by Del Harvey
Surprisingly good werewolf entry from Britain.
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A solider fails to meet the stringent commands of a Special Ops unit leader and so returns to the regular army. A while later his unit is on a training exercise in a remote Scottish woods when they come across some pretty nasty beasts who seem to have made mincemeat of that same Special Ops unit. Racing through the woods in abject terror, on the run from a pack of these hairy fiends, they happen upon a young environmentalist in a combi (that’s an SUV to us State-siders), and she takes them to the nearest digs. Only the family seems to have abandoned their home in mid-meal, and the were-creatures have ripped her vehicle to shreds. Cut off, without phones or radios, with two of their own wounded, the soldiers and the woman make a stand in this lonely farmhouse in these foreboding woods.
Dog Soldiers is a surprisingly good little werewolf film that provides the viewer with some genuine flinches. The cast does a fine job of creating an air of intensity. The troop leader, Sergeant Wells (Sean Pertwee - Soldier, Event Horizon) is appropriately gruff and fatherly, and is perhaps the most surprising, considering how uninspiring the actor has been in other films. The would-be Special Ops failure and Wells’ go-to man, Cooper (Kevin McKidd - Topsy-Turvy), is righteously indignant over having to aid thea Special Ops leader, and is very good in the role of defacto leader when Wells’ intestines are ripped open by a wolf. (It’s okay, they piece his belly together with Superglue!) Liam Cunningham is suitably despicable as Ryan, leader of Special Ops. Big screen first-timer Emma Cleasby is a stand-out as the lone female among the testosterone crew, and pulls off smart and cute without a hitch.
Dog Soldiers was written and directed by Neil Marshall, and he does a fine job with his first directing effort. The soundtrack serves the suspense quite well, and that’s what’s important with a horror film’s soundtrack. The biggest failing comes in the cinematography, which is as washed out and lackluster as anything ever to come out of Britain. It’s as bland and lifeless as their food. You’d think a country that’s been around this long could learn something about saturation and color shifts and maybe, just maybe, bring their technology closer to the 21st Century - - before the century is over.
But this little gripe is minor compared to the enjoyment of watching a really good horror film. Dog Soldiers is definitely worth a watch.
Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly. He lives in Southern California, is a devout Chicago Bears fan, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College for giggles.
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