Written and Directed by: Neil Marshall
Starring: Kevin McKidd
Reviewed by: Josh G.
Now hereís a film I have some pre-viewing experiences with. This European werewolf horror never crossed my radar until recently. About three weeks ago, I caught the opinion of a fellow terror fan, who noted Dog Soldiers was one of the best horror films of this decade. Though not quite as remarkable as stating, Ďthe best of the retro decadesí, itís still a big shoe to fill. So, I trusted this individual, and I bought the easily affordable DVD. In fact, I mentioned this movie to another one of my friends, who was a slightly lighter fan of the genre. He too said that it was good fun. I decided to watch it with two of my other friends, who I already knew to be very skeptical of horror flicks. After the first twelve minutes, we turned it off, mutually decided that this was just a dull accented Ďtalkí feature. But we only made it twelve minutes in! Thatís not very fair. Now, alone, I start to watch it again (all the way through this time). But with whom will the final verdict side with? The apparent horror fans, or the Ďshit-flickí catchers?
The setting is Scotland. Two campers (Craig Conway and Tina Landini) are enjoying a nice relaxing day by their campsite, which turns into foreplay as the sun falls. But the couple never make it all the way, as a hidden vicious creature unzips their tent, and mutilates them both. One month later, a group of military soldiers go hunting for another military group in the same area as the slaughter. Itís only an exercise, but they are still ready for violence. The group of six, consisting of different personalities, yet in the same mind set, is Cooper (Kevin McKidd), Bruce (Thomas Lockyer), Joe (Chris Robson), Terry (Leslie Simpson), ĎSpooní (Darren Morfitt), and their Sergeant, Harry (Sean Pertwee).
Spending a night out in the forest, the military men exchange tidbits about themselves, and what scares them the most. Their get-together is soon cut short, when a slashed cow carcass is thrown next to their fire pit, splashing them with sticky blood. Though startled, the Sergeant still wants to venture deeper into the woods. What they find is the other group, all hacked to pieces, with the exception of the wounded Captain, Ryan (Liam Cunningham). Arming themselves, the seven soldiers run for their lives. It is now that they come into contact with the creatures: half men, and half wolves. Bruce does not escape, and is killed by one of the beasts, and the Sergeantís guts are starting to leave his stomach. Will any of them find a way out of the deadly forest?
Help miraculously comes in the form of a vehicle, being driven by Megan (Emma Cleasby), a local resident. With the other six aboard, she drives onward, eventually onto an abandoned property. They set up Sergeant Harry upstairs, and try to ease his pain, all while attempting to reinsert his innards. The party of wolves donít stay away for long, following the group to the quaint house. The werewolves are attracted to bright lights, and they never seem to get tired. Thereís a full moon out, and all of the legends are turning out to be true! Werewolves do exist, but if the group can hold defence, just until dawn, theyíll be safe. Theyíve got to be safe!
Though not released theatrically in North America, Dog Soldiers did quite well on its own in the UK. Itís tough to categorize this movie as a werewolf film featuring the military, or a military film featuring werewolves. It blends the two subject matters together exquisitely, and there should be credit given to the person who executed so. Violent and gory is what Dog Soldiers is, and donít you forget it! Comedy is lightly spread throughout, but itís so dry that it doesnít destroy the horrific atmosphere. Itís not having a quick-shot seizure as most of the modern popcorn-munchers have, but when itís there, itís spooky. The images of the werewolves moving through the woods is almost to the point of being subliminal. The editing was cleanly taken care of. Cooper, the main private, is the most likeable, which gives this flick an edge above many. How many times have you watched a movie where the supporting cast has a funner feel than the droopy star?
There have been too many times to count in a film where you yell at the characters for being so stupid. Examples would be, checking out a disturbing noise, or walking alone, with nothing for protection, into eternal darkness. Dog Soldiers should be applauded. These characters are smart; they think quickly; they are soldiers. Though, there isnít all positives surrounding the independent horror. Twists in the story are easily predictable, whether it be too much clues, or an actor with the ending clearly in their thoughts. In addition, the cheese factor can play itself. Hotdogs for guts and screams that donít match with the actor (such as the opening kill) are just a couple to mention. Personally, I felt that the werewolves were wonderfully constructed. They did not look like puppets, and only every so often did you see an obvious wax dummy. The mythology of the werewolf follows that of many movies before, with little, unique jabs of individuality. Unless you have extreme ADD, falling asleep will be an unlikely chance.
I love how, in the end, you know youíve watched a horror film, and yet, you have that completely different after viewing feeling from another genre. Believe it or not, the 105 minute runtime is perfect for it. Velocity released this on DVD with both widescreen and fullscreen options, a commentary, a featurette, and trailers. Though, is this werewolf-survivalist worth owning? I told you that I heard this movie mentioned as one of the best horror films of this decade. That person lied. This film, wonderful, tense, and grisly as it is, still has a long ways to go before becoming an ultimate horror thrill ride. The scoring is linked with the modern era's trend, but one set of music involving drums, very tribal dance sounding, is off the charts astounding. Fittingly, it also plays on the main menu. Predictable and cheap, Dog Soldiers, nevertheless, is an enjoyable monster terror, as explosive as the number of explosions that are in it. Thatís pretty booming! Buy it!
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