on January 4, 2003
I was looking forward to watch DOG SOLDIERS ever since I read a very favorable article about it in a British horror film magazine. When I spotted the DVD here on amazon, I immediately ordered it.
DOG SOLDIERS revolves around a squad of British soldiers on a training mission in the Scottish highlands. Soon strange things start happening. They encounter a badly wounded Special Operations officer, whom they take with them. Attacked by werewolves, the squad suffers the first casualties but manages to make a narrow escape with the help of a young woman. After reaching a remote farm, things turn from bad to worse when their car is destroyed by their devilish furry foes. Besieged, with no radio or phone connection, despairetly trying not to panick and running out of ammo, a fierce fight ensues with the almost invincible werewolves...
WOW! WOW! And again WOW! To my point of view DOG SOLDIERS is one of the greatest horror films of all time, exceptionally well written, fastpaced with a strong storyline and likeable characters, who are not the mere monsterfodder as usual. You actually care for the sympathetic guys ( with the exception of the special operations officer ). It is a real pleasure to watch a fright flick without the usual cast of annoying teens. I also found it refreshing that DOG SOLDIERS lacks the silly humour considered indespensable by so many directors. The plot is very inventive and makes good use of the locations. DOG SOLDIERS is relatively violent and gory ( the disembowellment of the sergeant made me wince) but it is not splatter for splatter's sake. And a horror movie without CGI is a real viewing pleasure in itself.
Some remarks on the DVD:
You can choose between a widescreen and a fullframe presentation. As for extras, you have an audiocommentary, a featurette and two trailers, the international and the domestic one. The international one is widescreen, quite good, but gives away too much of the film, while the domestic one is presented fullscreen and doesn't do the film justice.
Every few years a horror film comes along that simply wows genre fans. Maybe it has something to do with awesome gore effects, or a better than average plot, or great performances by previously unknown actors; it might even resemble something like "Dog Soldiers," a recent film that contains all of the above mentioned attributes along with a nifty reworking of one of horror's old touchstones: the werewolf story. Whatever it is that makes a horror film stand out, we need more movies that look like this one. "Dog Soldiers" seemed to come out of nowhere, like manna from heaven feeding weary horror fans slogging through the deserts of slasher film retreads and the recent trend of mediocre remakes. The fact that this gripping take on the werewolf legend comes from the British Isles makes it even more remarkable. The misty climes of the Scottish highlands are the perfect setting for such a bleak movie. Remember how successful "An American Werewolf in London" was when it took place in the same bleak atmosphere? You get that type of oppressiveness in "Dog Soldiers" as well.
No one really believes in werewolves anymore. The whole business about people changing into bloodthirsty wolves when a full moon comes out just doesn't seem as scary in a world of serial killers and terrorism. And shooting a beast through the heart with a silver bullet or stabbing them with a silver blade? C'mon! Something as easy as that wouldn't even turn Jason Voorhees's head for a second! Yep, in today's world you will need something much more involved than a couple of hairy brutes roaming around in the woods once a month. Fortunately, you get much more with "Dog Soldiers." How about an entire family of werewolves, a squad of heavily armed soldiers on a training exercise in the wilds of Scotland, and a deserted house in the middle of nowhere? How about a guy brave enough to take on an eight-foot tall werewolf with his bare hands? How about enough gunfire to make "Scarface" look like a Disney film? If you think lycanthropes and assault weapons go together like milk and cookies, you will adore this film.
The plot is seductively simple: a squad of army regulars, including a tough as nails soldier who recently flunked out of SAS training because he wouldn't shoot a dog, runs into more than they can handle during a routine exercise out in the hills. They uncover a group of SAS troops torn to pieces in the wild, and find only one survivor of the group cowering nearby (who just happens to be the guy who flunked our sturdy hero out of the SAS). This colonel rants and raves about how there are more of "them" then we thought, and how there's no way to stop them, and other seemingly mad statements. One thing's for certain: anything that can turn a group of SAS commandos into hamburger would send me running home to mother. The regular army guys recognize this danger, too, and decide to scoot right out of the hills and back to civilization.
