Movie Reviews 247 – Dog Soldiers (2001)

Dog SoldiersFull credit goes to writer and director Neil Marshall for delivering a refreshing take on well worn staple. Werewolves are almost as old as Hollywood itself (yes even before Universal studios added them to their line of horror movies) but most follow the standard plot of some poor soul getting bit by one and the audience then following along as the victim discovers bane of their new curse. Think about it. The Wolfman, The Werewolf of London,  An American Werewolf in London, I was a Teenage Werewolf, Curse of the Werewolf, Ginger Snaps, Cursed and even comedies like Teen Wolf. They all share that singular plot. There are a few exceptions, but to a large degree that is the recipe. So it’s always a great feeling when finding a werewolf movie that breaks the mold and surprises us with something new, exciting and original. A movie like Dog Soldiers.

Right from the opening sequence we are witness to a vicious late night attack on a couple of unsuspecting campers in a remote area of the Scottish Highlands. But the scene then switches to a band of military soldiers where we are introduced to Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd) as he fails the survival entrance test for a band of elite commandos under the reign of hardass Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham).

Weeks later and now back in regular uniform, Cooper and his troop are on a training mission but when they meet their intended mock rival team, they find all dead except one, Captain Ryan himself, now a bleeding blathering mess. As the troop tries to make their way out of the forest, they are attacked by a creature and barely escape with the help of a timely arrival of zoologist (Emma Cleasby), who drives them to the only nearby chalet of a resident family. There she must convince Cooper and the rest of the surviving lads that they are dealing with intelligent and persevering werewolves and together they must somehow manage to survive the night. But don’t think for a minute that this will be a mundane battle of creature versus man as they await dawn as there are some whopping surprises in store for the cowering group and their battle with the hairy foes.

One noticeable difference between this movie and the many feeble peers is that the characters are all well defined, and as a group the troop functions like one. The zinger twist at the end, while not foreshadowed with the exception of miniscule clues, fits in with all the evidence without feeling shoehorned for the sake of a shock ending.

Minor squabble for me was a bit of trouble with the thick accents and slang, but not enough to interfere with the understanding of what is going on. Aside from the pared down quality of the werewolf costumes, this movie falls in league with other werewolf classics like those mentioned above.

You have an intelligent script, the gore, and fleshed out characters. Well at least some of them get to keep their flesh. The movie tagline of “Jaws, Aliens, and Predator” is a bit of a stretch (although there are elements from each), but certainly worthy.

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