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Friday, May 15, 2020

Dog Soldiers (2002)

I remember many years ago browsing the shelves of my local video store. That is right kiddies there used to be a place where you went to borrow actual physical copies of movies for a small fee! I saw the cover to this DVD and thought it was worth a watch. Sure, it was a low budget British made werewolf flick from a director, Neil Marshall, that I had never heard of. But there wasn’t anything else that I was interested in, so I figured why not. 

The movie kicks off with a man being chased in the woods. Very quickly you find out that he is in training to become part of a special forces team. His last test is to shoot the dog that allowed the other soldiers to track him. He refuses and the asshole in charge, Captain Ryan, shoots the dog and fails him. Later we find that Cooper, the man that failed, is back with his regular unit on yet another training exercise. They end up running into some weird shit as they find a bunch of bodies or at least bits of them. The only survivor of that group is Ryan, who is torn up and clearly scared. Werewolves show up and the shit hits the fan!

The rest of the movie is the group stuck in a siege as they have barricaded themselves in a farmhouse and do everything they can to defend themselves from the creatures trying to claw their way in. Lots of blood is spilled and there are a couple of twists along the way. I will point out that while the twists are good the ending is predictable. But I can honestly say that it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of Dog Soldiers at all. The story is solid and wastes no time to getting to the good stuff. The action is ramped up right away and never lets up. There is always something interesting and exciting happening from start to finish. The characters are developed a bit with some dialogue but are more importantly defined by their actions. I have a prime example of that later on in the review. Admittedly that they fall into predictable categories for anyone that has watched a horror flick with an ensemble cast before. When done correctly, as it is in Dog Soldiers, I have zero issues with that.

I love the creature design!
Many of you who read my stuff know that I hate it when movies do bad things to dogs, so I clearly wasn’t happy in the first few minutes. But I have to say that it is such a shocking and twisted bit that in that one act they establish exactly who Ryan is, which is used later in the story. I can’t think of a better way to cement him as heartless asshole then to have him kill a dog so I get that choice and the movie does redeem itself later on so I’m willing to cut them some slack. Heck there is even a “hero” dog that ends up with the main characters. And yes, that one does make it to the end.

Seriously how cool is this?
I believe that I’ve mentioned this in my past reviews of werewolf movies, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it. Your success in filming a story featuring lycanthropes is going to rely on how well you are able to execute the special effects work. They do a fantastic job in Dog Soldiers with what I don’t think was a huge budget. The special effects work is all practical and looks spectacular. Early on they keep them in the distance or mostly covered by the night and trees but fear not when they attack the house things are out in the open and fun. There are several creatures on screen with each having a slightly different look, which I noticed and appreciated. Different people shifted into the monsters so they shouldn’t all look the same. I was somewhat surprised by the lack of gory kills, but we do get some guts shoved back in and super-glued into place. That was pretty good and sort of funny. But most of the really brutal stuff is implied by blood sprays and piles of gooey bits lying around after the fact. Still if they decided to blow the budget on creature makeup rather than the kills I’m good with it.

This is a great movie that I recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen it. If you have, I’d still say it is worth a re-watch. I hadn’t seen it in a few years and was pleasantly surprised how well it has aged. I have zero issue saying that Dog Soldiers is one of the best horror flicks of the last twenty years.

Ó Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

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