Regrettably, whatever attacked the SAS guys suddenly reappears to wreak havoc on our group of heroes. While fleeing through the woods from these shadowy figures, the men stumble upon a vehicle driving along a country lane. As it turns out, the car contains a beautiful young lass who knows all about what's going on in the woods. It's werewolves out hunting for the night, she says, and as if to emphasis this point the lycanthropes attack the car. The group manages to get to a nearby house and barricade themselves inside, but the vehicle goes up in flames and now there is no way out until morning. The rest of the film consists of one lengthy combat scene after another, as the soldiers use machine guns, blades, and their bare hands to hold off the group of enraged wolves. Another thing: for some reason best left unsaid here, the werewolves seem to resent the soldiers holing up in this particular house. These guys just cannot get a break.
With the exception of one scene well into the movie that strains the bounds of believability, everything works in "Dog Soldiers." The characters are interesting and well developed, especially the Sergeant leading the platoon and the rejected SAS soldier. Even the evil SAS colonel who knows much more than he is letting on adds a fun dimension to the film. Throw in literally gallons of blood and gore, gallows humor dialogue, and pacing that fairly grabs you around the neck and you have a horror classic for the ages with this gem. I should also mention that "Dog Soldiers," at one point in the movie, actually made me jump so high out of my chair that I nearly hit the ceiling. You probably won't see this shock coming, and I won't spoil it for you, but if you don't react in some way when it happens, you're probably comatose. I salute a movie that can inspire such a jolt in my jaded system. It wouldn't surprise me at all if "Dog Soldiers" gets a sequel in the near future, if not for any big box office numbers then for heavy rental numbers and enthusiastic praise from many horror fans. I could watch this film again and again without ever getting tired of it, and I think you will like it too if you give it a chance.
on September 25, 2002
Hey, this is a B-movie from the UK about a bunch of soldiers in the woods fighting off a pack of werewolves. A lot of people are going to avoid it just because of what it is. I just want to say that if you're the kind of person to whom the the premise sounds watchable, the movie will probably exceed your expectations.
A couple professional touches lift this little flick way above the low-budget pack.
First, the pacing is lickety-split; everything the viewer learns about what's happening, and who it's happening to, occurs while the action is rolling right along.
Second, the actors are into their roles and perform with gusto. Their script is blunt and profane, avoiding 'Tarantino-wannabe" hipness and coming across pretty much like what a bunch of freaked out young soldiers might actually sound like.
Third, the action is slick and thrilling. It's great to see budget constraints overcome by sheer imagination, as in the rip-snorting climax, which is over-the-top explosive despite the fact that it takes place entirely inside a small country house.
Don't fall prey to the intolerance many modern genre fans have toward low budget films! It's the imagination that counts, and 'Dog Soldiers' has all it needs.
on December 3, 2002
A low budget British horror movie, it is exemplary of some of the excellent entertainment that comes out of the UK.
A squad of British soldiers are out on manuvers in the wilds of Scotland, and stumble over what turns out to be the remains of a Special Forces operation to capture a werewolf. From that point forward, they are fighting for their lives against a pack of howling nasties that are merely annoyed by bullets. After holing up in a farm house, they struggle desperately and wait for dawn.
The movie is a modern spin on the classical werewolf story, and is certainly among the single most gory films I've seen in years. It is a great example of how good an indie film can be, even in a highly commercialized genre like horror. The makers' of this film pulled no punches in the sheer bloody nature of the work of a pack of ravenous werewolves. That aside, it is also a solid, fun exercise in storytelling.
I would not recommend this movie to everyone, but fans of werewolf stories or horror movies MUST give this movie a look.
on March 6, 2006
A fiercely intense horror about a squad of British commandos and a female civilian trying to survive the night in an abandoned farmhouse in the Scottish Highlands against a pack of werewolves.
From the moment a mutilated cow falls down an embankment smack into the middle of the soldiers' patrol the action in this film is nonstop. Towards the end is an excellent fight scene with the men out of ammunition, literally fighting tooth and nail with the werewolves. They don't know if they'll be alive another second - neither will you the viewer.
