Crafted somewhere in the overlapping space that exists between ‘70s exploitation flicks, trippy sci-fi and unapologetically daft B movies, A Boy And His Dog is a grubby, grainy end-of-worlder that’s crazier than Cujo and Mad Max combined.
Don’t let the boring title fool you, A Boy And His Dog is anything but dull. Set in 2024, it envisions a dystopian future Earth that’s been ravaged by World War IV. In that globular skirmish, a nuclear stand-off has devastated the planet’s surface, which is where we find Vic (Don Johnson), the eponymous boy. A wild thing foraging in a dusty, lusty landscape for food and sexual conquests, he’s helped in both of those endeavours by pooch pal Blood, a mongrel who’s able to communicate with Vic telepathically.
Yep, there’s that B movie influence. Adding a pleasingly pulp-y dimension to director L.Q. Jones’ sci-fi blend is the interaction between Vic and his furry sidekick – the latter a droll, world-weary old thing who’s obsessed with history and cranks out a wheelbarrow-load of pithy one-liners. Five minutes in, seeing a man mind meld with his dog seems as everyday as using a pooper scooper.
Despite its definite B-movie leanings, there are some interesting themes at play here. Vic’s descent into the ‘Downunder’ – where an Eden Project-echoing, hysterically upbeat new society has been formed – jars both stylistically and narratively with what has gone before, but that’s the point. As Vic points out, “I need to get dirty to feel clean again,” our hero preferring the freedom and simplicity of his life on the surface to the rigid, condemning structure of life Downunder.
That’s not to read too much into a film that is clearly out for a good time. Like the best exploitation flicks, it’s often unclear just where A Boy And His Dog is making social commentary, and where it’s just being sick. The film’s attitude to women is genuinely shocking – this future world positions them as pure pleasure objects who are freely raped and beaten by sex-crazed men. As if to counter-balance that horror, though, Vic’s treatment at the hands of breeding-obsessed Downunder socialists is equally queasily invasive.
Capping all the craziness off is an ending so wicked, so devious and so horrifically funny (paired with a spot-on final line) that you have to respect Jones and co for having the guts to do it.
A Boy And His Dog does have its shortcomings. You can’t help feeling a little robbed at never seeing the Screamers – horribly mutated holocaust survivors – while that narrative switch to the world of Downunder really does threaten to upend the film completely. Still, it’s a film almost purpose-built for the ‘guilty pleasure’ section of your DVD collection. Pacy, sly, and with some razor-sharp dialogue, it could just be the best post-apocalyptic, misogynistic, talking-dog sci-fi B movie you’ll ever see. 3/5