I’m a dog movie apologist. Sure, they’re mostly vapid fluff but then again so are dogs. The thing about dog movies is that they all follow the same story: person obtains dog, dog throws person’s life into playful chaos, dog is punished, person encounters real problem, dog helps person overcome problem, and person learns to love dog for flaws because dog loves person. Sometimes the dog dies at the end too but the dead-dog-movie is it’s own subgenre if you ask me. My favorite part of any dog movie is when the dog helps their owner overcome a real problem because this is where all the action usually is. This is where you’ll see a dog stop a bank robber or help mend a troubled marriage. This is also where the person then perceives the dog’s actions as an inherent love of the person rather than regular doggy nature. This is where the myth of “man’s best friend” comes to life.
Most dog movies can be seen as examples of our own narcissistic and insecure tendencies; they’re stories about animals that risk their lives because they wuv us very much (even if we’re still mad at them for ruining that important business lunch with David Duchovny). Yet despite the fact that we share such an odd relationship with dogs there is only one film I’ve ever seen that dares to explore the darker side of it.
Jérôme Boivin’s Baxter was released in 1989. Billed as a horror film about a “murderous bull terrier” I was expecting something along the lines of a haute Cujo but ended up being enthralled in a serious drama about isolation, obsession, and unnatural thoughts. Told through an insidious voice over from the Baxter’s point of view, the film follows him from owner to owner as we get a glimpse into the lives of several families, all who play a part in shaping Baxter’s perception of the world.