Dog Soldiers

Day Seven of the 2010 Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Countdown!

Happy Halloween Countdown: Day Seven

Dog Soldiers:

From a terror made of wood in yesterday’s pick, Magic,  to terror in the woods, we move on to 2002’s Dog Soldiers, a surprising little UK made movie featuring werewolves.  The plot of the film completely unoriginal.  A platoon of a British soldiers while on maneuvers in a secluded valley in Scotland stumble into a pack werewolves.  They team up with a local biologist and barricade themselves in an empty farmhouse.  Can they survive the night?  Yeah, I know; we’ve seen this story before.  There are a couple of interesting sub-plots to round the story and the characters out a bit, but essentially it’s the Battle of Rourke’s Drift with werewolves.  I’ll give you a moment to look that up.  Back?  Great!  Let’s push on!

On the face of it, Dog Soldiers sounds like a total loser.  In America, it was shown about a million times by the SyFi Channel, as a so-called SyFi Channel Original. For those outside the US, the SyFi Channel’s original programming is usually of very poor quality.   It would be easy in that context to lump Dog Soldiers in the same category as DinoCrayfish 2 or Piranhagator and that is unfortunate, because Dog Soldiers is actually really good.  I saw it on it’s SyFy premier and was amazed that they were showing a movie of this quality.

As a writer Neil Marshall may not have come up with an original plot, but he created some great characters and gave them some cracking dialogue.  The cast is truly excellent:  Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham and Darren Morfitt are all totally engaging, creating interesting characters rather than simply serving as Purina Werewolf Chow.

Marshall also directed Dog Soldiers, it being his first full length film, though you’d not guess that.  Dog Soldiers is quick paced, tense and atmospheric and polished; it doesn’t have that “this is my first film” feel or weak editing in the ample action sequences.

As in any monster movie, there are two questions: One, do you see the monsters? And, two, do they look lame? .  You see more and more of beasts as the tension grows, which makes them more effective, until you get to the full reveal near the end. The werewolves in Dog Soldiers are horrorifically gorgeous, reminding me of the full-on Eddie Quist werewolf in The Howling.  Further, they were created using practical effects instead of CGI, which is why they look good eight years on and will still look good in eighty years.

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