Friday, October 23, 2015

31 Days, 31 Horror Movies: Dog Soldiers

Watching The Wolfman got me in the mood for some more werewolf movies. There are several I've never seen, but I've got some favorites that I haven't watched for 31 Days. So I dug out my old steelbook DVD (I mean to pick up the Scream Factory blu ray one of these days) of Dog Soldiers and sat down for a little low-budget Neil Marshall goodness.

Dog Soldiers

I saw Dog Soldiers for the first time on the Sci Fi channel back in 2002. If I remember correctly I didn't actually see the opening scene (a rather average 'couple attacked while camping' bit), but I was sucked in anyway. A group of British soldiers running around the Scottish countryside, hunted by werewolves? Yes please! I also remember thinking it was a massive step up from the usual Sci Fi Original fare

It's a tight little movie, with an extremely economical storyline - a squad gets dropped off in the middle of nowhere for a training exercise, they're attacked by werewolves and forced to take refuge in an old farmhouse where they're picked off one by one. Within that framework are some excellent characters, decent special effects (especially given the low budget), and great action and pacing.

Kevin McKidd does a great job as Private Cooper, a Spec Ops washout (because he wouldn't kill a dog for no reason) and the right hand man of Sgt. Wells (Sean Pertwee). I think this was the first time I saw McKidd (I hadn't seen Trainspotting) and remember babbling excitedly to my wife when the Journeyman TV series debuted and he was the lead. She's used to me doing that, though (and much preferred it when he joined the Grey's Anatomy show). Pertwee is always fantastic as well, and is pretty much the only reason I watched Gotham for the first few episodes.

Once the soldiers are in the farmhouse the film turns into that horror standard, the siege film, and there are nods to movies like Assault on Precinct Thirteen, Night of the Living Dead and even Aliens. Marshall is obviously a film fan, and he peppers the whole movie with easter eggs for fellow fans - Sgt. Wells is actually Harry G. Wells and one soldier is actually named Bruce Campbell. He even uses the name of one character, Spoon, as an excuse for an excruciating Matrix joke. (After the character has been devoured by the werewolves the Sarge announces "There is no Spoon!")

It's actually hard to say too much about Dog Soldiers without just sounding like a fanboy. I love the dialogue, I love the effects, I love the constant concern about the England v Germany footie match (it's not a game, FYI). I even like the snapshots during the credits where we eventually find out the score of that match (5-1, England, if you're concerned) and see the story that results from Cooper's escape: "My platoon was eaten by werewolves."

There are minor quibbles - the werewolves are a bit static looking and there's a distinct lack of Pertwee in the middle of the film (after a hilarious sequence in which his intestines are sealed back in with superglue - yes, I said hilarious). The 'sudden, but inevitable betrayal' seems to come without much in the way of buildup. These ARE minor, though, and the movie is really just a raw, fun blast of a horror/action movie.

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