Dog Soldiers (2002)


What if Steven Spielberg and Stephen King got together and decided to mix “Silver Bullet” with “Saving Private Ryan”? You have a rather large hunk of horror/action fare for any movie nut to chew on, and this is some film to chew on. Take a group of completely different people, store them in a confined space with very little and/or limited weapons while they’re forced to fend off against ravenous monsters who are lurking at every corner while they’re forced to deal with each other, as paranoia inevitably ensues. “Dog Soldiers” is one bad mutha of a horror film successfully following that formula and creating an experience for viewers that will linger on your mind forever.

When a Scottish infantry is sent to the woods to retrieve their comrades after they lost radio contact with them, they stumble upon a frantic survivor who tells them he is the sole survivor in a werewolf ambush, they’re now being hunted by a pack of werewolves and must now fend them off in a small house and prevent from being turned into lunch, but they will manage to discover secrets within the house and among each other they’ve never known. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this film among the horror movie websites, so I was finally able to grab a copy of this and found myself entertained. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, you want true horror movie originality, you go to the foreigners. “Zombie”, “Suspiria”, “Demons”, “28 Days Later”, “The Ring”, all true horror classics and all horror imports from grade A directors.

“Dog Soldiers” falls in the category; for a low budget film, director Neil Marshall manages to cram a large amount of excitement and fear into one really good film. I was rather involved in the chemistry between the soldiers and their efforts to keep from being hunted and eaten. This presents the concept of man vs. beast as we watch these soldiers going up against these hunters, and this managed to grab me by the balls and keep me glued to the screen the entire way through. I thought about some great films this reminded me of while watching including “Assault on Precinct 13”, “Aliens”, and “Night of the Living Dead”. These films have the exact same formula and the exact amount of tension and “Dog Soldiers” manages to live up to their status within the kingdom that is the horror genre. Though the budget is low we do manage to get some really incredible and very cool special effects.

Though we barely see the werewolves until the climax of the film, we’re kept in the dark wondering how they look and it increases the tension throughout the soldier’s fight for survival. The werewolves look like werewolves are supposed to with large snouts furry bodies and yellow eyes, the look that many horror fans remember from the good old days of horror, you know, the days when horror movies were actually worth watching, before all the teen slasher’s and cookie cutter supernatural thrillers. Very few horror films have come out in the last five years that I can look back on with a smile, and this happens to be one of them. The soldiers, despite lacking any defining characteristics that separate each other, are likable and worth rooting for when they’re forced to fend off the wolves in the claustrophobic confined house in the back woods.

While the director tries his best to create memorable characters, as always creating memorable characters for a horror film is hard; you have to take the time out to establish characters the audience can feel and root for while keeping them entertained and very few horror movies can achieve both. “Dog Soldiers” fails in establishing memorable characters that the audience can root for but in the end they’re all disposable cookie cutter tough talking soldiers who all look pretty much the same. They’re all sporting crew cuts all have the same accents and demeanor and it never mattered which of them died or lived. Plus, at times all plausibility fades away during the storytelling; where’s the back up for the troop?

Did any of them have a radio to call the headquarters? The director establishes the characters but immediately proceeds with the action not wasting a lot of time and keeps the audience guessing what will happen next. Along with the great scenes where the soldiers are being hunted in the forest is the mounting tension among the characters as they’re forced to remain in the house with one another. It’s all set up for some truly memorable scenes including an excellent transformation sequence, great shadow play involving the wolves, plenty of gore and blood, plot twists galore, and an exciting and very tense climax that will keep you with your jaw hanging to the floor. “Dog Soldiers” is a true horror feast, it’s one of the best, coolest, most action-packed horror films in years.