I love monster movies, and werewolves are my favorite. They just don’t get enough credit. As I mentioned in my Top 10 post, there are few werewolf movies that really get it right. Dog Soldiers (2002), written and directed by Neil Marshall (of The Descent) and produced by Christopher Figg (of Hellraiser), comes pretty damn close.
I’ll tell you right off the bat, the only thing missing for me from Dog Soldiers is a really solid and horrifying transformation scene. Other than that, this one hit all the right notes for me – murder, mayhem, and a little bit of comedy thrown in.
Note: There are potential spoilers throughout this review, so you may want to stop here and return after watching the movie.
From the get-go, we know something terrifying is prowling around the highlands of Scotland. In the next few scenes, you are under the impression it is Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham) – the character is a jerk, ’nuff said.
Seems Captain Ryan is interviewing recruits for his black ops team, and our hero Private Cooper (played by Grey’s Anatomy’s Kevin McKidd) doesn’t make the grade – because he won’t kill an innocent dog.
No worries though. Four weeks later Cooper, along with his comrades (led by the very effective Sean Pertwee), are dropped into those very same highlands for a training exercise. Things get bad almost right off the bat. One of their team members is killed, and Sergeant Wells (Pertwee) is attacked and seriously wounded. (Side note: Look for that great line I mentioned in my Top 10 post.)
Marshall doesn’t bother trying to keep the true nature of what is hunting our heroes under wraps, and as the viewer, I appreciate that.
After picking up Captain Jerk – I mean, Captain Ryan – and seeing that his team has been gorily slaughtered, the team goes on the run. They eventually get picked up by Megan (Emma Cleasby) and brought to the only farmhouse in the glen.
It’s very apparent things are going to go down, and the team quickly realizes what they’re up against. Kudos again to Marshall for not wasting time with the back and forth. The group decides to take a stand. Being that this is a military exercise, what we don’t have is a lot of whining. These guys stand tall and fight to the end, and that’s one thing I loved about this movie. No crying, no begging, just some knock-down, drag-out fights. Things don’t end well for everyone, but no one goes down without getting some serious shots in.
We start to piece together what’s really going on, and once again I appreciate that Marshall didn’t insult his audience by giving us idiots to work with. Our soldiers are smart enough to figure out the deal, and they don’t waste time throwing up their hands in disbelief. Again, they just fight!
There is some tinkering with werewolf mythology here, but no drastic changes and nothing unforgivable.
The path the movie takes is somewhat familiar, and yet the last one standing is a bit of a departure, but Marshall created some tough guys that were surprisingly likable, and I was sorry to see most of them go.
I’ve watched this movie five or six times, and each time I pick up something new. The familiarity has not dampened my enthusiasm for this movie one bit! You may even have to watch it more than once just to decipher some of the accent-heavy dialogue.
If you like horror, and you haven’t seen this, let me tell ya – you’re in for a howlingly good time!
4 1/2 full moons out of five.