Although there are a few holes in the plot and some of the situations seem contrived, this little known British production has gained a well-deserved cult following over the last four years. In my opinion it is one of the best werewolf flicks to have been released in a long time.
on July 30, 2006
Werewolf films have always gotten the short-stick when it came to quality product. Vampires have always gotten the glamour and choice stories to be told on film. Sure there's been some great werewolf films like An American Werewolf In London, The Howling and Wolfen, but more often than not most modern werewolf films try to copy the early Wolfman of the 1940's Universal horror days. I'm very happy to say that Neil Marshall, an up-and-coming director from across the pond, has taken the premise of the werewolf tale and seemlessly blended it with the action conventions of such action-horror films like Aliens and Assault on Precinct 13. He even manages to mix in the tried-and-true themes of the siege action war films like Zulu and The Alamo.
Dog Soldiers is pretty much a straight-up action-horror film with a simple and tight plot of a group of British soldiers out on an exercise in the Scottish Highlands where they soon run across a pack of werewolves. These soldiers are only part of a much larger covert mission conducted by the special operations department of the British military which seem to think that some sort of creature lives in the Highlands which they want to capture and experiment on. It is safe to assume that neither group has their plans go according to how they've planned them. It doesn't take the film too long before both groups have been whittled down to a few survivors by the werewolf pack and must seek refuge in an out of the way countryside cottage. With the help of a young anthropologist, who happen to be driving by the deserted country road when the group flees from the werewolves, Dog Soldiers suddenly turn from a your typical werewolf film and into a siege reminiscent of such classics as Night of the Living Dead, Aliens and Zulu. The rest of the film is a race against the clock as the werewolves outside slowly, but gradually probe the defenses of the remaining survivors until the climactic final reel where secrets between between some of the survivors are revealed to show that the situation the soldiers have been put in were not accidental. The final half hour of Dog Soldiers is as action packed as the last half hour of Aliens.
Neil Marshall's simple, yet tight directing and pacing of the film was helped considerably by the fine ensemble cast of British actors. There's some fine performances from Kevin McKidd as the cool-headed Pvt. Cooper who shares abit of history with the secretive and aloof covert operator Capt. Ryan (played by Liam Cunningham). In fact, I would say that McKidd's performance as Cooper holds the film together and keeps it from sliding into camp. It's a shame that he hasn't done more work in Hollywood and when he has it's been good performances like his performance as the English sergeant in Kingdom of Heaven. Hopefully, his role as Lucius Vorenus in HBO's drama series Rome will finally get him the recognition he deserves. The rest of the cast does a fine job with Sean Pertwee as the Sgt. Wells being a sort of father figure for the young soldiers in the squad. Emma Cleasby rounds out the British ensemble cast as the young anthropologist Megan who comes across the fleeing soldiers on the country road and takes them to the only defensible shelter in the vicinity. Her character does a good job of gradually letting out the nature of the danger they're all in. But any talk of the performances in Dog Soldiers will not be complete if I didn't mention Darren Morfitt's gung-ho and manic performance as Pvt. Spoon. His Spoon portrayal is abit like Bill Paxton's role as Hudson in Aliens, but minus the early bout of panic and cowardice. Spoon revels in the situation he and his squad mates have been put in. He sees it as the ultimate test of British military skill and nerves against insurmountable odds. He even mentions the Battle at Roarke's Drift to make a point to a squad mate. This is ironic since that battle was the setting for the classic siege war film Zulu which Dog Soldiers pays homage to.
The effects work in Dog Soldiers was very well done for a film that had a budget less than the FX budget of most Hollywood blockbuster projects. Some people have pointed out that the werewolves either looked like men wearing a furry suit and/or furry-looking puppets. This is further from the truth. The look of the werewolves were pretty simple and with the budget Marshall and his crew had to work with they looked pretty convincing. Neil Marshall also seemed to have taken Spielberg's rule of showing less is more approach. We really don't see the werewolves in full until the final twenty minutes or so. By then the film has already hooked and reeled in its audience into suspending their disbelief and just enjoying the film. Dog Soldiers also contains quite abit of gore-laden scenes that were very well done. Limbs and heads ripped from bodies abound in this film. Stomachs are gutted with entrails spilling out. There's even a nice scene of the werewolves feeding on the remains of one of their kills that most past werewolf films don't show on-screen. Marshall seem to have figured out that gore and scary moments can be in the same film instead of just one or the other.
