Animal testing has always been a touchy subject. No matter how scientists and researchers try to present it, seeing photos of lab experiments will always look sadistic. I knew a person who used to have to break the arms of rats for research into drugs that would help bones mend faster. While they were rats, you couldn’t help but feel for these poor critters that were getting busted up like they owed money to a bookie for betting on the Cleveland Browns to win the Super Bowl. During the late 20th Century, there were quite a few people who made it their business to break into the labs and liberate the various animals. A good horror film takes a noble moment and asks a terrifying question. What if you really shouldn’t liberate the animals in a lab? That’s the basic premise in Man’s Best Friend.
TV reporter Lori Tanner (Breakfast Club‘s Ally Sheedy) has heard stories of what’s been going on with the test animals at EMAX, a genetic researching company. In order to get on the inside, she’s agreed to pay off an employee on the inside who takes care of the caged animals. Unfortunately after the two meet up, the lab tech gets attacked by one of the animals that has escaped from their cage. Tanner has no clue and sneaks inside EMAX with her camerawoman to get the inside view of the animals that are being used for experiments. They find plenty of horrific images including a chimp with an exposed brain. As Tanner wanders around, she finds a cute Tibetan Mastiff dog that she releases from his cell. The dog repays the favor by knocking out a security guard in a cute way. The dog does get held up by EMAX’s head of researcher Dr. Jarret (Aliens‘ Lance Henriksen). He has no real control over the dog named Max. Tanner drives off, Max hops in her car. This seems like the start of a cute dog and reporter movie. Max brings Tanner a towel after she’s done showering and gets her purse back from a mugger. But there’s an ominous undertone that Max isn’t always a happy puppy. Turns out that Max is under the control of a drug that keeps down his true nature. When the medication wears off Tanner is going to have more to worry about than Max shedding on her favorite sweater. Dr. Jarret has made Max more than Tibetan Mastiff.
Man’s Best Friend does a fine job of balancing the sweet dog story with the savage nature of the beast. They even bring out the savage in the human actors especially when William Sanderson appears as a rather cruel character. Darryl and Darryl would not recognize Sandler as the affable Larry from Newhart. Sheedy is fine as the reporter wanting to do a major story about the research lab instead of being stuck doing PM Magazine puff pieces for the local news. The big part is the dog that plays Max who can look so sweet and playful before flipping the switching and going full Cujo without being rabid. Lance Henriksen is a cold jerk as the Dr. Frankenstein of the animal world. He’s a demonic Dr. Dolittle. Overall Man’s Beast Friend is a scary dog story that doesn’t get too shaggy, but will draw blood.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings the resolution on Max’s shiny coat. The audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1 along with the original theatrical 2.0 DTS MA Stereo mix. You’ll get dog barks through all the speakers. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary with writer/director John Lafia talks about working with the dogs and Ally Sheedy. He had previously co-written Child’s Play and directed Child’s Play 2.
Trailers (2:38) takes us inside the lab to question the nature of Max.
TV Spots (0:50) calls Max “a psychotic Lassie.”
Scream Factory presents Man’s Best Friend. Directed by John Lafia. Screenplay by: John Lafia. Starring: Ally Sheedy, Lance Henriksen, Frederic Lehne, Robert Costanzo and William Sanderson . Rated: R. Running Time: 87 minutes. Released: March 12, 2019.
Tags: Ally Sheedy, Lance Henricksen, Man's Best Friend, Scream Factory