Dog Soldiers

It's Aliens. Only in Scotland. And with Werewolves.

Released in 2002, certified USA-R. Reviewed on 25 Dec 2002 by Craig Eastman
Dog Soldiers image

If there's one thing almost all successful British movies of the last thirty years have in common it's a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humour. Oh, and swearing. Dog Soldiers delivers both in spades, whilst also having the audacity to deliver a wonderfully ludicrous werewolf/slasher movie into the mix. Cheeky.

Plot is not a consideration in cases like this, and Dog Soldiers doesn't pretend otherwise. With tongue firmly in cheek, a band of British soldiers disappears into the wilderness of the Scottish highlands (actually represented here by the remotes of Luxembourg, oddly) on a routine training mission which goes tits up with the arrival of some far from lethargic lycanthropes. Our would-be heroes, led by an always entertaining Sean Pertwee, find themselves under siege at a remote country house for reasons largely extraneous. We're in familiar schlock-horror territory as the motley bunch find themselves low on ammo and high on impending limb separation at the hands of cheaply-besuited comedy monsters. On paper it looks like a cliche-ridden hack nightmare, but on celluloid it works tremendously.

The main reason for Dog Soldiers' success is the humour quotient. It's immediately apparent that no one on the cast is taking this too seriously, and we the audience are rewarded by performances that concentrate more on laughs than depth. Incredibly, we also almost manage to care about some of these people; an effect achieved largely because they're all so recognisably bloody normal, but also because their actions revolve more around panicked mayhem than Hollywood gunplay heroics.

To pick faults with a movie of this ilk would be akin to pointing out how dark it gets at night. Yes, there are gaping plot holes. Yes, the characters, lovable or not remain affably two-dimensional. And God, yes, the werewolf suits look cheesily cheap. The question is who gives a shit? At the end of the day this movie is Aliens in Scotland with wolves (there's even a sub-plot about the military wanting a beastie captured for research), but where that flick succeeded on balls-to-the-wall action and atmospheric tension, Dog Soldiers kicks cinematic ass with its dark and quintessentially British humour and moments of excessive gore-letting. My only real gripe would be the lack of use made by the cinematographers of the stunning scenery, but i'll forgive this on the grounds that a country the size of a first class stamp probably has relatively little anyway.

To paraphrase, Dog Soldiers is a cheeky little minx of a Brit horror flick. It's cheap and immensely cheerful, isn't afraid to spill a bit of claret, and will probably have your missus cuddling up for comfort. At the end of the day, who can ask for more?

Neil Marshall
Cast list:
Sean Pertwee (Wells)
Kevin McKidd (Cooper)
Liam Cunningham (Ryan)
Emma Cleasby (Megan)