2002's Dog Soldiers was a very small film, but it was one of the first first of the last couple years that has brought back balls-to-the-wall horror, action and gore back into the horror genre. Before Dog Soldiers most horror films have sunk to the PG-13 soft horror or the cynical, self-referential films like Scream. What Neil Marshall and company have done with Dog Soldiers was to make horror the way it should be: a hard rated-R thrill-ride that takes its audience by the neck and doesn't let go. Gorehounds and fans of horror and action films should rejoice in the finished product that is Dog Soldiers. They should also be glad to know that Neil Marshall is one director who understands what makes a great horror film. I for one can't wait for what he intends to do next.
A couple are out enjoying the romantic seclusion of a tent in the Scottish Highlands when a werewolf interrupts their love making. Meanwhile, in another part of those woods Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd) is proving to Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham) that he does not have what it takes to be part of Ryan's elite special operations force. The bone of contention is being ordered to shoot a dog just because Ryan says so. Ryan accuses Cooper of having a conscience, as if this is a bad thing in a military man. But Cooper washes out and ends up back in the area some time later with the other members of his squad, under the command of Sgt. Wells (Sean Pertwee). Around the campfire they hear about the local stories about people disappearing in the woods and never being found, which engenders a round of "ooohs" and "aahs." Then they find Ryan's squad ripped to itsey bitsey pieces and the Captain just about over the edge and the hunt is on. As this 2002's tagline tells us: "Six soldiers. Full moon. No chance."
Well, that is not exactly true. Once the squad finds Ryan they are up to seven and then there is Megan (Emma Cleasby), a scientist whose function is more as the mistress of exposition than as a damsel in distress. In other words, she is the one who knows that there is a pack of lycanthropes (werewolves to ordinary folk) out there hunting the soldiers and has a good explanation for why they are holed up in a house without any silver in it. Apparently the full moon matters even when the sun is up, and there are very few films of this type where it is literally true that nobody has a chance of getting out alive. After all, Cooper has a few things to prove to Ryan before everybody ends up dead (although it is so strange to see McKidd look so talk after watching Titus Pullo tower over Lucius Vorenus all the time on "Rome").
Werewolf movies often come down to how well you like the werewolves once you actually see them and get a good look at them, assuming this happens, and in "Dog Soldiers" writer-director Neil Marshall ("The Descent") makes sure that happens. Just keep in mind that this is a fairly low budget film and that Marshall was determined not to rely on CGI to make the werewolves work, because by those standards I think they exceed expectations. Another thing that this movie does is avoid talking about werewolf movies, although everything from the "Kobiashi Maru" to the defense of Roark's Drift depicted in "Zulu" make there was into the pop culture references scattered throughout the film. I really have not gotten to the point where I can cite a specific movie as being a really great werewolf film, and while "Dog Soldiers" is not great, I still think it is really good.
My only real complaint is that things slow down a bit too much once they get to the house in the woods, because I really liked the whole idea of having a fire fight while retreating through the woods. The appeal to me here is the whole idea of doing "Aliens" with werewolves as opposed to being trapped in the building and doing "The Night of the Living Dead" with werewolves (Yes, I know there is a point in "Aliens" where they are trapped as well, but that gets back to beating a hasty retreat and then a rescue mission, so I feel I can stand by my analogies). When soldiers are the cornered rats instead of ordinary civilians, I would expect there to be some more significant differences. Oh, and bonus points to Spoon (Darren Morfitt) for coming up with a really great line to say to a werewolf that is about to kill you and in case you really need to know the results of match, England beat Germany 5-1.
on September 11, 2003
Bad werewolf movies are a dime a dozen. Remember Bad Moon? Any of the Howling sequels? By sheer comparison alone, this makes Dog Soldiers an unexpected treat.
This is a film made by a horror fan for horror fans. Much of the movie takes place at an isolated house in the woods (like Evil Dead) and involves a bunch of soldiers fighting off monsters (like Aliens or Predator). One of the characters is even named Bruce, a reference to Bruce Campbell. Even "The Matrix" is referenced in the movie, particularly in the last few scenes. And there's something about werewolves being in England... I just don't know, it's always money.
The movie is very fast-paced and only slows down for some crucial plot points and minimal character development. I liked all the characters and the actors do a fine job of portraying them. However, I felt at first that everyone looked a lot alike and could only tell them apart once they started getting eaten, one by one.
