As big-name streaming services pollute their feeds with glossy pieces of content masquerading as films, it’s no surprise the messier, lower-budget fare on Tubi has become so popular.
But it isn’t solely a platform for viewers to take screenshots and shaky cell phone footage of terrible-looking shlock to snicker about on social media. Tubi is also one of the few spaces where up-and-coming Black filmmakers have significant creative freedom. Sometimes that freedom leads to regrettable and nearly unwatchable final products that beg to be criticized on social media. Other times, you get “Dogface: A TrapHouse Horror,” an inventive and baffling genre exercise.
While not strictly speaking a Tubi movie, existing as it also does on Universal’s Peacock platform, “Dogface” is spiritually a Tubi movie. The directorial debut from filmmaker Felix Jordan, a crew veteran from sets as diverse as “Joker” and “Avengers: Endgame,” “Dogface” is an increasingly difficult film to describe to the uninitiated. The film follows a young drug dealer named Hondo (John Mud Pratt) as he rents a questionably cheap house. It’s implied in the film that the house is so affordable because it may be haunted. In rather short order, inexplicable things begin happening to Hondo.
Hondo gets off the phone with his friend Wally (Terrence TMI Moore), who wants to stop by to buy some weed, only for Wally to instantaneously appear and say their conversation took place more than an hour ago. Once there, the weed Hondo has stashed in his cupboard is magically missing until Wally fishes it out from the cabinetry himself, accusing Hondo of “being back on them pills.” Moments later, an older man (Shaheed Philip) arrives at the doorstep, claiming to be Hondo’s long-lost father, fresh out of jail.
The three men pop bottles and invite strippers to celebrate this relative stranger’s newfound freedom until “a man with the face of a dog” arrives and starts killing everyone. But that only happens after:
- Hondo hallucinates a woman on a leash begging not to be stuffed back into her cage.
- He gets a phone call from the jail saying his father died.
- Wally attempts to kill him with a firearm.
This entire chapter is revealed to be the dream of a different Hondo, one who is suffering from PTSD after being shot and refusing to take the pills he’s been prescribed to help both the physical pain and his mental well-being.
Everything recounted thus far happens in the film’s first 18 minutes. “Dogface” moves at a brisk, baffling clip. It delivers more twists, turns, and dramatic reveals per minute than most television series pack into an entire season. It is the sort of movie that, if you attempted in earnest to explain it to a friend, would require you to frequently double back to mark an essential detail, because there are just too many to carry in the memory on the first sprint.
Once that initial dream sequence ends, we see the “real” Hondo’s life. The realtor who sold him the haunted trap house is his girlfriend, Wanda (Tina Shakiyah), a kind woman who helped him escape the game. The two strippers are her sisters Jasmine (Latotsy Jackson) and Sharice (Alana Mike), a messy and flirtatious therapist Wanda wants to help Hondo with his issues.
Together with Jasmine’s fiance Derek (Wally from Hondo’s dream), the group rents an Airbnb with similarly supernatural vibes from a man named Def (Hondo’s father). The house has a peculiar set of rules, among them “don’t flush the downstairs toilet,” “don’t leave the house between 11:11 p.m. and 11:11 a.m.,” and “only two men can enter the houseJohn Black and John Brown.”
“Dogface” is only a 75-minute film. By the one-hour mark, the audience has been bombarded by so many hilarious line readings (“Black people going missing? Hasn’t that been happening since the Amistad?”) and so many lingering questions.
How did the singing homeless man know Hondo had exactly $211 in his pocket? How did Sharice’s dream stripper counterpart pop up butt naked in the Airbnb after she and her sisters went to the store? Why is there a man with the face of a dog stabbing people to death, and why is he dressed like Craig from the movie “Friday?”
It feels impossible that the film’s conclusion could conceivably answer all of this, let alone end on a satisfying note. But, the final 15 minutes of “Dogface” not only fails to answer any of the above questions, it somehow generates countless more questions, the likes of which will haunt the viewer for all eternity.
“Dogface” is one of the most ambitious and inventive horror movies made in ages, with a sense of creativity overflowing beyond its shoestring budget. It’s absurd, laughable, and genuinely horrifying. But above all else, it’s utterly bonkers.
“Dogface” is an antidote to every elevated horror film about trauma that A24 films shove down the populace’s throats. This movie deserves the same 50-year arthouse cult classic midnight movie status “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” has enjoyed. We need “Dogface” shadow casts and singalong screenings.
The climax of this movie is so confounding and convoluted and yet so compelling and captivating. It not only begs the prospect of a sequel but demands it.
The world needs to know what the hell happened at the end of “Dogface.”
“Dogface: A Trap House Horror” is streaming on Peacock
This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, “Dogface” wouldn’t exist.