Dog Soldiers (2002) Movie Review

The new British Werewolves Attack film Dog Soldiers is most interesting for fans of American horror films who have ever entertained this thought: “Gee, I wonder how other countries would approach these [insert film subgenre here] movies?” Dog Soldiers is a Werewolves Attack film with elements of a Last Stand in a Haunted House. Filmed and released in UK theaters, the movie found its way across the Pond by way of the Sci-Fi Channel, a basic cable channel. This means the originally “R” rated film was heavily cut for violence and gore, the two must-haves for any Werewolves Attack film worth its salt. So does the American cut kill this British export? Let’s see…

Sean Pertwee (The 51st State) plays Sergeant Harry Wells, a British soldier on a routine training exercise in a remote location with his squad. It doesn’t take long before Harry and his small band of characters stumble across Ryan, a wounded British Special Forces Captain, and what looks like the bloody and slaughtered remains of Ryan’s supposedly elite squad. Before Harry and his crew gets a chance to gather their breaths, hairy creatures with sharp claws and saliva-drenched teeth swarms on them from all sides! In the ensuing melee, Harry is nearly mauled to death and ends up with a handful of his own intestines! The squad is saved when a hermit zoologist (Emma Cleasby) happens by in a jeep and rescues them. The group retreats back to Megan, the zoologist’s, house, but they’re not safe by a long shot, because the wolves are closing in for the kill, and daylight isn’t coming nearly fast enough…

Dog Soldiers owes more to James Cameron’s Aliens than the traditional Werewolves Attack movie. Not only are the main character soldiers, but there is the inclusion of Emma Cleasby’s strong woman and Kevin McKidd’s Cooper, a lowly but tough soldier who ends up taking charge, and Ryan as the sleazy and completely undependable (except to betray you) “insider” that Paul Reiser pioneered in the aforementioned Aliens. Heck, there’s even a slightly crazed and gung-ho jokester ala Hudson (the role that made Bill Paxton a living legend in the minds of fanboys everywhere). The only thing that distinguishes Dog Soldiers from Cameron’s version is the accents, since Dog Soldiers has an all-British cast..

The above last part, incidentally, allows the movie to keep much of its original vulgar language, since most Americans will be scratching their heads at the many British varieties for the “s” and “f” words. The movie maintains its gory side and the blood — and intestines and body parts — flow freely. Because most of the characters are soldiers, there is plenty of gunplay, and assault weapons and explosives are discharged on a regular basis. Unfortunately for the soldiers (but fortunately for us) the werewolves don’t seem to be affected by bullets, and keep coming and coming and coming… The movie is relatively devoid of special effects of the computer variety, and this makes Dog Soldiers more of an old-fashioned horror film, with prosthetic limbs and heavy werewolf makeup. Actually, there’s only one scene where a human changes into a werewolf, and even that is something of a cheat.

Writer/director Neil Marshall doesn’t show a lot of originality with Dog Soldiers. The movie is pretty straightforward, and moves competently from a bloody opening to an (literally) explosive finale. The action is shot from various points of view, including the wolves, and Marshall’s insistence on shaking the camera during the chaotic action scenes becomes bothersome after a while. Still, Dog Soldiers is a breezy film, moves well, and the werewolves attack just enough times to keep the film from getting too chatty. The romance angle between Cooper and Megan are of the “what might have been” variety, which seems to make sense in the context of the film. There is one minor “surprise” twist toward the end, but it rings false because it ignores all that’s come before it.

The actors perform their roles just fine, and the males were believable as soldiers — except for Liam Cunningham, who plays the sleazy Ryan. Ryan is supposed to be a top Special Forces commander, but comes across as just plain annoying instead. The one notable is Darren Morfitt as Witherspoon, the Hudson-like character who, after running out of bullets, decides to go mano-a-mano with the werewolves — and actually holds his own! It’s a scene that must be seen to be believed.

Dog Soldiers is a standard Werewolves Attack film that doesn’t stray too far off the path. It’s funny in spots, cheesy in others, and despite the barrage of attacking werewolves, splashing blood and flying body parts, you never get the feeling anyone is taking the situation seriously. That, unfortunately, is the movie’s undoing. Some scenes are played for laughs, which is a mistake, especially when everyone is about to get slaughtered.

Well, almost everyone, as we all know someone must survive to continue the story in a sequel. After all, what kind of a horror movie would Dog Soldiers be if it didn’t leave room for a sequel?

Neil Marshall (director) / Neil Marshall (screenplay)
CAST: Sean Pertwee …. Sgt. Harry Wells
Kevin McKidd …. R/man Lawrence Cooper
Emma Cleasby …. Megan
Liam Cunningham …. Capt. Richard Ryan
Thomas Lockyer …. Corp. Bruce Campbell

Buy Dog Soldiers on DVD