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STUDIO: Piranther Productions
RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes
The structure of Unbreakable meets the raw intensity of Taxi Driver meets the downright silly surrealism of Courage The Cowardly Dog.
Rook Kelly, Jaquelyn Xavier. Directed by Kris Canonizado.
It’s your typical boy meets girl, boy becomes obsessed with girl, boy stalks and rapes girl, boy feels really bad and puts on a dog mask and tries to become a pro wrestler movie.
Waldo The Dog is not a perfect movie, but it’s kind of a great one. It’s a meditation on guilt and regret and the power of forgiveness, but it’s also a comedy and a horror movie and a fucked up romance that Charles Bukowski would have jerked off to. I watched it twice because the first time I saw it it kind of hypnotized me and didn’t really leave my brain with it’s critical parts functioning. The second time I found the flaws and wrote them down and then threw the paper away because I didn’t give a shit. Writer\Director Kris Canonizado has made a powerful and raw piece of film that sticks to your eyes like sleep does and punches your mom in her face when she’s not looking.
The film begins in San Diego with a man in a dog mask knocking on someones door and shooting the guy that answers in the face. We see him take a few more people out and cross their names off some sort of list of criminals. It then jumps back three years and we’re witness to a man (dog maskless, but still faceless) stalking a girl across a grassy field, while flash cutting to paperwork laying out someone’s fears of a person who’s stalking and menacing them. The man eventually reaches the girl and rapes her in the grass Thomas Covenant style while professing his love to her. Later that night at his house, Rapey McStalkerpants is feeling some serious remorse and disgust (and maybe a little self-hatred?), so he head butts a mirror and knocks himself unconscious. When he wakes up, he puts on a dog mask and runs howling into the night.
In the film’s final jump, we move forward two years and see the man still in the mask, homeless and collecting bottles and cans for some loose change. During the day he goes to a local gym and trains to be a pro wrestler like the Ultimate Warrior or Koko, but with a dog mask and smelling a little like dumpsters and tears. He’s also found someone new to stalk (Jaquelyn Xavier) and he watches her watch TV through her window while masturbating furiously. This is the day to day routine of Waldo The Dog. And sometimes me.
Rook Kelly’s mostly silent (and masked!) portrayal of Waldo is breathtaking. The physical punishment he takes throughout this film is unreal, as he’s constantly hopping fences and running through narrow alleys when he’s not in the ring, training to be a wrestler or getting the shit kicked out of him by dudes on the street or children at the park. Kelly plays Waldo as a mixture of a superhero, a cartoon character and the uncle your parents don’t talk about anymore and, for some unbelievable reason, it works perfectly. He is in every frame of this film and carries it like someone who carries things professionally. This should at the very least get him a shit ton of stunt man work or maybe something in the mime community. Incredible. He’s like a Buster Keaton mixed with a Jimmy Snuka with a bit of Underdog thrown in for good measure.
Jaquelyn Xavier is also excellent as…Jaquelyn, the object of Waldo’s obsession. When she’s on the way home from work one night and Waldo is his customary distance away, being creepy as shit, he saves her from getting raped by some guys in old people masks. (I’d like to take a moment and ask you all whether San Diego has a larger than norm subset of masked rapists or if this is just fictionalized by this film. This movie really made me feel like if I were to go to San Diego for vacation or on a field trip of some kind, I would have at least a one in three chance of getting raped by someone in a Halloween costume or, at the very least, a fake nose or something. If this is true, please write your congressman and tell him to either only allow mask wearing in the month of October or to make everyone have their own personal stalker to protect them. Thank you for your time.) After Waldo saves the unconscious Jaquelyn, he carries her back to her house (good dog) puts her on the couch and watches her sleep (bad dog).
There’s definitely some suspension of disbelief involved with the relationship that grows between Waldo and Jaquelyn. When she wakes up to him rubbing her cheek, she (rightfully) flips out and screams at him to leave. He does, but creeps around to the window and watches her for a bit, giving his nuts a bit of a tickle. As they continue to meet throughout the film, she warms up to him and kind of starts using him as her guard dog. She’s puzzled by the mask, but never frightened of it and when she finds out he doesn’t talk and is homeless she shrugs it off as a mild oddity but nothing to be concerned about. She seems like a sweet and normal gal who works a shitty job and makes electronic beats in her spare time but, as far as Waldo is concerned, it seems like she’s got a few blind spots in her life radar. But Jaquelyn Xavier sells it. Her performance is an excellently underplayed and naturalistic and the sweetness she brings to the roll ratchets up the tension almost unbearably since we know how truly unsafe she is with Waldo.
Some people will definitely accuse this movie of being a bit slow and repetitive and possibly a full half hour too long, and the first time I watched the film I would have agreed with those theoretical folks, but after really sitting with the movie and viewing it a second time, I think the choices Canonizado makes are perfect for the story he’s telling. The whole movie is about setting up Waldo’s routine and seeing his horrible, horrible existence. Random people constantly kick his ass, children chase him and throw rocks and the people he wrestles with treat him like shit and leave him crying in the locker room every day. But these are the circumstances he has chosen for himself by hating himself so much for raping the woman at the beginning of the film. He doesn’t feel he deserves any better and he doesn’t (he actually deserves much worse), so seeing his constant shit parade of an existence makes the film’s very uphill battle of making Waldo sympathetic a little more palatable.
Kris Canonizado has an artist’s eye. He frames shots excellently and simply, but never without some different angle a lesser filmmaker would ignore. Mixing his docu style with the naturalistic performances of the leads, Waldo The Dog always feels raw and unsafe. The film doesn’t give a shit if you like it or not because it has a story to tell and you better let it past or it’ll roll right over any preconceived notions you might have about structure or pacing. This movie isn’t easy or necessarily even very much fun to watch, but it’s fascinating and alive and immediate in ways so few American films are anymore.
As the film ends, a card comes up saying that Waldo will return. That makes me happy because this just feels like the origin story of a homeless, possibly insane rapist super hero. I want more. I want to see who his arch-nemesis is. Winter? Pennies? The term Anti-Hero is too soft for this shit. Waldo is a Sub Zero Hero, complete with costume, ready to follow you home and jerk off on your window sill. But he also might save your ass. You might not like this movie, but that’s okay. It doesn’t need any of us.
It’s an independent film without distribution doing the rounds at some festivals, so the disc is just a screener really. The transfer looks great however, with the muted color palate saturating every frame. If you want some behind the scenes footage or a gag reel, watch the movie and tell someone as fucked up as you are about it so this movie can get a distributor and we can get a real DVD release.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars