Date Posted: 16/12/19
Neil Marshall both writes and directs Dog Soldiers a film in which a group of soldiers engaged in a military exercise are used as bait by a Special Forces squadron hoping to capture a living werewolf. Familiar British faces, including Kevin McKidd and Sean Pertwee, make up the soldiers trying to hold out against enemies that won’t die.
You may have noticed that my last couple of articles were a bit of a rapid fire review, mainly because it is difficult to write a lot about things that I like but also it is coming up to Christmas and whilst that time is busy for you humans, it has been no less busy for me, as I have had numerous technological problems with my ship recently. I won’t bore you with the full details but it is currently difficult for me to get online and post reviews, however, I should have an opportunity to get everything sorted in the near future and my reviews will return to their regular Sunday posting.
Still as I do not wish to leave you without something new to read I am going to talk about a werewolf movie I really like.
A couple are camping in the Scottish Highlands and the woman gives her man a pure silver letter opener. Later that night the pair are attacked. Meanwhile in south Wales Private Cooper (McKidd) is being pursued through the forest, he is run down and wrestled to the ground. It turns out that he is trying to join Special Forces under Captain Richard Ryan (Liam Cunningham) but he fails the exercise when he refuses to shoot a dog simply so he cannot be tracked any further.
A month later Cooper; now back with his former squad and commanding officer Sergeant Harry G Wells (Pertwee), is on a military exercise in Scotland. Their weapons are loaded with blanks and as they participate in the exercise they are unknowingly being watched by Ryan and his team.
As night draws in Ryan’s camp is attacked and everyone aside from Ryan is ripped apart. He sends up a distress flare and Cooper’s unit responds. They realise that they are up against hostile targets, although Ryan cannot tell them what they are facing, and salvage real weapons in order to defend themselves. The unit’s radios have been fried and a howl echoes across the wilderness forcing the soldiers to run for their lives. A woman named Megan (Emma Cleasby) passing in a land rover stops and picks up the fleeing soldiers taking them to a nearby farm house so they can treat their wounded. Moments after they arrive Megan’s car is torn apart and the werewolves circle the house trying to get to the soldiers inside.
Werewolf films are very difficult things to do well; there are precious few examples of really good werewolf films (such as American Werewolf in London) whereas there are so many poor films (such as Cursed). Werewolves are second only vampires in terms of horror. It seems anyone that has camera and fancies that they can produce horror has a stab at either vampires or werewolves. Dog Soldiers is a great example of what a good director, script, and fine performances from its cast can do.
Director Neil Marshall (who later directed The Descent) wrote a film which has some over the top gore, but also has several funny moments. The gore is never sickening and whilst the soldiers suffer horrible injuries courtesy of the werewolves’ teeth and claws, the audience will never be forced to look away. However, a strong stomach is needed as some of the injuries are quite graphic and may be enough to put off non-horror fans.
Made in 2002 Dog Soldiers was one of the last films in which werewolves were not fighting vampires. Ever since Underworld it seems that the two species cannot be apart and also cannot get along. Marshall seems to have borrowed Spielberg’s technique from Jaws because like the shark, the werewolves in Dog Soldiers are only glimpsed as they move through the surrounding forest, and when they are seen it is only for fleeting moments. There are also several instances when the audience will see through the eyes of the werewolves as they stalk around the house.
Dog Soldiers is an excellent slice of tongue-in-cheek British horror and humour that reminds audiences that werewolves are terrifying creatures that can rip a human limb from limb. It is also a refreshing change for an excellent horror to be left alone as a single film (a sequel not involving Marshall or any of the original cast except Cunningham was planned but seems to have now been abandoned). Any self-respecting horror or werewolf fans should watch this magnificent slice of werewolf horror and it naturally gets a Thumbs Up.
9/10 - Dog Soldiers is quite simply one of the best werewolf films ever.