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.Powered by Sidelines