- Written, Directed and Edited by Neil Marshall (Directorial Debut)
- March 22, 2002 (Brussels) / May 10, 2002 (UK)
In a remote area of the Scottish Highlands a group of British soldiers become the prey of local werewolves.
I had heard about Dog Soldiers quite a while ago but never saw it available to stream or for sale until one day I happen to find myself at my local Dollar Tree when a fresh batch of films were being placed out for purchase. How could I go wrong on a dollar?
Dog Soldiers is certainly a different spin on the werewolf horror subgenre. I would liken it to Predator but with werewolves instead. It is very action oriented with the occasional funny one-liner and lots of bullets and cool explosions.
What helps this movie though-its number one thing-is that it’s well done from start to finish. Innocuous plot elements down the line are revealed to be important. For example our final guy (is that a term?) Cooper (Kevin McKidd) is trying out for a special forces unit and ordered to kill a dog. That seems like a messed-up moment with it being nothing more than to establish his character than it is anything else. Fast forward a little bit where they’re fighting werewolves and Captain Richard Ryan (Liam Cunningham), the commanding officer of the unit Cooper was trying to join, is with the group. It becomes clear that shooting the dog wasn’t a test of Cooper’s character and how well he would follow orders but something connecting to a mission to capture werewolves.
The environment is tense and claustrophobic. Most of the narrative takes place in an isolated cottage with the cast of characters trapped inside attempting to fend off their werewolf attackers. Due to the isolation help is not nearby.
Director Neil Marshall did a lot with what little he had. He was wise enough to accentuate the strengths and cover the weaknesses and does not reach beyond the grasp of what this film is capable of putting forward either from a story point or a budget point.
One thing that is clear is Dog Soldiers was done on the cheap. The weakest point being the external shots of the cottage. I am betting dollars to doughnuts (what does that even mean?) it was always a miniature and that is obvious. They improve when it comes to the werewolves by using shadows and quick cuts to make it appear they have more than what they do.
When the character of Megan (Emma Cleasby) is first introduced it bothers me. Admittedly she shows up during a firefight and mercifully rescues the squad getting their asses kicked but her timely arrival and convenient knowledge should have been a huge red flag. This stands out in an otherwise logically built film. Nobody questions it until it can no longer be ignored by the writers.
And there is one trope used in multiple movies used here. The villainous Captain Ryan knows what they are all up against so considering his wound heals he must understand that his time is running out yet he still insists on being obstinate. Why do villains do that? I understand he still wants to accomplish his goals but there reaches a point that he might want to get help rather than continue to follow orders. That is something done to stretch stories. While effective here and in other instances, it is something of a cliché.
Those issues aside, Dog Soldiers is a great action-oriented film with elements of horror that will get your blood pumping. There are twists and turns and excitement that will keep you watching from beginning to end. I strongly recommend this one!