Directed by: Neil Marshall
Distributed by: Pathé
Written by Nick McCann
Just about anyone would agree that werewolves are the most underrepresented movie monsters out there. Few of their many films are up to quality or worth remembering when compared to their genre competition of vampires, zombies, and so on. Plenty have still made their mark though, be it Universal’s “The Wolf Man” setting the template or John Landis having a sick laugh with “An American Werewolf in London.” With “Dog Soldiers” British director Neil Marshall ends up joining those high ranks.
His vision maintains a firm militaristic tone, committing firmly to being a soldier tale despite the supernatural enemy. “Dog Soldiers” takes a classic approach in building up suspense before unleashing the creatures with a shocking punch not far off from any good 80s monster film. It has a momentum that broods in the quiet parts and only gets more dire as it progresses. Despite all that, the movie never forgets to include the occasional laugh.
Much of that comes from a strong cast of likable characters. Everyone’s easily defined amongst one another, riding that fine line in their performance where humor is natural without sacrificing the weight of the stakes. Kevin McKidd is unflinching and tough as he gradually takes charge. Sean Pertwee commands screen time effortlessly. Liam Cunningham has biting ruthlessness as a bad guy you’d love to hate. Even Emma Cleasby is no pushover among a bunch of hard-edged troops, who themselves relish in delivering endearing character moments for every bullet fired.
On a technical level, this low-budget bloodfest manages to feel bigger than the sum of its parts. Action scenes are fast-moving in mostly cramped quarters, punctuated with crisp sound design and a large-sounding score by Mark Thomas. Some of the editing can go a little crazy but everything else is cohesive for all its chaos. It makes for a scrappy aesthetic not too far off from other cabin horrors like “The Evil Dead.” The messy practical effects definitely fit in on that front, with no shortage of gore and some excellent werewolf suits.
This is one for the carnivorous canine’s books. “Dog Soldiers” packs all the best parts of action horror favorites. Marshall brings a refreshing spin to the lycanthrope mythos along with genuine tension, frantic action, and capable characters you want to see live.
“Dog Soldiers” Trailer