31 Horror Films (2014) #27 Dog Soldiers 2002 Dir Neil Marshall

Dog Soldiers 2002 Dir Neil Marshall

I love discussing the high art of the horror film, but sometimes, it’s good to just geek out over a good old-fashioned creature feature, and Dog Soldiers certainly delivers.

There is a short list of werewolf films in the horror genre and there seems to be an even shorter list of good ones, with An American Werewolf in London and The Howling occupying the top spots even after all these years. However with the success of Twilight, we’ve seen an upturn in not just vampire fare, but stories featuring lycathropes. Unfortunately most of these new entries feature beautiful people fighting other beautiful people amid a lot of CGI, while the best of the good werewolf films feature puppets and practical effects. And while Dog Soldiers doesn’t usurp the “A” werewolf pictures, being one of the early films of Neil Marhsall, director of The Descent, it is a fun entry into the “B” category.

Dog Soldiers follows a British Army unit on a training exercise in the Scottish highlands stumble upon the remains of a fellow group of soldiers. The lone survivor of the attack, Captain Ryan, (Liam Cunningham) tells them little of what had attacked them. The surviving men press on, trying to make it to civilization, while getting picked off by unseen creatures in the woods. The men eventually team up with a zoologist, holding up in a farmhouse trying to survive until morning.

Dog Soldiers plays a little like a mix of Predator and The Thing with a whip of the conspiracy from Aliens as these soldiers do their best to last until the sun comes up, all while being picked off by a legion of murderous monsters. There are goofy moments, but for the most part, the British cast commit fully to their performances making us believe every choice and every scene. The cast is fantastic, but that is not unexpected. British performers are often highly trained and lend as much professionalism to monster movies as they do to performances of Shakespeare. The practical effects of Dog Soldiers are well done, giving the creatures monstrous size and shape, making you feel like these aren’t just pithy CGI puppets, but physical objects to menace our heroes.

Dog Soldiers is simply a fun popcorn movie to watch with a group of friends. The Descent is Marshall’s real horror masterpiece, and in many ways this film feels like a rehearsal for that one. However, the collection of distinctive characters, as well as a fun concept make this film a brilliantly executed “B” monster movie.

ON TO 31 HORROR FILMS (2014) #26 REC 2007 Dir. Jaume Balagueró