Dog Soldiers (2002), Cert 15.

Director - Neil Marshall.

Writer - Neil Marshall.

Starring - Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby & Liam Cunningham.


Premise - A British Army unit is on an exercise against a special forces unit in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands. However, when all they find of the special forces unit is a pool of blood and some random internal organs, they realise that the exercise is over and that a fight for their lives has just begun.

Dog Soldiers is the kind of British film that almost never gets made. For a kick off it's a genre film and the only kind of film British studios seem to want to make are either costume dramas or another 'Bridget Jones' style comedy. So it's all the more refreshing when something like Dog Soldiers comes along from a UK studio.

Shot in Luxembourg, but set in the Scottish Highlands (Most likely because of the UK's silly taxes on shooting in this country, Braveheart was filmed in Ireland.) Dog Soldiers takes the baton from last years 'Ginger Snaps' and continues the rebirth of the Werewolf movie genre.

Debut director Neil Marshall has taken his ludicrously low budget and crafted one of the finest Werewolf films since 'An American Werewolf In London.' Forced through budget constraints to use practical effects for the beasts and shoot them in low light and with fleeting glances past the camera. This style makes them all the more effective and about ten times more convincing than the terrible CGI animals that were created for 'An American Werewolf In Paris'.

Marshall creates a real claustrophobic feel for the film and drips it in atmosphere. The early scenes in the forest are frenetic, with fast moving camera's that leave the viewer breathless, trying to keep up with the action. The later scenes in the house slow down as we (and the army team) are given brief respite from the beasts. However when they strike again the ferocity is ramped up and the viewer is again bombarded with high paced action.

The many action set pieces are handled well and a good bit of originality and invention has been used to lift the film above standard horror fare. The film boasts a wicked twist in the tail (pun intended), that I certainly did not see coming. It's a nice touch that completely alters the last half hour of the film. I thought I had the ending pegged, but my assumptions were turned on their head by this plot turn.

Marshall's script is sharp and witty, stuffed with many genre references and sly, cheesy one liners. Sure, the plot borrows heavily from the likes of Aliens, Predator and The Evil Dead, but the director clearly has a great love for these films (One character is called Bruce Campbell). The film is definitely more of a schlock, comedy horror affair as apposed to straight out horror. Gore and blood are thrown about with wanton abandon and the practical effects are very impressive given the films uber-low budget.

Again probably more an effect of the low budget than anything, the cast is made up for the most part by unknowns. A relief for me as I hate nothing more than watching a British film and spotting about a dozen soap opera actors peppered throughout the cast. Aside from Sean Pertwee and Kevin Mckidd, I had not seen any of the actors before. The quality of acting is very impressive for this genre of film. The camaraderie in the army unit is very convincing, you actually believe that these guys have lived together and fought together. So when one of them is killed the viewer feels it as much as the other members of the unit.

I'm not a big fan of Sean Pertwee, he was in the risible 'Soldier' and has been in a few Brit-stinkers in his career. He goes a long way to redeeming himself here though. His work as 'the sarge' is very good and he delivers his many funny lines well and shows a previously untapped potential for comedy. The cry of 'sausages' is as funny as it is disgusting. Star of the show however is Kevin Mckidd. The last time I saw this guy was as Renton's doomed weightlifting buddy in 'Trainspotting'. He gives a commanding performance here and I expect big things from him after this film.

It's a real shame that Dog Soldiers has not secured a US distribution deal. And, it looks increasing unlikely that it will either, as it was recently shown on the US Sci-Fi channel (albeit in a severely cut form). I urge all in the US to track down a copy of this film, you will not be disappointed in this ironic and fresh take on the werewolf movie genre.


8/10 for Dog Soldiers.

Poster Quote - Don't be a fool (moon), see it now!