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  Watchers A Dog And His Boy
Year: 1988
Director: Jon Hess
Stars: Corey Haim, Michael Ironside, Barbara Williams, Duncan Fraser, Colleen Winton, Blu Mankuma, Dale Wilson, Lala Sloatman, Tong Lung, Don S. Davis, Jason Priestly, William Samples, Suzanne Ristic, Frank C. Turner, Matt Hill, Andrew Morkey
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: There is a huge explosion at this top secret lab, big enough to attract the attention of the local press, although the government assures the public that there is no cause for alarm. However, they are not being entirely truthful about that as two specimens have escaped, one a hyper-intelligent Golden Retriever designed to infiltrate enemy forces, and the other the creature known only as Oxcom which is meant to follow it and cause as much damage as possible. Unfortunately for the dog, Oxcom has a habit of destroying its guide - but teenager Travis Cornell (Corey Haim) doesn't know that when he adopts the hound as a pet...

Dean R. Koontz is a very prolific author in the field of horrors and thrillers, and if he spread himself a littlle too thinly resulting in a middling body of work, then his novel Watchers could at least be counted as one of his better efforts, a relationship-heavy chiller with enough action to satisfy the thrillseekers. This film version, however, released one short year after its print source, was unlikely to satisfy anybody who had enjoyed the original, as whole characters were altered to fit what turned into a shocker variation on the old Lassie movies, with the older, ex-army Travis of the book recast as precocious teen Corey Haim.

Not only that, but the love interest of the book, Nora, was now his mother, which doesn't sound right at all, although don't be too alarmed as movie Travis does have a girlfriend, Tracey (Lala Sloatman), who appears at the start, vanishes when her father is killed by Oxcom, and shows up at the end to be saved by her knight in shining armour. Elsewhere, the producers somewhat mystifying attempts to turn a gory monster on the loose story into a family friendly boy and his pet adventure fell resoundingly flat at every turn, and even if you found the dog cute, as his new moniker "Furface" indicates you're supposed to, you'd be more likely to be laughing at this Watchers than with it.

Furface moves in with Travis when he discovers the pooch can pull off some amazing feats of intelligence, such as barking once for yes and twice for no, or fetching a packet of hotdogs from the fridge after merely being asked to do so. His mother (Barbara Williams) is so impressed that she is won over and agrees that Furface will make a great pet, but what's that, boy? Are you trying to tell us something? There's a killer on your trail and it's not only the big monster that we see hardly any sign of other than its victims left with their eyes gouged out? Yes, it's our old friend Michael Ironside who is hunting down the dog, a representative of the officials who want both test subjects back in their cages.

There's a long history of horror movie villains being gorillas, and since they began this has often been achieved by putting some bloke in an ape suit and having him menace the cast, so in a way it was nice to see Watchers carry on that tradition. But in another way, it underlined how silly the premise became in these hands, too much altered from Koontz's vision and obviously tailored to the talents of Haim once he had jumped aboard the production. It wasn't enough that some smartass kid was the hero, but we had to watch the dog carry out feats of ingenuity that looked more like a promotion for the animal trainer than anything helpful to the plot: it does everything except fetch Travis's slippers, including type messages into a computer and play Scrabble. Koontz fans would be groaning, although admirers keeping the Corey torch held high might have a nostalgic attachment to this. Music by Joel Goldsmith.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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