The werewolves don't look particularly realistic, but that didn't bother me. I guess I got used to it, and they still looked better than any CGI (i.e. An American Werewolf in Paris) I've ever seen. There is some moderate gore in the film, including lots of limbs being hacked off, and a decapitation. Probably not enough to satiate those perverse gore-hounds out there, but maybe too much for your grandma (or a girlfriend who acts like your grandma).
This is a very fun film for horror fans looking for a good, exciting werewolf movie.
on June 16, 2004
Usually straight-to-DVD films are junk, but there are some surprises out there, and this is one of them. A British horror/action film that was never released theatrically in the U.S., and starring faces mostly unfamiliar to American viewers, "Dog Soldiers" is an exciting, well-written and well acted horror flick with no pretensions. It's actually a much better film than some the recent indie horror flicks that received a lot of critical praise, like "28 Days Later" and "Cabin Fever." For horror and action fans, you can't miss this one.
"Dog Soldiers" is essentially a mixture of "Southern Comfort" and "The Warriors" with werewolves: a military unit finds itself trapped in a wilderness, surrounding by merciless foes -- who in this case happen to be huge two-legged wolves. The film also borrows heavily from many other movies: "Alien," "Aliens," "Predator," "The Night of the Living Dead," "The Birds," "Zulu" (the characters even make direct mention of the film), "The Balir Witch Project," and "Straw Dogs."
The plot follows a British squad on a training exercise in the Scottish Highlands (actually filmed in Luxembourg). The squad comes across their target, a Special Ops unit, but it has been mysteriously and viciously wiped out. The culprits are werewolves, and soon the squad and a local biologist are fighting to live through a night of the full moon in the middle of nowhere. There are a couple of nice twists in the story along the way that shift it in unexpected directions.
The acting is uniformly superb, something you wouldn't expect from this kind of lower-budget horror film. Because none of the actors are big-named stars, you really have no idea who will live through to the end and who will become werewolf-chow. Kevin McKidd (from "Trainspotting") and Sean Pertwee (son of one of the men who played Doctor Who) take the lead roles and do great, believable jobs as military figures under intense pressure who nonetheless rise to the occasion. The real scene-stealer is Liam Cunningham as the sole survivor of the Special Ops unit, a vile but secretive man who may be hiding something very important from the others.
The visual effects, thankfully, avoid CG as much as possible. The werewolves are achieved using full-body suits and robotic heads. They don't look very convincing in longer shots, but the filmmakers cleverly keep them mostly hidden or shown in very quick shots -- which makes them much scarier. There is quite a bit of gore, although not all of the grisly effects are believable. For the most part, the horror scenes rely on fast-moving and exciting action, but there are some very good 'jump' scares and creepy, drawn-out sequences. Hard-core horror buffs and fans of military action will both find the results satisfying.
The DVD contains a twenty-minute 'making of' featurette. Much of the running time is taken up with clips from the film, but there is some interesting information about the visual effects and the anti-CG philosophy behind them. The commentary is from the two producers, and had a lot of good info in it. The 5.1 sound mix is adequate; there are some juicy howling and explosions on the back speakers, but most of the sound is pushed to the front speakers and the volume is a bit low.
"Dog Soldiers" is a real find if you want some good, old-fashioned horror movie scares and rugged violence. It's smart and well-acted, in the bargain. I hope director Neil Marshall does more films like this (maybe they'll even receive a theatrical release).
Thanks to the Amazon horror forum, I stumbled across this film about two years ago. I watched it again last night, and can say without a doubt that it is the best werewolf movie out there. Sure I still love Lon Chaney as "The Wolf Man", and no one can dispute the genius behind "An American Werewolf in London", but "Dog Soldiers" tops them all.
We are immediately introduced to a likable band of "weekend warrior" Scottish National Guard unit, who under the pretense of a training exercise are dumped deep in the forest. A place where apparently multiple people have gone "missing".
Of course the reason for the missing people, and the real reason for this rag tag army unit's placement here become obvious very quickly when the troop is attacked by a pack of werewolves. I don't want to give away an specifics or spoilers (there are several fantastic twists and turns). If you want a fast paced, bloody and action filled horror flick, look no further. This B-movie rises above expectation with great acting, an excellent script, great special effects, a wonderfully isolated setting, and a fantastic sense of humor.
"Dog Soldiers" is a movie you can watch repeatedly, and you will always catch something new. Highly recommended.