Dog Soldiers is a fun horror movie. It’s not one that is likely to scare you or leave you terrified, but it is one that you will likely have a lot of fun with. Sure, there are a couple of scenes that will make you jump, and maybe even a few moments where you will be fearful for the characters within it, but for the most part, you will just enjoy yourself while watching it.
The primary reason for this is because of the script, which is almost funny enough to make you think that Dog Soldiers is a parody of campy horror films. That’s not how it ends up though; once the surviving cast is holed up in an abandoned house, you can see that they play it straight once their lives become endangered. The laughter of the characters is drained, but the laughter from the film’s audience will continue.
This is what Dog Soldiers does better than many other films: Its characters have a real sense of comradery. We open off with a squad of six solders dropped off to do a training exercise in the Scottish Highlands. They little quips they say back and forth, the dialogue exchanges they have, these all help to build a sense of teamwork and friendship. We can almost instantly relate to these characters, even if they are far removed from what “normal” people are like.
Considering the fact that we are dealing with soldiers in this film, not ordinary civilians, we have to believe that they are somewhat equipped to deal with difficult situations. And they are. They’re just not well equipped enough, apparently. They end up being ambushed by some, at the time, unknown force, and wind up stranded in a house with limited ammunition and a couple of dead squad mates. They are led by Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd), and earlier met up with a woman named Megan (Emma Cleasby).
The majority of the film takes place in this house, and there are also a few plot twists that occur here. One of these twists in particular was very easy to figure out, while others will likely surprise you. The plot is actually something that turned out to have more depth and surprises than I thought it would, especially because it’s fairly light in this area during the first half of the film.
Another thing to praise is the acting, which is on the whole pretty solid. The characters are believable and well-acted, with nobody letting down the group. Like the characters, the actors worked as a team, taking turns bearing the weight of the film. Nobody stood out, but nobody gave a weak performance either. Everyone felt like they belonged in the film, and despite the fact that it was all very tongue-in-cheek, the characters felt real and believable.
There is one element of the dialogue that I’m very happy was included, and that’s the way that none of it was tailored for an American audience. Too often, films will alter their style in order to appeal to those living in the United States, as that is where the most money can be made. In this case, it means that the European manner of speaking and slang comes through, making the dialogue feel more natural.
Also warranting praise is the way that director Neil Marshall–directing his first feature film–decided to mostly stay away from CGI. Claiming that it was being overused by filmmakers at the time, Marshall decided to make his werewolves with costumes. This does mean that he had to cheat when filming the scenes where they appear; you never really get to see them full-on, which may actually increase the amount of dread and terror that they bring you.
Now, going into the film, you need to know that it is a lower budget piece. The aforementioned cutting away from the actual werewolves is just one of the tactics used in an attempt to hide the budget constraints. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to B-movies, especially in the sense that blood will fly everywhere. Seriously, if you get any sort of flesh wound in Dog Soldiers, your blood is going to fly at least 6 feet across the screen. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, making it all the more fun to watch.
My biggest problem with the film was the way it ends. I wanted to see more of a conclusion–see what happened after the main events of the film concluded. This is a small gripe, and mostly goes to reinforce how much of a good time I was having with the rest of the film. If I wanted more of it, doesn’t that tell you that I was really enjoying myself? If that’s the biggest problem I had with a film, to me, that speaks towards its quality.
I had a lot of fun with Dog Soldiers. It didn’t terrify me, but I don’t think it was trying to. Instead, it seemed like it wanted to give me an entertaining creature film with a likable cast and some humorous dialogue. It did all of that, and when the film ended, I was disappointed not because it was a bad movie, but because I didn’t think I got enough of it. The acting was solid, the tongue-in-cheek style it was created in made it all the more entertaining, and it ended up being really enjoyable.