Dog Soldiers

10/11/2018 16:31

Film: Dog Soldiers

Year: 2002

Director: Neil Marshall

Writer: Neil Marshall

Starring: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd and Emma Cleasby



This is a subgenre of horror that I don’t really venture into too often. I actually really enjoy the idea of the werewolf, it just to seem like one where there aren’t a lot that come out and I’ve seen most of the major classics. This was a film that I had been meaning to see for awhile as it has been talked about on a lot of podcasts I listen to. I have no given it a second viewing as part of The Podcast Under the Stairs Summer Challenge Series for the 2000s. The official synopsis for the film is a routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland wilderness.

We kick off with a couple in the Scotland Highlands as they are vacationing. The woman gives her boyfriend a present that is a silver letter opener. That night they are attacked by something in their tent. Afterwards we see that there’s a full moon out.

It then shifts to a soldier who is being trained to join a Special Forces unit. He has been captured and his name is Cooper (Kevin McKidd). The captain of this unit is Ryan (Liam Cunningham). The last thing he has to do it is shoot a dog that helped find him. When Cooper refuses he fails the test and Ryan does it himself.

The film then shifts to a month later. A unit of soldiers is doing a routine military exercise as the synopsis states. It sounds like they’re going up against a unit of Special Forces soldiers in a kind of competition. The leader of this unit is Sgt. Harry G. Wells (Sean Pertwee). Cooper is also a member here after not getting into the Special Forces.

That first night they get a scare when a cow is thrown into their camp. It is covered in bit marks and it freaks the unit out. They then happen upon a camp that looks like it belongs to the other unit. There are no bodies, but there is equipment left behind and blood everywhere. They do find Ryan wounded and help him. The radio is smashed so they can’t call for help. Wells goes off and is attacked by what decimated the other unit, werewolves. Ryan keeps repeating that they only thought there was one. Cooper saves Wells from death, but he needs medical attention as his stomach has been ripped open.

Those still alive flee into the woods and happen upon a road. A woman stops, Megan (Emma Cleasby). She takes them to the closest house to hold up until morning. They have to deal with periodic attacks by the creatures. The occupants are nowhere to be found, even though it looks like they just up and left. There is a much deeper plot going here that involves Ryan, Megan and the occupants of the house.

My plan isn’t to spoil all of the reveals in this film, but I like a lot of what this film did. From the items in the Special Unit camp, we can tell that they were trying to capture one of these werewolves. I like the idea that there’s a think-tank of Special Weapons that is trying to use the data from that to create military applications. It is pretty messed up that the other unit was brought in as bait. I do like this idea though of trained soldiers being in over their head against creatures like we get here, especially since they’re supposed to be better equipped than normal people.

There is also the idea of genetics that’s used here. I found it interesting that the highlands of Scotland were used, as I feel this is very similar as to where An American Werewolf in London begins. I wouldn’t be surprised as there are quite a few nods in this film like the names of two of the soldiers, Sgt. H.G. Wells and Cpl. Bruce Campbell (Thomas Lockyer). This film is also kind of similar to The Evil Dead in that they go into the woods, something comes after them and they hold in a cabin. Very loosely based, but there are the parallels. There is a feel of the siege narrative as well.

My first viewing here, I did have an issue with the pacing. With a second viewing, I don’t really have that much of a problem anymore. I do feel that it runs a bit long still. Trimming 15 minutes could have tightened up what we got as there is a bit of downtime where we aren’t progressing the story or learning enough about the characters. I get the feel part of this is to get us closer to daybreak, which is salvation for the characters.

Acting for this film I thought was really good. Pertwee was solid as the leader who is out of commission for a stretch. There is something that gets introduced when he is sleeping, but then we see that it fits for him as well. McKidd was also good as the soldier with morals who will stick to them. I like that he is one of the newest soldiers in the unit, but he has survival skills beyond his rank. On top of that, he really takes everything over due to his abilities which I enjoyed. Cleasby was good to fill in more of the science and ecological aspect of the film. I like that they did well in grounding it in reality. Cunningham I think is a fine actor. He doesn’t have much of a part in this film, but I love the change in character. He is a jerk through and through, but it is much different when he is found wounded. The rest of the cast round out the film well.

Something else I’ve been excited to talk about with the film was the effects. I love when I saw that everything in this film was done practically. This was at the height of bad CGI and this film decided to go a different way. The werewolves do look a tad skinny to me, but I don’t really mind it. They look and move in a realistic way, which I believe I read they were played by dancers. That does seem to make sense and really helps. They are bipedal if you are curious, which isn’t my preferred form. The effects of the blood and gore in the film also look really good. If anything, it borders a bit on being too much blood at times, but I love that these werewolves tear their victim apart if they get the chance. I thought the fight scenes among the soldiers and the werewolves were also well done. I have nothing negative to say here.

Now with that said, I really liked this film. I found it to be one of the better werewolf films that have come out since the 2000s. I thought it had an interesting story and setting. That was something I really did touch on. They are ways away from people and that adds to the fear. Grounding the werewolves in reality was something that I thought was really good in this film as well. Acting was very solid across the board. The effects were amazing. My issues with the pacing aren’t as bad as the first time, but there is a bit that could be trimmed in my eyes. The score of the film didn’t really stand out to me, but I didn’t have anything negative against it. I found this to be a good film and definitely worth a viewing.


My Rating: 8 out of 10