'Dog Soldiers' Review: It Has Werewolves
Dog Soldiers was originally released in 2002 and was director Neil Marshall's first film. Fortunately, he's gone on to bigger and better things (The Descent, Game of Thrones and Hannibal), but his first foray into horror is mostly unremarkable.
Dog Soldiers follows a platoon of British soldiers led by Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd) as they embark on a training exercise in the woods, but they soon find out it's far more dangerous than what they initially expected. The film is 90% a siege film with werewolves thrown in. After the initial set up, the majority of the movie takes place in a rural farmhouse, with our protagonists fighting for survival against seemingly invincible foes. This is a pure B-movie, complete with semi-terrible special effects and a paper-thin story. Despite the fact that the werewolves are the primary antagonists, the camera refuses to ever give us clear shots of them, constantly cutting away or showing quick shots and then the victims. This might be effective for obscuring the attackers, but from the beginning of the film, we know what the monsters are. All this does is make it evident how poor the prosthetics by avoiding showing us them whenever possible. Admittedly, the acting is pretty solid with Cooper, Wells (Gotham's Sean Pertwee), and the devious Captain Ryan (Game of Thrones' Ser Davos himself, Liam Cunningham) being the highlights. The rest of the platoon function as fodder for the werewolves and really have no discernible personalities.
There are some really gruesome deaths, and the relentless siege as our heroes try to wait until the sunrise is pretty entertaining, even if you begin to wonder when they'll try something other than bullets to dispatch of the wolves, since all they do is absorb the ammunition and come right back. The tension is real, and it seems like the main characters are always in constant danger, but they never really modify their plan of attack. Also, certain ideas are plotted and never followed up on. For example, the platoon plan on using a car to drive off, but then after procuring the car, the soldiers decide to use it as a bomb rather than an escape. I tried to be forgiving of the plot holes (of which there are many), given that this is a pure low-budget horror film, but the large reveal at the end of the film makes so little sense when you connect it to the sequence of events in the film that it really killed any engagement and investment I had in the film.
Dog Soldiers is hardly a train wreck, but between its low budget and mindless plot, I couldn't really find myself enjoying it. There are some decent performances and gnarly kills, but it's mostly a forgettable ride.
Final Say: Pass It