DOG SOLDIERSMOVIE REVIEW
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Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
"It's a soldier movie with werewolves, not a werewolf movie with soldiers."
So says one of the actors interviewed in the featurette included on the DVD. Is that a fair description?
DOG SOLDIERS was written and directed by Neil Marshall (DESCENT). It opens in the Scottish wilderness where a young couple has gone camping. All is well until a romantic moment is interrupted by an unseen beast.
We cut to a man being chased through the woods by men and dogs. The hunted man manages to over power several of his pursuers before he's captured. We learn that he is Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd), British soldier, and that his survival skills are being tested for entry into the Special Forces. Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham: POLICE 2020) berates Cooper for not doing the obvious: killing the dogs that were tracking him. Ryan hands Cooper a gun and tells him to shoot a dog but Cooper just isn't that bloodthirsty. He refuses and thereby flunks. The well-played serious asshole Ryan shoots the dog himself.
Now we jump to 4 weeks later as a helo drops a squad of British soldiers into the same Scottish wilderness we saw before (most of this was actually filmed in Luxembourg). The squad is lead by Sergeant Wells (Sean Pertwee: EVENT HORIZON, EQUILIBRIUM) and includes Cooper as well as Bruce (Thomas Lockyer: HIGHLANDER: Endgame), Spoon (Darren Morfitt: WARRIORS [TV]), Terry (Leslie Simpson) and Joe (Chris Robson: ALONG CAME A SPIDER). They're here, armed with blanks, as part of a military exercise. The idea is to elude a Special Forces team hunting for them. Most of the squad is more upset about missing a football match on TV than losing the exercise.
The squad makes their way through the woods and we see they are being observed by none other than Captain Ryan of the Special Forces. What is he up to? The squad makes camp and an odd event interrupts a round of scary stories, including a discussion of rumors that people have disappeared in these woods.
These are a likable bunch of guys who curse a blue streak like only the working class British can. We spend just enough time getting to know them before things get tense. The squad comes across the remains of the Special Forces camp. And when I say remains, I mean gory, unidentifiable remains. The only survivor is badly wounded Captain Ryan. Everyone realizes the exercise is over and they are in a bad spot. They abandon their blanks and pick up the weapons left by the Special Forces (Fully loaded, as though whatever happened to them happened so fast they couldn't shoot).
Things happen fast. They hear howls in the distance but getting closer. The squad moves, carrying Ryan along. It's getting dark and they know they're being hunted. What's out there? They're attacked but they fight back and make it to a country road where a land rover is driving way too fast. The driver, a woman named Megan (Emma Cleasby), picks them up and seems to understand the situation at once. Who is she and what is she doing here?
You want to know more, don't you? Yes, it's that kind of movie. Characters you care about in deadly danger and a story that moves, moves, moves.
This movie isn't perfect and its odd sense of humor may be off putting for some but I had a great time. I won't do a SCIENCE MOMENT, since lycanthropy is fantasy not sci-fi, but I will mention that they take the werewolf legend and try to place it in a realistic context. And I especially liked a line delivered by Megan, when they've finally accepted that they are being attacked by werewolves: If this is true then what else is true? You'll never have another good night's sleep as long as you live.
DOG SOLDIERS gets four shriek girls.
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