I’ll never forget the day I chanced upon “Dog Soldiers” in a bargain bin at an Indiana gas station. I had seen bits and pieces of the movie on Sci-Fi Channel (back when it was actually called the Sci-Fi Channel), so I knew it was a good bet. Almost ten years later, the movie remains the best werewolf movie to date in my opinion. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s my favorite horror movie either – and the very basis for the B-List Bargain Bin blog.
Before he scared us out of spelunking in “The Descent,” Neil Marshall reinvented werewolves without CGI or teenagers in this 2002 British horror film. After the obligatory slaughter of two hikers by creatures unknown, the film follows Cooper (Kevin McKidd), a British solider who has just flunked out of a special forces mission headed by the hostile hardcase Ryan (Liam Cunningham). Reunited with his regular squad commanded by the sympathetic Sarge (Sean Pertwee), Cooper and his buddies head to a “harmless little exercise” with – you guessed it – special forces.
The only problem is when they catch up with special forces (or what’s left of them – which isn’t much), they find their competition isn’t packing for a “harmless little exercise.” From tranquilizers to silver nets, the special forces definitely aren’t firing blanks like Sarge and his men. The only survivor is (of course) Ryan, and he’s in no shape to tell what happened. Soon the squad is attacked by Ryan’s assailants: dyed-in-fur werewolves. Taking shelter in a farm house with a biologist (Emma Cleasby), the squad must fend off the pack’s attack if they want to see the next morning sun.
You haven’t seen werewolves until you’ve seen “Dog Soldiers.” The ghastly bipeds stand seven feet tall in an eerie and emancipated combination of fur and flesh, with very real-looking wolf heads. Best of all, these werewolves are designed totally free of CGI. I can count the number of times CGI is used in this movie on one hand – and when it is used, it’s extremely subtle.
Having covered the “Dog” part of the movie, I have to say the “Soldiers” are equally enjoyable. Every character fills out the team in a necessary way, and every character makes the most of his or her screen time, even when they are facing the literal jaws of death. In so many horror movies, a character’s death can feel cheap or tacked-on. Not so with “Dog Soldiers,” which manages to translate a high body count into a glorious last stand – with werewolves.
Whether you’re tired of shirtless werewolves or can’t wait for “Attack the Block” to come out to the States, “Dog Soldiers” is a movie no self-respecting werewolf fan can afford to miss. While Hollywood has respected director Neil Marshall enough to include him in the “Splat Pack” alongside the likes of Eli Roth and Rob Zombie, what Hollywood really should be doing is taking notes: this guy just kicked the action movie and the horror movie in the teeth – at the same time.
Buy “Dog Soldiers” on DVD for $11.68 at Overstock.