Werewolf movies have been a staple diet of filmmakers and audiences for many years. Neil Marshall is the writer and director of Dog Soldiers, the new British film dealing with the pesky lycanthropes.
The premise is simple; a group of wisecracking British soldiers out on exercise come across the remains of a Special Forces team and one survivor. The Special Forces team had live ammunition and tranquilliser guns. Initially, they suspect that its part of some mind game that their training instructors are playing on them. However, it seemed that the Special Forces were more on safari than exercise in the Scottish Highlands.
The squad, led by Wells (the ever dependable Sean Pertwee) and his second in command Cooper (Kevin McKidd) soon realise that they are not on exercise anymore and that the discovery was not some trick being played on them. They are attacked by a large wolf-like creature in the dark and discover that they are very much out of their depth. Luckily they are rescued by a local woman Megan (Emma Cleasby) who happened to be driving in the area and heard the gunfire.
She takes them to the nearest farmhouse, where they barricade themselves in for the night. Unfortunately, with werewolves prowling outside and under siege, the squad is trapped and wait anxiously for the break of day.
The film is well written for the most part. The wit and banter between the squad is good and seems very natural. Unfortunately this doesn’t extend to the rest of the cast and some of the script is pretty bad (mostly for the unfortunate Emma Cleasby). The character of Megan is obviously there to try and explain the existence of werewolves but it could have been executed better.
For a film with a very small budget, the special effects are good. Blood and guts fall about realistically and the action sequences are suitably bloody. This comes as no surprise seeing that Neil Marshall is a former special effects and make-up artist. Due to the budget, the werewolves are never really shown, but are always kept in the shadows and if a transformation occurs then it’s the Contort-face-and-fall-behind-table variety as opposed to any major morphing special effects.
The humour in the film is great and doesn’t detract from the horror. Sean Pertwee is very engaging as the squad’s sergeant, who’s more concerned about his men than himself. His standout scene involves his guts (and a dog and later, some super glue!!). The rest of the cast does a good job of backing him up.
Although Dog soldiers is a collection of old ideas, it is delivered with such enthusiasm and earnest that it comes across as a new concept. It has a good build up, strong performances and enough horror to please most fans. Whether the film would have been the more enjoyable with a larger budget is questionable. My money is definitely on no.
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