Plot: Lori Tanner (Ally Sheedy) is a journalist, one always on the lookout for the story that could give her a break in the business. She thinks a real scoop could be uncovered at a genetics laboratory, a place where cutting edge, mysterious research takes place. So she breaks into the lab and stumbles upon animals being used for experiments, a discovery she believes will be the story she has been looking to break. One animal at the lab is a massive canine, a dog obviously intended to serve as a guard dog, if it wasn’t cooped up at the lab. Tanner takes the dog with her, as she wants to free it from the lab’s experiments, but little does she know what kind of work has been done with this dog, known as Max. Max has been enhanced by genetic engineering, so that his hearing, vision, strength, and intelligence are at supreme levels. But is Max just a special pooch in need of love or does this canine harbor some dark secrets?
Entertainment Value: As a fan of the “when animals attack” genre and of movie legend Lance Henriksen, Man’s Best Friend is one of those magical experiences where two great tastes are even better together. The narrative follows a murderous canine, but feels more like a slasher movie than the usual animals gone wild picture, with Max as kind of an unstoppable, terminator style maniac on the hunt. The movie does put in some effort to make Max somewhat less villainous than the usual horror killers however, as most of his victims are unlikable or flat out terrible people. A postal worker that is liberal with the mace, a sadistic mechanic, and of course a rude paperboy are all on the list of victims, as well as others. This is a horror movie to the core, but Man’s Best Friend also has a sense of humor, which comes through in dark, sometimes absurd moments. Add in a terrific cast and you’re in business, as Lance Henriksen, Ally Sheedy, and William Sanderson are on deck with solid performances. I mean, Lance Henriksen in a showdown with a brutal, violent dog is almost a lock for a fun cinematic ride. I had a lot of fun with this one and the movie holds great replay value, so for fans of animal attack cinema, horror movies, or Henriksen, the movie is recommended.
No nakedness. There is a sex scene of sorts, but Max more or less raping another dog is not the traditional kind of romantic encounter. Otherwise, the closest we get is a pillow covering up some tender bits in a humorous moment. The movie has a host of dog attack sequences and while most of the violence isn’t shown, there is still some bloodshed and a few wild moments. The absolute highlight is a gonzo scene where Max chases down a cat and just devours the poor kitty, all shown in vivid detail via some cheesy, but still pretty jaw dropping special effects. The mechanic scene is a little more kinetic than most, with some dog vs. man hijinks, but even in that sequence, most of the actual violence occurs off screen. So you’ll see a little crimson splash around at times, but the red stuff doesn’t flow like wine. The dialogue is serviceable, but outside of a few cornball lines, the writing never gets too over the top. But Lance Henriksen is still fun to watch as always, so there’s that. A genetic monster of a canine is reason enough to earn a little insanity score, but we also have the epic cat eating scene and the bursts of absurd humor, so there’s a little craziness present in this one.
Overall Insanity: 3/10
The Disc: Man’s Best Friend is given a new 2k scan in this Blu-ray release from Scream Factory, a treatment that offers a noticeable uptick over the previous versions. The print looks clean and while detail isn’t eye popping, the sharpness is evident and even minor textures are visible here. I found colors to be natural and contrast is smooth, so no concerns on those fronts. I have to think this is the best Man’s Best Friend is likely to look on home video, so fans will be more than satisfied. The extras include writer/director John Lafia’s audio commentary track, two television spots, and the film’s trailer.
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