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Dog Soldiers DVD review

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How many times can you say you’ve seen a man in a movie have his innards ripped out? A few times maybe? Ok, how many times have you seen that same man have a hungry dog take a small string of his still connected intestines while he’s still alive and try to eat them? That’s one of the many highlights for gore and horror fans in the totally surprising “Dog Soldiers,” one of the best werewolf movies in years.

Sent into a forest to compete in war games, a troop begins their journey. When they find the opposing squad, they realize they’re in trouble. There’s nothing left to them, literally. During a firefight against an unexplained enemy, they are lucky enough to find a vehicle and take shelter inside a house. That’s the worst place they could be.

You get far more than you’ve paid for here. There’s a surprising amount of character here, building them up early and often. That does lead to slow pacing at times (the movie could’ve been trimmed by at least ten minutes without any sacrifices), but it’s so rare for the genre, it’s almost refreshing.

The werewolf design is great; especially considering it was made on a small budget. The suits (no CGI here) are fantastic and everything is wisely done in low light and with quick cuts. There are very few glaring moments when you can tell they’re animatronic. Everyone involved knew what he or she had to do in order to make this work and they pulled it off.

It’s easy to take this on surface level and compare it “Night of the Living Dead” or even “The Thing.” The wolves crash through doors and windows, rabidly grabbing at the team at every opportunity. That’s fine. If thoughts of those classics enter into your mind, how is that a problem? It’s not really all that terrifying, but it’s done with style. If you’re not drawn in early, you will be later on.

Every action sequence is long and drawn out, all for the better really. It makes the odds against the team drop lower every time. Those great gore effects add even more to then tension as heads fly and bodies are sliced wide open. This is not one for those with weak stomachs.

Overall, “Dog Soldiers” is just one of the rare few low budget horror films that just works on every level. Yes it needed some trimming and yes there are logic lapses. That’s just the usual stuff that comes with this genre. Just sit back, don’t bring along any food, and have a blast. (**** out of *****)

Sadly, the film gets butchered on DVD. Both the 1.85:1 widescreen and pan & scan versions are available on the same side of disc. Neither transfer presents the film as it should be presented. Black levels are non-existent and for a movie that takes place almost entirely at night, that’s a crime. Everything is faded, likely intentional, but not to this degree. Grain is excruciating, covering fine detail and backgrounds. The movie was low budget and this transfer makes it look that way. (*)

The audio presentation (full 5.1) is a notch above, though it’s one of the lowest mixes ever put on the format. There’s no bass to speak of anywhere in the film which is a bit odd considering how many guns are fired. The sound doesn’t really pick up until they get into the car and start heading for the house. There, a werewolf on the roof of the vehicle starts tearing away to find a way in. You’ll hear him scratching in every direction, from every speaker. Bullets whiz by the viewer later in the film and the separation in the stereo channels is remarkable at times. Even with all that, without the bass, it just sounds washed out and missing any real punch. That’s a shame. (***)

Extras are sparse, pretty much as expected. There’s a commentary track producer David Allen and co-producer Brian O’Toole. They pretty much dissect the movie inside and out, even going over the credits. They’re constant talkers.

The featurette is rather disappointing, especially considering that it runs for almost twenty minutes. There’s far too much movie footage here and it’s pointless if you’ve seen the film. The first thirteen minutes just discus the plot and the characters, again, totally useless. After that there’s some behind the scenes stuff and a nice commentary on CGI and why it wasn’t used. There’s some nice footage of the suits too. The final extras on the disc are two trailers, one international and one domestic. (**)

Sci-fi fans can take note of all the great references in this film. Thomas Lockyer plays “Corporal Bruce Campbell,” an obvious nod to the “Evil Dead” series. Sean Pertwee plays “Harry G. Wells.” Use the first two initials to figure that one out. One of the lines towards the end is taken from “The Matrix.” There’s likely more buried in here that can be found in multiple viewings.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    I guess I can brag a bit. This marks my 200th movie/DVD review for BC according to my numbers. My first was on 11-10-03. So, in less then a year and a half, I’ve done more reviews by myself than most major sites with multiple staff members. Nope, I have no life. Hope it’s been as fun for your guys as it has been for me.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    Congrats Matt! I’m still working on getting a year under my belt, I’m approaching 170 posts, mostly reviews of some sort.

    I really liked this movie, and, according to the commentary, those dog-yanked innards aren’t really innards, but they will allow you to think so…
    I like to think they are. :)

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Matt, that is a huge accomplishment and a vat number of reviews: your dogged (pun intended) persistence is astonishing and a lesson to us all!!

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    congrats matt! i quite liked dog soldiers, but felt it was really over-rated. at the time, the folks at aint it cool and so on were yacking about how this was one of the greatest horror flicks ever, don’t you know? and because it was british, i was supposed to feel all proud. The fuck does it matter to me? Thankfully, with Shaun Of The Dead, such an occurance has, well, occured once more, and this time i feel it is justified.

    But certainly, away from the hype as we are now, and obviously it didn’t influence you, i think there’s an awful lot to like about dog soldiers. and it has scary-looking werewolves, too. Those are freaky lookin sons a bitches. when was the last time werewolves were scary?

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    Wow, didn’t know anything about the hype. I actually found this one last week at K-Mart for $5. It had some form of creature in it and I seen some previews on Sci-Fi. Couldn’t resist. I’m glad I picked it up.

    Thanks for the words guys!

  • Tristan

    Mmmmm

    i LUV vampire & werewolf movies~~
    didn’t even know about this one till i saw this bloggggggggg…
    Yayyyyy

    sick of seeing “Underground” on cable~~
    was great the 1st 8 or 9 times~~
    seems like they have been playing it every other day lately!

    DYING for another Anne Rice vampire flic to come out ~~~~!!!!!

    http://witchery.myblogsite.com

  • SFC SKI

    It was a pretty good flick, enjoyable and a bit suspenseful. Good to see something that is not Hollywooded out all the time.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I think people got so excited over Dog Soldiers because they got tired of hoping for something good to come along and got overexcited when it did. There are so many horror films that sound good on paper and then turn out to be utter crap that when a small, indy horror flick comes along that doesn’t suck, it’s justification for rejoicing in some quarters.

    Dog Soldiers was much better than most of the horror schlock that gets spewed out onto video. Maybe not a truly great film, but way above average for the genre.

    Dave

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    People of a certain age might think you’re referring to another movie.

  • SFC Ski

    THat film was later renamed “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” NOt a very good mpvie in any case.

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    Good book though.