Trigger Warnings – Nothing really, except some strong language
Spoiler Alert – Whilst I will avoid ruining the film entirely, I will have to disclose some details about the film as this is a review
Happy Halloween folks! I decided that this year, for my first Halloween special ever, I’d do a review of my favourite horror film, Dog Soldiers. Dog Soldiers was released in 2002 and is the brainchild of English film director Neil Marshall, a man perhaps better known for The Descent and some of his work on Game of Thrones as a director for “The Watchers on the Wall”. The film is about a team of soldiers playing war games in the Scottish highlands, only to discover things are not as they seem when they find dead bodies all over the place and the only possible explanation seems to be the work of the supernatural when the only survivor they can find seems to have massive claw-shaped wounds on his gut. One thing leads to another and our crack squad of reluctant heroes find themselves under siege in an abandoned cottage, pumping lead into a legion of werewolves. The film is low-budget, chock-a-block with banter and references and a weird cross between a horror movie and a war film, as creating a weird hybrid genre
I love this film, it doesn’t scare me but it greatly amuses me all the same because it is so damn clever and yet so goddamn cheesy. The title alone is a clever play on words. Dog Soldiers could refer to the fact that there are both dogs and soldiers in the film, a mash of two genre titles or the fact that “Dog Soldiers” refers to military operatives given shitty tasks and nothing could be more shitty than being flung into a forest and being made to fight lycanthropic nightmare stuff. A clever combination of genres, this film ticks off as much as it can on the iconography of being a horror film and a war film. Isolation, a monster we don’t see but still fear, endless victims, blood and guts on the horror front but you have the comradery, class divides and heroic sacrifices of the war genre.
I can’t decide on my favourite character either – Cooper the protagonist played by Kevin Mckidd (Trivia, this role was offered to Statham who would have done it but had another film on at the time), Sergeant H.G Wells (Yes, yes that’s his name) played by Sean Pertwee or Captain Ryan played by the Onion Knight… Ok I’m starting to realise everyone who is remotely famous in Britain is destined to end up in Game of Thrones, give it long enough and we’ll see David Tenant cast as a freakin’ long last relative of the Starks. The film mostly revolves around banter for dialogue, with everyone being as typical English as possible talking about football, obscure English slang, cups of tea and kebabs but laced within it all is references to everything from Zulu to The Matrix. I know the film is low-budget and the werewolf costumes are hilariously low-par, heck one actor has his boots visible under the costume at one point, but it is so cleverly done when you look at it carefully and if I had the know-how on video editing, I’d do a scene by scene breakdown of this film for all it’s worth but I lack that know-how and copyright infringement issues and yadda yadda yadda so you’re stuck with a blog post, deal with it.
Every detail is done on purpose and I won’t spoil it but I’ll just cover some great bits I love:
– In the weapon-choosing scene, I love that Cooper picks the sword because he’s the protagonist and protagonists get swords
– I love the sacrifice scene, it’s beautifully tragic and you love the guy who goes so it’s actually sad because throughout the film he’s been the funniest fucker going
– Liam Cunningham is a great actor and I can’t reveal why, it’ll spoil the film but watch him closely and see if you can spot something about his character
– The film isn’t very long but it’s so full of content in its run time that you never have a moment to go “Well this is boring”, the moment you settle down, something happens to progress the plot or the action and the edge of your seat gets real used to the feel of the butt
– One of the characters genuinely fights a werewolf with a saucepan and another, knowing his death is imminent, fucking takes a seven-foot monster on with his bare hands and a chavvy attitude, taunting the grizzly bitch before it guts him like a fish
– The Matrix reference, watch it, spot it, laugh
Honestly, watch this film, I want to tell you so much more about it but I’ll spoil it so shall I give you a lot some time to try and see it for yourself so I can do a talk about it? Tempting, but it’d go on so so long, I can tell you endless fucking trivia and analysis of this film from start to finish, I studied it at great length in college and loved it, didn’t really scare me that much because I know the conventions of horror so I can guess every scare before it happens (A friend took me to see Woman in Black and they were annoyed I didn’t even budge at it, calling it ‘predictable’ because it is). If you’re a fan of horror movies, or indeed war films or anything to do with the supernatural then this is a must-see, a plucky British movie about army soldiers versus werewolves in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a few rifles, some pots and pans and a broadsword for an arsenal, all whilst cracking-wise, shitting bricks and talking like real Cockney gits. I just… I just really like this film. Go watch it. But it on your DVDs and slap it in your disc-playing-thingymabob with your popcorn and your coke and just enjoy it, just fucking… just watch
GIANT TACKY WEREWOLVES! *guitar riff*