Plot: In a large, luxurious home on a sizable plot of land, protected by a tall fence lives a family, ruled over by its patriarch. This father doesn’t allow anyone to leave the grounds of the family estate and his work provides for the economic needs, while the teenage children are home schooled and his wife looks after both the kids and the general household needs. He has kept his children in the dark about the outside world, telling them that dangerous cats live beyond the walls of the estate and if they dare to leave, death awaits. The only person allowed inside is a woman who is brought in to tend to the sexual needs of the son, then escorted back outside once again. In this isolated, delusional world the family lives within, what kind of dark secrets lurk and how will the children cope with their imbalanced conditions?
Entertainment Value: An unsettling, but inventive and interesting look inside a socially isolated family dynamic, Dogtooth is a dark, almost surreal experience, but one that is highly recommended. As you’d expect from Yorgos Lanthimos, the movie is populated by eccentric and unstable characters, all of whom engage in unusual behaviors and play various social games with each other. This could be common things like trying to get a sibling in trouble or more outlandish tactics, such as trading trinkets for incestuous sexual favors. The movie deals in some uncomfortable, even dark topics such as incest, animal abuse, emotional abuse, and all kinds of dysfunction, so easily offend folk will likely be quite take back here. But all of the dysfunction and bursts of shock make sense and are driven by the characters, so while it is disturbing at times, it never feels like shock just for shock value. These aren’t savages, but emotionally disturbed and socially isolated people and seeing otherwise intelligent characters doing this kind of bananas stuff adds so much dimension, I think. To me, it is a rich movie and one that you want to watch again as soon as it ends, so you can see all the little mannerisms and moments you missed last time. If you appreciate dark, inventive cinema that refuses to color inside the lines, Dogtooth should be in your collection.
The movie has some sex scenes, but in truth, the sexual elements in Dogtooth feel mechanical and emotionless, as sex holds no special meaning to these characters and that is felt in those moments. A number of topless scenes, bare asses, and both male and female full frontal nudity can be seen, though in most cases, the actual sex scenes are rather routine. But one scene involved a pre-sex handjob that is visible at times and an erect penis is shown, which is a rarity, even in arthouse cinema. So there’s some mildly graphic sexual content, but the tone is so creepy and sterile, it serves to unsettle more than titillate. This one also has some bloodshed, as people abuse themselves, others, and a random cat with violent outbursts. This can range from simple bites to smashing a VCR into someone’s skull, to slashing with blades and using garden shears to kill and mutilate a stray feline. The violence has impact, even if it isn’t that graphic, such as when one of the girls bashes out her own teeth and couldn’t be happier about it. Again the offbeat, dark tone amplifies how strongly these moments hit.
The dialogue is dark, dysfunctional, and often outlandish and packs more punch than mere shock value, as it is driven by the characters and not just random nonsense to provoke a reaction. The family is all offbeat, imbalanced characters and that opens up all kinds of doors to creepy, uncomfortable, and delusional conversations, as nothing is off limits with this group. I think the writing here is brilliant and while we never learn a lot about these characters beyond what we witness ourselves, their inner worlds reveal much about their motivations and state of mind. As for craziness, as you should be able to guess by now, this one is bonkers. As wild as the characters are, it is plausible that in the right situation under the hand of a person like the father, this kind of social isolation and unraveling could take place. That slight connection to reality only serves to make this even more insane, if you ask me. Dogtooth has a wealth of cringe, discomfort, and outright jaw dropping moments, so yes, it more than earns a high score on the insanity scale.
Overall Insanity: 10/10