but effective.
There was one scene that I thought might be referencing another horror film with the “Uneeda Biscuit” poster that was in the kitchen. I thought this was a shout-out to “Uneeda Medical Supply” from Return of the Living Dead but apparently, this was a real biscuit made by Nabisco which has since been discontinued.
A fun watch that takes little attention and energy to get through.
Ally Sheedy is best known for her “Brat Pack” days of glory and 80’s must-sees like Short Circuit, WarGames, and of course The Breakfast Club.
Lance Henriksen was in Pumpkinhead — watch it!
Of Gratuitous Nature
The parrot murder, with feathers flying from off-screen, jumps the shark for sure. But the paw flushing the toilet flies a plane over the shark. It sends the film into the realm of ridiculous.
Do I drop Lance Henriksen in this section two weeks in a row?
I honestly feel he was miscast in this role. Someone like Willie Tanner from Alf feels more appropriate, but it’s impossible to hate seeing Henriksen on the screen. He’s powerful no matter the character. I deserve punishment for not choosing the goth/weirdo from The Breakfast Club.
Ripe for a Remake
Somehow, this film completely avoided the political debate on animal testing even while directly showing it. It’s one of those rare occurrences that could have only happened in the nineties.
A contemporary version would be charged with opinion. It’s possible it should be, but a fun no-brain-power outing would be a welcome palette cleanser.
The ending teased a follow-up with the obvious outlier in the collie’s pack of puppies. But even with moderate financial success, no sequel was to follow, not even a direct-to-video follow-up.
Where to Watch
Shout Factory released a new 2k scan Blu-Ray with a commentary track featuring writer/director John Lafia. It is also available to rent to stream on Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, and VUDU.