Tuesday, June 26, 2007

DOG SOLDIERS (2002) Movie Review


In the highlands of Scotland, a small group of soldiers are on a routine training mission. During their excursion through the woods, they come across a destroyed military camp, and only one man, Ryan, still barely alive. As they begin to make their way through the woods, they are attacked by monstrous creatures, and only survive the ordeal when they come across a car driving on a nearby road. They make it to a nearby farmhouse, and there they make their stand. Megan, the woman who was driving, explains that what they are facing are indeed werewolves. Although the men at first do not believe her, least of all Cooper (Kevin McKidd, best known as Tommy from TRAINSPOTTING), once the werewolves catch up and begin their systematic attack, they soon discover the truth of what they are facing. And with six hours left till sunrise, no one may be live long enough to bring news that myth is indeed reality to the outside world.

Here in the debut from Neil Marshall (who would go on to bring us THE DESCENT), werewolves get a very much needed vault into the 21st century, and British horror gets another notch on the damn cool branch. Marshall's natural writing ability is on fine display here, and through the small talk and quips the soldiers have early in the film, their relationships are quickly set up, and you instantly care for them. These are just regular blokes, who would rather be watching football (that's soccer to you Yankee wankers) than defending the Queen. As the film transgresses into the claustrophobic horror and supernatural terror, they stay rooted firmly in reality, and react just as anyone probably would in their situation. And if you've been using English slang ever since watching the aforementioned TRAINSPOTTING, you'll probably pick up a few new words for your arsenal after seeing this.

Marshall's direction is also spot on. He uses wide and full shots while outside, and then brings the camera closer in as the action becomes cramped and contained, which emphasizes the closed in feeling the characters are dealing with. Even as the pace starts pumping, and the editing gets quicker, Marshall does not let the action become muddled. The characters' whereabouts in the house, and what is happening, is always under control and you can keep track of everything that is going on. Unlike many directors, he uses the editing to his advantage, and does not let it devolve into the flashy, shaky, one-cut-after-another style that is all too common now a days.

Another breath of fresh air, and a sigh of relief, is that the werewolves are all physical special effects, and there are barely any CGI enhancement in the entire film. Through a masterful combination of costumes and animatronics, the monstrous abominations are brought to life, and look just like what a real wolfman would probably be. They are vicious, remorseless, hungry, and tear their victims to pieces, and the gore that follows is unapologetic, with the blood and guts literally pouring out and arterial sprays staining the walls red. They also act as a pack (like real wolves), which is rarely used as an element in werewolf movies. Here it gives a fresh new element to what is arguably a limited subgenre of horror, and creates new difficulties in dispatching them.

Neil Marshall has easily marked himself as a new name in horror that should be closely watched, and any projects that he becomes attached to should be savored as a delicacy served to the world of the silver screen. On the cover of DOG SOLDIERS, JAWS, ALIENS and PREDATOR are used to entice the viewer to rent or buy a film that they otherwise might pass over. The comparisons are justified, though the film stands without needing the crutch of another film. Perhaps in a few years, and if the horror community is lucky enough, Marshall's efforts will be added to the elite list of cover blurbs, and future debut films will use the likes of DOG SOLDIERS and THE DESCENT to promote them.


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