Everybody’s favourite shock rocker Alice Cooper went to Spain for this Italian-made werewolf horror flick by Claudio Fragasso, regular Bruno Mattei collaborator (or should that be accomplice?) and director of the infamous Troll 2 (1989). Alice plays rock star Vincent Raven (a takeoff on his real name: Vincent Damon Furnier) whom we first glimpse performing in a video for his latest single “Identity Crisis”, wherein he appears as James Bond, Billy the Kid, Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper (“I’ve got an image out of control - identity crisis, yeah!”). Dissatisfied with this cheesy promo, Vincent takes his entourage including girlfriend/video director Sandra (Victoria Vera), cute actress Angela (Pepita James), makeup girl Marylou (Maria José Sarsa) and preppie dorks Jordan (Emilio Linder) and Frank (Carlos Santurio) back to the American small town of his birth, hoping to shoot a new video inside his creepy ancestral home. However, the town is overrun by packs of murderous wild dogs that maul the local sheriff and his deputy. Vincent accidentally runs over one dog and has to put it out of its misery. Whereupon a crazy, blood-spattered old man (Barta Barri) appears out of nowhere and scares Angela with this loony rant: “He is coming! He will command the hounds and you will all die!” His rambling refers to a so-called Monster Dog that may or may not wear a human guise by day.
The following night Angela suffers a nightmare wherein the old coot chases her around the house warning only Vincent will survive the oncoming terror since he himself is evil. Her friends laugh off this psychic premonition but not Vincent, whose father it transpires suffered from lycanthropy. Blamed for a string of mysterious deaths, he was burned alive by angry townsfolk. During the video shoot, the canine mangled corpse of Vincent’s old caretaker tumbles headfirst onto the luckless Angela who flees into the wild. While Vincent takes off in heroic pursuit, Sandra and the others foolishly let four gun-toting rednecks into the house. Not realising these men have come to shoot a silver bullet into suspected werewolf Vincent…
Monster Dog has a garish comic book tone that befits Alice Cooper’s stage persona. It’s far from a classic but quite fun in parts and certainly droll to watch Alice play an action hero and romantic lead. In its own slapdash way, the film plays amusing games with his shock rock alter-ego, with both “Identity Crisis” and his other song “See Me in the Mirror” underlining the duality of his nature as an ambiguous antihero. Alice begins the film scrubbed clean and makeup free then dons leather and eyeliner when he goes shotgun crazy.
Italian horror approaches a nonsensical plot like a waking nightmare but requires a strong guiding vision a la Dario Argento or even Lucio Fulci otherwise the whole thing falls apart. Fragasso’s later horror movies - After Death (1988) and Beyond Darkness (1990) - grew increasingly stylish but at this stage his anything goes approach yields some distracting idiocies. How does a dog get inside a locked car? Is the forever blood-oozing old man the Monster Dog? If not, why the hell won’t he die? Excessive slow-motion renders one would-be tragic death very camp indeed.
Fragasso bathes virtually the whole movie in dry ice and deep blue lighting which aids the EC comics feel, but is something of a misdirection since much of the action concerns people wandering about the mansion in staid, talky scenes. Things pick up when the evil hounds invade and the Monster Dog (a reasonably effective puppet, half-shrouded in blue light) unleashes all sorts of mayhem. Victoria Vera makes a gutsy heroine while avid horror fan Alice must have had a ball shotgun blasting redneck villains and glowering through his campy close-ups. Aside from his two contributions, music comes courtesy of the unforgettably named Grupo Dichotomy.