Dog Soldiers

Dog Soldiers
Made in: Great Britain
Language: English
Director: Neil Marshall
Starring: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Liam Cunningham, Emma Cleasby
Year: 2002

Synopsis: A gifted British soldier named Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd) passes the final test which would allow him to be a member of special operations. But the special ops leader, Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham), fails Cooper at the last minute. The reason? Cooper refuses to shoot a tracking dog when ordered to do so.

Four months pass. Cooper is then sent back to his unit, which is under the command of the gruff, battle-hardened, but ultimately caring Sergeant Wells (Sean Pertwee). Wells is leading his men on an odd training mission in the Scottish highlands, but things get horribly weird when the group stumbles upon a severely wounded Captain Ryan... and the splattered remains of his special ops team.

Gathering up the live weaponry left behind by Ryan's men, Wells' team is suddenly attacked by a werewolf. While running (and shooting) for their lives in the woods, they come across a country road and flag down a 4x4 driven by Megan (Emma Beasly), a zoologist. Emma takes them to an isolated cottage where the troops hunker down. But the werewolf, now joined by a pack, surround them.

As the soldiers do all they can to ward the monsters off until morning, they discover the horrible truth behind their mysterious "training" exercise...

The Good: Dog Soldiers is an intense and surprisingly entertaining indie film. It's neither self-indulgent nor over-the-top in terms of presentation. The characters are great, and you genuinely feel for them. Sean Pertwee and Kevin McKidd play very likeable, in-depth heroes, but I think Pertwee is the uncontested show-stealer here.

His portrayal of the veteran Sergeant Wells is very authentic, and he's the perfect blend of toughness, humor, and humanity. The villain Captain Ryan is a lot of fun as well, and it's great to see Liam Cunningham's calculating evil play off of the expressive Sean Pertwee.

The script is tight, the dialogue is witty, and the story development is unpredictable. All of these qualities bring this low-budget thriller above B-movie status. The werewolf genre is hard to take seriously nowadays, but director Neil Marshall makes it work here.

The Bad: Produced on a small budget, Dog Soldiers does have some minor problems. Some of the werewolf make-up effects are kind of cheesy (as is the blood), and in places, the cinematography looks a bit amateur-ish. The opening "scary" scene definitely looks kind of cheap (almost in a public television kind of way), which left a shaky first impression.

Who would like this movie: Dog Soldiers is for you if you like smart, low-budget indie horror films that pay homage to B-movies (like From Dusk till Dawn, Tremors, or the 90s remake of Night of the Living Dead).

The basic "trapped-in-a-house" scenario is familiar, so you don't have to be a seasoned fan of foreign films in order to enjoy it. Despite its minor flaws, Neil Marshall succeeds in giving this werewolf movie plenty of substance.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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