VIDEO ARCHIVES NOTES: This movie was discussed on the April 11, 2023 episode of the Video Archives podcast and can be found on their site here.

Bull terriers can be independent and stubborn, but have a good temperament, get along well with people and can be a loving member of the family when socialized early. Like other terrier breeds, they were raised to kill rats and fight one another. In the U.S., we associate this breed with America’s party animal, Spuds MacKenzie, who if we are to believe the 1980s commercials was scoring human women thanks to his love of beer. Today, Spot, the Target dog, is also this breed.

So is Baxter.

Let me tell you, I don’t care what Baxter does in this movie, I love him more than any of the humans.

Baxter can’t find a family that he belongs to. The old woman is boring and must be killed. The couple across the street don’t understand when he tries to show his heart and when he brings them dead animals. They make a child that he hates and so he is given to the boy across the street. The boy wants to be Hitler and goes so far as to destroy Baxter’s puppies. Baxter wants to kill him in retaliation, but he can’t see the boy as anything other than his master, allowing him to kill him.

I wanted more for Baxter, as his voice (Maxime Leroux) speaks to you about what he desires in this world. He isn’t human. He’s a dog. He wants what a dog wants. He wants the firm hand of ownership, he wants discipline and he wants structure. I wish that Baxter found something else. I wish that he had a large field to run through and an owner that made him feel the belonging that he craves.

Directed by Jérôme Boivin, who wrote the script with Jacques Audiard, based on the book Hell Hound by Ken Greenhall (and republished under his pen name Jessica Hamilton), this is a bleak affair, a movie of darkness and constant looming death.It’s not an easy watch.

In the book — Will Ericckson brought it to light in a series of books he spotlighted for Tor Books — Baxter has a lot to say about mankind. “Pity is not something I want to encourage in myself. It is something for humans to feel, one of the jumble of odd sentiments they burden themselves with. Their emotions are like diseases, I think; diseases that can spread among those who try to understand them. Let their feelings be a mystery, like the dozens of other strange traits they have… The ways in which they deceive themselves are endless.”

Poor Baxter. Sure, he’s a sociopath, but he’s also a good boy.

You can get the reissued Paperbacks from Hell edition of Hell Hound here.

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