This Spanish (actually, Galician) deconstructed thriller is stylish, has some great stretches and makes a few interesting points … but is ever so slightly smug about itself in that Michael Haneke sort of way. It offers three overlapping vignettes – set mostly in a city, mostly in the desert and mostly at a gas station – with archetypal characters and situations, but sometimes literally breaks the fourth wall to show that the people are either performing on a theatre stage (albeit, in a clever touch, using film editing techniques to construct a montage that would be impossible in a play) or are acting at the whim of a couple of people who pick up a gaming device and hesitate at length between options on a menu which offers ‘let her go free’ and ‘abuse’ as courses of attraction.
Inside the story, this is reflected by – for instance – a man with a rifle who pots a psychopath who is about to bury a woman in a shallow grave from a distance but then gets up close (wearing one of those mandatory creepy bunny masks) and picks the ‘abuse’ rather than ‘rescue’ option. Other scenes scroll forward and backward, with characters changing appearance (even sex) or direction as if the kid with the controls isn’t even playing a game but just fiddling. Slightly less admirable is the stress on punishing the major female character, who is picked up in a hotel bar by a businessman and goes up to his room for sex, then pursued by several rape/murder-minded random guys.
The actors have a kind of crumpled, grubby reality about them but the characters they play are (deliberately?) thin. The title is a mash-up of the English words dog and hog, two different critters who feature in the film – but also because people are, like, dogs or hogs or brutish … and writer-director Andres Goteira doesn’t want us to forget it. There are very striking moments in the film, with the whole opening-out-to-an-audience gambit sold very cleverly – in the hotel bar flirtation, others in the room watch the couple intently before we see crowds in a darkened auditorium peeping in on them … and the entrance of the bunnymasked marksman means that scenes which have played out in nastily intense close-up (the thug waking his victim by spitting water in her face) are now seen as if through a telescopic sight in screen-filling long shot. Food for thought, but a bit gamey too.