Mar 20, 2020


The most important thing a genre aficionado can demand of his or her filmmaker is that he or she, first and foremost, be a fellow genre aficionado. It's this kind of mutual respect and love that often results in the most rewarding experience at the theater, and one can always tell the difference in horror films made by someone hired at random by a studio versus horror films made by someone who gets it. Neil Marshall gets it. Just based on the fact alone that his directorial debut was a werewolf film brought to life by practical affects, Neil Marshall totally gets it.

Though we have seen the military squad thing done ad nauseum in this and every other genre, Dog Soldiers actually manages to elevate the well-worn crutch by sincerely going out of its way to add identities to each of its men. Among them are genre faves Sean Pertwee as Sergeant Wells and Liam Cunningham (Davos!) as Captain Ryan, mirroring the conflict between Sergeants Elias and Barnes from Oliver Stones' Platoon. The cast's shared dynamic treads familiar ground - tough-talking, profanity-spouting soldiers eager to show off their masculinity - but this never gets in the way of properly presenting the characters, nor does it prevent the audience from coming to sympathize with them.

Though obviously existing within the wheelhouse of horror, Dog Soldiers is a love letter to all films, both within its plot - the war movie, the werewolf movie, the pack-of-misfits movie - and in its clever homages - from The Matrix ("There is no Spoon.") to Aliens ("Short controlled bursts!") while having constructed a plot based on equal parts Predator and Night of the Living Dead. Gallows humor, snappy dialogue, and a British stone of blood and guts makes Dog Soldiers a pulpy and vicious good time.

There have been a lot of werewolf films since Dog Soldiers' 2002 release, including a big-budget remake of The Wolf Man with an A-list cast along for the ride, yet none of them have managed to match the ferocity, ingenuity, and adoration for the sub-genre that Neil Marshall's film debut accomplished. Rightly considered a cult classic, and featuring a loving amount of practical effects, and without a single weak performance in a genre infamous for them, Dog Soldiers belongs on every horror fan's shelf.

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