Dog Soldiers Review
Written by: deadhorse13
"No knight should be without his sword". Nothing could be more true during the course of this action-packed, unyielding take on the werewolf mythos. If you’re tired of the cliché when it comes to your marsupial celluloid then you really need to sink your teeth into this tightly wound slice of nocturnal escapism. Under this tightly lensed, deftly directed work of primal pursuit you’ll find yourself squirming with anticipation as these full moon furies get a real taste for men in uniform, so to speak.
The story begins with determined, hardened Sergeant Wells leading his men through tactical exercises in the highlands of Scotland. Previous rumors of strange disappearances in the region fail to rattle the squad as they move about the thickly wooded terrain oblivious to any real horrors it may contain. The patrol, obviously fatigued and homesick, would like nothing more than to retreat to the confines of their living room and catch the footies on the telly as these cockneys would say.
We are quickly introduced to our fateful foot soldiers and the director does an excellent job of creating distinct identifiable personas for each of its cast members. Immediately demanding your attention, Sgt. Wells (played convincingly by Sean Pertwee) rounds up his troops for an arresting campfire tale involving tattoos, minefields and pulped skin. The night’s proceedings are then punctuated with a ravished cow carcass thrown into their encampment, immediately sending alarm among the small infantry.
Now with an unseen threat in the area, Wells and his pack decide to investigate the territory hoping to find the source of menace from the night before. Discovering traces of bloodshed they eventually stumble upon Special Operations Capt. Ryan, the sole survivor of an apparent attack by unknown assailants to whom he is cryptically vague in describing. At nightfall they are descended upon by unseen hostile forces mortally wounding two soldiers including Wells, and force a hurried retreat aided in no small part by a local zoologist doing research in the area.
Holing up in an abandoned cottage the group quickly comes to the realization that they are being stalked by bloodthirsty predators of the lycanthrope variety. Under intense scrutiny Capt. Ryan is bound to a chair for surveillance and precautionary measures as he seemingly relishes the confusion among the rattled ranks. An attempted siege creates complete chaos and once the dust settles we learn the zoologist’s back story, or at least as much as she is willing to reveal to our victimized vets. The group then prepares for a final offensive in the hopes to survive until sunrise and not become toothpick fodder for this particular army of darkness.
The closing hours are riddled with foiled escape plans, revealing alliances, interesting twists and enough explosive action and viscous gore to satiate even the hardened horror aficionado. Augmented by the mysterious Capt. Ryan giving over to his anthropomorphic tendencies and our beleaguered Sergeant coming to terms with his own eventual transformation, you’ll find yourself thoroughly engaged in their struggles for survival.
Without the help of CGI or other cinematic gimmickry Dog Soldiers effectively portrays its grisly pursuers solely through costume, makeup, prosthetics and editing. And the FX are done with obvious care and consideration. The ensemble cast turns in unpretentious, strong performances due in no small part to the well written dialogue and great chemistry on display herein.
To further add to the enjoyment there are several nods to various genre films including The Wild Bunch and Evil Dead, and just a splash of comedy relief to lend polish to this truly unique viewing experience. Somewhere between Southern Comfort, The Howling and Predator lies Dog Soldiers, a film with real bite.
4 stars - get it by tooth, fang or claw!