In the year 2018, escaped convict Dante (William Miller) races across a desolate, dystopian Spain in search of his lost love, Ula (Irene Montalà), pursued by a brutal guard (Luis Homar) and a seemingly unstoppable half-robot Rottweiler armed with steel jaws and a hi-tech tracking system. Eventually a cornered Dante manages to turn the tables on his pursuers and continues his quest for Ula, whom he believes to be somewhere in the city of Puerto Angel. However, the relentless robo-mutt revives and sets out for revenge, leaving a trail of bloody corpses in its path.
For the past decade producer-director Brian Yuzna, the man behind Re-Animator (1985) and subversive cult classic Society (1989), has produced a slew of idiosyncratic horror films via his Spanish-based production company, Fantastic Factory. Some in collaboration with old partners in crime such as Stuart Gordon with Dagon (2001), others by notable Spanish genre auteurs including Darkness (2002) by Jaume Balagueró and Romasanta (2004) by Paco Blaza, as well as Yuzna’s own increasingly offbeat efforts, e.g. Beyond Re-Animator (2003) and Faust (2001). Rottweiler finds Yuzna working with a bonafide icon of Spanish horror in Paul Naschy a.k.a. Jacinto Molina. The erstwhile Latin lycanthrope essays a key role as the sinister warden behind Dante’s incarceration and, it seems, Ula’s disappearance.
Also playing an important role is a future notable figure in Spanish genre cinema, none other than young Ivana Baquero, star of Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). She plays Esperanza, the little farm girl who discovers Dante, buck naked and bleeding after his last encounter with the rampaging robo-mutt. In a curious and frankly unconvincing twist, Esperanza’s mother (Paulina Gálvez) promptly ravishes the studly convict as payment for granting him shelter. Whereupon the lusty peasant woman is mauled to death by the rottweiler before her daughter’s horrified eyes as per that tiresome tradition with women who bare their breasts in a horror movie. Baquero’s star quality is very much apparent in her exceptional performance as a shell-shocked, traumatised child forced on the run with a complete stranger, though she exits the story somewhat abruptly.
Unlike Man’s Best Friend (1993), Rottweiler does not put a self-consciously campy science fiction twist on the killer canine tradition established by Cujo (1983) and The Pack (1977). Adapting his own novel, “El Perro”, screenwriter Alberto Vazquez Figueroa does not rest on the killer dog concept as his only idea. Instead he injects a metaphysical element replete with allusions to Dante’s Inferno (the most obvious being the hero’s name) and the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Throughout Dante’s ordeal it remains an open question whether he really is on the run from a robot dog or his own guilty conscience? Yuzna’s preoccupation with surreal sexual practices forms a surprisingly fitting bridge fusing the gloomy gothic romanticism of Poe with a dystopian sci-fi ambience more reminiscent of Café Flesh (1982) than Blade Runner (1982).
Rottweiler remains more ambitious than most of what passes for horror these days but proves ultimately more interesting in concept than execution. Yuzna’s experience handling low-to-mid budget genre fare lends the film considerable style yet while by turns good looking and moderately suspenseful the story meanders a great deal as he stresses atmosphere over narrative cohesion. Flashbacks and strained attempts at surrealism muddle an already murky plot laden with ill-defined concepts. On the other hand it is worth watching for the bizarre scene with the comedy chicken.
American director, writer and producer specialising in low-budget, darkly funny horror. Produced the classic Re-Animator in 1985, starting a long relationship with director Stuart Gordon for whom he also produced From Beyond and Dolls. Yuzna's directing debut was the bizarre, acclaimed horror/satire Society, which he followed in 1990 with Bride of Re-Animator. Return of the Living Dead III, The Dentist and Necronomicon all mixed splatter and humour in over-the-top style, and in 2000 Yuzna relocated to Barcelona to set up his own production company, Fantastic Factory, whose output includes the Yuzna-directed Faust and Beyond Re-Animator, the gothic werewolf yarn Romasanta and Stuart Gordon's Dagon.