The Breed is an enjoyable, somewhat old-fashioned 70's style nature gone amok flick. It's not too bright, but neither is it completely stupid; what we have here is a simple B-movie with an immediately understandable premise and a small cast of humans that are outnumbered by their animal foes.
In one of the more familiar setups in genre movie history, five college friends arrive at an island cabin in order to cut loose, drink, and have sex. Brothers John (Oliver Hudson) and Matt (Eric Lively) were left the cabin by their late uncle, so they and Matt's girlfriend - and John's ex - Nicki (Michelle Rodriguez), wild child Sara (Taryn Manning), and party boy Noah (Hill Harper) settle in for a long weekend of partying. Things go about how you'd expect, until a puppy shows up. Matt remembers how his uncle had told him of a compound on the island that functioned as a kennel of some sort, but was shut down due to an outbreak of rabies. THIS pup, however, couldn't be one of those dogs, as it's obviously still alive and thus isn't rabid. But then Sara is attacked and bitten by another, grown dog. And while hiking the island, the boys are chased back to the cabin by even more pissed off dogs. Which pretty much kicks the flick into gear; we're thrust into what Joe Bob Briggs would call "Spam in a cabin" as our group is forced to defend themselves, not from zombies or monsters, but highly intelligent and savage - and perhaps genetically enhanced to be so - canines.
The Breed surprised me. It's better than I would have imagined by a long shot. It's not GREAT, but it is fun and gory and has some suspenseful setpieces that are pretty damn effective. Whoever handled the duties of dog wrangler on this thing deserves a medal - you've got scenes of these little bastards chasing our protagonists down at full speed, tearing through walls, crashing through windows, snarling and ripping and tearing flesh, and sometimes simply sitting and staring in that unblinking, focused way of theirs. I mean, I am an animal lover, of dogs and cats and the like (I've got two German Shepherds myself); but I always recognize that the "animal" part is important to remember. On a couple of occasions I've been chased by angry dogs, and bitten twice. So while I love them, I'm not above fearing them, either. And if you're scared of our canine friends, trust me, The Breed will freak your shit right out.
The cast is pretty solid. Michelle Rodriguez is likeable and as usual, sells her athleticism effortlessly. Oliver Hudson and Eric Lively give you the estranged brothers while stepping up occasionally to save the day (or in one somewhat humorous scene with Hudson, fucking things up horribly). While Manning more or less acts like the bad girl who begins to act superfreaky in a different way than the guys had in mind, Harper - pleasant enough presence though he is - is obviously marking time as an eventual victim. They do what they can with the script by Robert Conte and Peter Wortmann, sometimes avoiding the occasional pothole of bad dialogue and sometimes not. The script isn't anywhere near as bad as most direct-to-video horror flicks of the "put kids in a building and pick 'em off one by one" type, though - not perfect, but competent enough to get the job done.
The director, though, intrigues me. Nick Mastrandea started his movie career as a crew member on the George A. Romero flicks of old, such as Martin and Dawn of the Dead as a key grip or assistant camera operator. He continued to work with Romero through Monkey Shines and The Dark Half, before beginning a new association with Wes Craven on New Nightmare as his 1st assistant director, a position he held throughout the Scream trilogy and Cursed (all four of which he was also associate producer of) before making his debut as director here. Actually, The Breed is one of those "Wes Craven Presents" flicks, which had me worried, thinking of the Carnival of Souls remake or Dracula 2000, when it's more of a Wishmaster situation (which is good). But given the opportunity, Mastrandea shows that he was paying attention and picked up a thing or two all these years; his direction is assured and completely without tricks or style for style's sake bullshit. It's good, old-school, let's scare the hell out of you horror direction and very welcome. I hope he gets the chance to make another one.
First Look Entertainment has put this out on DVD without a lot of extras, which isn't really surprising; there's a behind the scenes doc that more or less gets the job done, with cast and crew interviews and some on set footage. A couple trailers for other First Look releases are all we get.
The Breed isn't anything special but it gets in there and throws its punches and gets the job done, and is fully satisfying in that unpretentious, B-movie way that will thrill a horror geek. If you're not expecting the finest genre flick ever made, but rather just an agreeable popcorn muncher, you'll be fine.
(NOTE: If seeing violence perpetrated on animals disturbs you, perhaps this might not be your thing; various dogs are shot with arrows, clubbed, kicked, run over, and otherwise killed throughout the last hour of the movie, as they are the villains of the piece. It's realistic looking, sure, but undoubtedly simple movie magic and none of them were actually hurt or injured. Still, if that sort of thing bothers you, perhaps you should look elsewhere.)