Dog Soldiers (2002)
Director: Neil Marshall
Sean Pertwee/Sgt. Wells
Liam Cunningham/Capt. Ryan
A squad of British soldiers get more than they bargained for when they hit the Scottish woods on a training mission. You see, the area is populated by a pack of blood-thirsty werewolves and they don’t dig unannounced visitors. Throw away the blanks, slap in a clip of live rounds...it's werewolf neutering time. Fuck yeah!
The werewolf sub genre is in good shape these days. Last year, we got the introspective "Ginger Snaps" and this year we get this wham-bang approach to our furry friends. I’d like to send a heartfelt thank you to writer/director Neil Marshall for this fan friendly horror gift. You know the feeling you get when you guzzle down an ice cold beer after a hard day’s work or receive a well executed BJ from that special someone you’ll totally forget seconds after you let it snow? Well, "Dog Soldiers" put me in that same refreshing and quenching state of being. It freakin' hit the spot!
This big bad puppy is obviously a fright flick made by a major fan. If it’s not the few references that gave that away (one character is named Bruce Campbell, we also get nods to "The Matrix" and "Ginger Snaps"), then it was the director’s dead-on knowledge of familiar genre conventions. Now, there are two ways one can use common horror scenarios. The first is by taking the lazy writer route and slapping them in there because the inspiration is lacking and the money is talking. The other is to use them to your advantage by communicating them in a well-constructed manner to deliver a powerhouse piñata of fun that doesn’t re-invent the wheel but definitely gives it that extra spin. "Dog Soldiers" does the latter, and actually excels at it.
Take the spooky setting of "Night of the Living Dead" and the relentless action of "Aliens"; toss in some crazy werewolves for good measure and you get a sweet drink called "Dog Soldiers". Sure, I’ve seen most of these mad happenings before: they hold up in a house, pad the windows, the lights go off, there’s a wolf in the fold (pun intended) etc. But Marshall delivers the familiar elements in such an earnest and enthusiastic manner, that it all came across as fresh as French bread. Tag to that a meticulously paced buildup, surprisingly strong dialogue that is as gripping as the mayhem, a beyond engaging show by Sean Pertwee (Wells), action galore and you get a horror fan’s sweet nightmare come to celluloid life.
Let me take a breather and comment on the physical happenings here. I love military themed films, I get off on them. John J. Rambo is still one of my all-time fav characters and there’s nothing more pleasant to my ears than hearing lines like “fire in the hole” or the sound of a semi-automatic rifle going off. So if like me, you have an affinity for all that is tough, macho, soldier kool, get ready to paint the walls fervently with joy. The hefty helping of machine gun carnage, grenade fun, loud explosions and hand-to-hand fight sequences in this movie will most surely have you reaching for that paint brush (what does that mean? Who knows?).
I also have to applaud the director for working the limited budget in favor of the film. It’s fairly apparent that the werewolves are duders in suits, but since they’re kept mostly in the shadows, they never became an issue or a distraction. Having spat out all of that praise, I do have two minor bones to pick with this canine. 1) The whole shaky cam thang got to me at times and had me fighting to see the action. Easy on the coffee there buddy! 2) Some of the lesser soldiers are easily interchangeable. I still don’t know who that “Spoon” bra was. He loved soccer, right? They all looked the same to me. Other than that, I was a very happy camper. This flick moves fast, is loud, mucho involving, bloodier than a T-Bone and offerws a couple of neato twists that I truly dug. "Dog Soldiers" has arrived, boys and girls! Lock the doors, board the windows, load the M-16, light the bong…it's PARTY time!
I was lucky enough to see the uncut version. We get all kinds of human remains, a bloody impaling, loose guts tumbling out of one’s belly (gross), some wolf stabbings, wolf feasting on humans, a blown up wolf head, some crazy glued guts and get this…THERE’S EVEN MORE!
Sean Pertwee (Sgt. Wells) blew my mind as the tough-as-nails Sergeant. It really helped that he had the well written screenplay to back him up. Kevin McKidd (Cooper) also does good as the efficient soldier. Emma Cleasby (Megan) brings a classy female presence to this testosterone heavy jamboree. Liam Cunningham (Capt. Ryan) worked as the a-hole you love to hate.
T & A
Do furry werewolf count? I didn’t think so. Although they did have sweet wolf asses. All that running in the woods is good for the buttocks, I guess.
Neil Marshall puts out an energetic, stylish show by displaying slick werewolf POV shots, slow-mo and wonderful shot compositions. My only complaint is that the camera shook a bit too much at times (gave me a headache) but the thick layer of tension and in-your-face action made up for that. GREAT JOB, AMIGO!
Mark Thomas delivers a powerful score that melds perfectly with the action taking place on screen.
On a rare moon, there’s a horror movie that hits the waves where we as fright film buffs feel the unapologetic love for the genre oozing from its every pore. "Dog Soldiers" is one of those films. To echo a crappy hip-hop clothing line: it's FUBU…”For us, By us”. I had a rollicking blast with this mean machine and it reminded me that we still have heroes amongst the ranks of horror filmmakers. Let’s give Neil Marshall the Medal of Honor already! He took the gloves off and came through hardcore. The booze and the tramps are on me, hombre! CELEBRATION TIME COME ON!
The flick is set in Scotland but was actually filmed in Luxembourg.