Dog Soldiers (2002) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Dog Soldiers (2002) Review

Horrorific content by Jack Campion on November 04th, 2021 | Movie Review | Survival, Isolation, War, Werewolf, Military

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What starts off as a military exercise in the Scottish Highlands turns into a brutal fight for one squad’s survival as they come up against a pack of fearsome werewolves.

Dog Soldiers was directed by Neil Marshall (who also directed The ReckoningHellboy and Tales Of Halloween) and stars Sean Pertwee (from The Seasoning HouseDevil's Playground and Mutant Chronicles), Kevin Mckidd (from Hannibal Rising) and Emma Cleasby (from Soulmate).

Six men. Full moon. No chance.

Dog Soldiers (2002)

Dog Soldiers. Even the name of this Predator-inspired action-horror flick sums up the brutal, straightforward attitude the film has towards a story. It's about dogs and soldiers, for sure. Some of the dogs are actual dogs. Some of them are half dog, half soldier. The film itself is half cheese, and half blood-soaked terror.

Made on a relatively low budget of £2million, Neil Marshall's debut smacks of rough, raw energy. It wastes no time in setting up its premise with a cold open that lasts about one minute and features a couple out for a wholesome camping trip who get brutally murdered by werewolves. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that Craig Conway, who plays the psychotic cannibal Sol in Neil Marshall’s dystopian thriller Doomsday makes an early appearance, and he won’t be the last in familiar faces.

With the threat established, we then without skipping a beat come upon the Special Ops military exercise that our protagonist Cooper (Kevin McKidd excels in, except when he is commanded by the Spec Ops in-charge Ryan (Liam Cunningham, who also plays Davos in Game of Thrones) to shoot a dog. His refusal establishes him as a moral centre, and he winds up back in normal jarhead responsibilities.

The camera work in Dog Soldiers is choppy and erratic, somewhat indicative of the early 2000s era in which it was produced. It isn’t bucking any trends by having sped-up footage or its use of day-for-night using a blue filter. The film has a grainy texture from being filmed on early digital cameras - think the grey opening shots of 28 Days Later.

The aforementioned cinematography works to the advantage of Dog Soldiers, which is every bit a film that wants you to enjoy yourself and indulge in its charms. It doesn’t insult the intellect by pretending to be anything that it isn’t, nor does it disappoint in the areas you’d expect it to, where many films like this fall flat on their face. Neil Marshall falls into that category of director shared by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) in their commitment to entertain audiences, rather than be concerned with pretenses of artistry.

We witness impaling, disemboweling, gouging and goreing. The blood is bright red - movie red. The appropriate red to go with people getting literally eaten alive. It is a violent film and the werewolves are built as a true threat, amplified in the second and third act which is set entirely in a remote cottage, where we begin to see a little less Predator and a bit more Aliens/Evil Dead.

This is all amid the army boys and their constant “lad” talk. When we are first introduced to them we are bombarded with “bladdy ‘ell lads, wish I was watchin’ the match wiv’ a few pints and me mates'' -esque dialogue. At first I found it cringeworthy because it really comes off like Marshall was trying too hard to go down the Joe Bloggs, Ordinary Bloke™ route of characterisation, but the film puts a stop to this kind of nonsense when the heads start rolling and the bullets start flying.

The squad members actually get a decent amount of characterisation - not too much, I should say, but they become 2.5d rather than just 1d, which is an achievement of sorts. They’re really just there to get us to the gory good stuff, and sometimes that's all you need.

Worth Watching?

The film never keeps you waiting, and never leaves you bored, and the werewolves are actually cool and monstrous rather than just being a guy in a suit. In the limited cache of good werewolf films, Dog Soldiers plays fetch among the best.

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