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Dog Soldiers

Well we know the spanish can do good modern horror, and the japanese can do it, and there’s that one canadian dude. But what about the Brits? They had the great Hammer Studios way back when, and they made the Wickerman I believe, so they got a good tradition going. But it’s been a while since I’ve heard about a real good one. To be honest I haven’t paid too much attention to the british culture lately. All I know is they got those annoying crime movies and that tv show where you go into your friend’s house, repaint it and glue a bunch of pinecones and inner tubes together as decorations.

But now maybe they got the next horror visionary. A newcomer by the name of Neil Marshall, he wrote and edited a couple earlier movies and this is his debut as writer/director/editor/credit hog.

Dog SoldiersThis is not a perfect movie, and I don’t think it’s as knock you on your ass inventive as say THE EVIL DEAD or something. But it’s just a great premise that crossbreeds familiar genres into something weird you’ve never seen before, sort of like when they genetically combined brocolli with asparagus. Only not as disturbing.

Here, let me just tell you the premise. Two groups of british soldiers, one just regular grunts and the other one special ops, are deployed in some remote wilderness for a war game. We’re with the grunts as they stalk the woods with a mixture of nervousness and boredom (one guy wants to be home watching the football/soccer ball game, others want to prove their worth by standing up to these special ops fuckers).

So then they’re sitting at the fire telling war stories when somebody throws a dead cow at them.

Next thing you know they find the other team, most of them completely eviscerated. And since you’ve seen the cover of the video, you know it was by werewolves.

Before you know it they’re holed up in a farmhouse and the werewolves keep coming at them. So it’s kind of like a NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD scenario. They even got the leader of the special ops group as the big asshole character so they can have lots of Romero style dramatic disagreements (I guess they’re actually more just arguments than dramatic disagreements, but whatever).

But in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD they didn’t have machine guns, and the phrase “short, controlled bursts” never came up. There don’t seem to be as many werewolves as there were zombies, but they’re faster and smarter so it’s a good battle. I guess you could compare it to ALIENS but it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to copy those sorts of characters, it’s just a good way to make soldiers interesting: put em up against werewolves! (Didn’t somebody call this BLACK HAWK DOWN with werewolves?)

Thankfully, this is another serious horror movie, any humor is in a bleak “oh shit we’re fucked” kind of way and there’s not even much of that. There’s one gruesome joke with some intestines that I won’t give away. Most of the gore here is more in the style of a war movie than a horror movie. People get these horrible injuries but they’re soldiers, they try to get out of there, even if they have intestines hanging out. You never saw that in a Jason picture, I don’t think.

Not everything works. There were some turns of the plot I didn’t particularly like, but nothing too bad. And the werewolves look pretty silly sometimes. Most of the classic independent horror pictures have humanoid type villains, like zombies or killers in masks, because that’s a lot easier to do successfully. (EVIL DEAD had some good freaky ass creatures but that was only a few shots). Here you gotta make a guy that’s part wolf and part dude that actually looks cool, and that’s hard to do even with more money than this. Alot of the time these just look like overly detailed team mascots.

BUT, it doesn’t even matter. They do a good job of hardly showing the werewolves at all while still making you feel their presence. It’s part of why it works anyway. You do wonder why they aren’t curious enough to take a close look at the corpses after they kill them, but oh well.

I would recommend this picture which is coming to video here in a few months but has been circulating around some of the arthouse theaters and I think they even showed it on the sci-fi channel at one point. So look for it. I know it’s hard to believe there were two good low budget werewolf movies in the last year or two (this and GINGER SNAPS) but seriously man, I’m not making this up.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, July 21st, 2002 at 1:50 pm and is filed under Action, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Responses to “Dog Soldiers”

  1. So when are you actually going to review The Evil Dead?

  2. when Vern gets raped by a tree.

  3. Arguably the best werewolf movie ever and best English Horror movie to be created. The sense of humour was made for the English by the English so unless your English or have a good grasp of sarcasm you won’t understand it. The werewolves should have been more musclar but the suits looked realistic and the tone of the werewolves is genuinly intimidating. The werewolves are more intelligent in this movie then any other werewolf movie to date and are shown testing the house systematically for weaknesses, testing the soldiers systematically to idenitfy the mentally weakest one and lauching planned attacks from more then one direction at the same time. 9/10

  4. Have you seen AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON? Do you think that one plays more to an American sense of humor? I enjoyed DOG SOLDIERS but I’m surprised to find anybody who thinks it’s half as good as AMERICAN WEREWOLF. But maybe it’s this cultural difference you bring up.

    I’d also put THE HOWLING and GINGER SNAPS above DOG SOLDIERS. I’m not too familiar with the old Universal wolfman movies so somebody else will have to say which one’s the best.

  5. The original Paul

    October 15th, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Vern, no lovin’ for “The Beast Must Die”? I’m crushed.

    (Yeah, it’s still one of my favorites even though I’d cheerfully admit its flaws.)

    I haven’t seen “The Howling” but I do think “Dog Soldiers” is great. Not sure whether it’s as good as “The Descent” though. And “An American Werewolf” is superb. (Yeah, that’s one classic I’m happy to bow down to.)

  6. The original Paul

    October 15th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Oh, and Ginger Snaps is great too. Damn you, lack of “edit” button!

  7. About the old Universal movies: THE WOLFMAN is the best. It’s sequel, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN is maybe the prototype for the shitty cashgrab sequel. Then there is HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and HOUSE OF DRACULA. Forgive me, but I saw one of them and can’t remember which one. It was pretty good, but well, not really worth watching. And then there is of course ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, which is awesome, because it’s hilarious, but plays the horror elements straight.

    THE BEAST MUST DIE is the one with the “werewolf break”, right? I bought the DVD a while ago and haven’t watched it. I’m working on a book about werewolf movies, because I love these furry fuckers but hate that their movies most of the time suck and so I try to find the best and worst of them. I just haven’t found the time to watch and write about all on my list. :P

  8. Dog Soldiers was in the upper pile of “good” movies. Not great, but not mediocre. Just really solid, really good entertainment. Wouldn’t want to see it again, necessarily.

    Of the old Universal horror, I like The Wolfman but think it’s sort of boring. I love the “meet cute” creepy way our hero meets the girl, by telling her he spies on her. I also love how they use the same set over and over for the exteriors and never redress is, he passes the same bush about 15 times. The king of all Universal horror is still Frankenstein for me. I just can’t get over the amazing sets and Karloff’s performance and makeup, it’s all too perfect.

  9. I liked the benicio del toro Wolfman movie… didn’t get why it didn’t do well.

    The three best werewolf movies I’ve seen are the howling, american ww in london, and company of wolves.

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