Dog Soldiers     rated     NO MOLECULAR MOVEMENT

An Unreal Howler

This movie is the first outright turkey I’ve seen for ages.  It poses as a hip, high-tech, original horror film, but it is actually a pastiche of many of the horror films of recent years, only with werewolves.  These werewolves rip off bits of Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979), Predator (1987, McTiernan), Jaws (1975, Spielberg) and The Blair Witch Project (1999 Myrick & Sanchez), and the actors chew them up and spit them out at us.  There’s even a bit of The Thin Red Line (1999, Malick) in there (the scene with Woody Harrelson’s horrific injury.  From memory, it’s even shot from a similar angle).

Surely this is a move made for 8-year-old boys.  I say that because there’s no nudity to speak of (unless you count people whose skin has been ripped off to reveal their innards).  There’s a kind of “trainer” babe – a woman in winter woollies who eventually strips down to a white singlet and hipster jeans – but there’s no actual sex, and the attractive girl and the attractive guy are constantly teased by all the other guys, just as 8-year-olds would do.  Perhaps this is a movie made by 8-year-old boys!

This turkey has it all:  overwritten dialogue, recycled ideas, stock caricatures (my “tautology” there is intentional), pompous and overblown music, ultra-rapid-fire editing (music video style) which confuses the action and mixing up as to which character is which.

In the first few moments it almost seemed it was going to be a nice little low budget horror film in the style of Val Lewton – you know, no money for proper creature effects, so we’ll just hint at the monster and not show it to you.  Unfortunately, they showed the monsters to us – admittedly gradually.

At first I thought these werewolves were rather nasty upright collie dogs (in the manner of The Killer Shrews (1959, Ray Kellogg), where the filmmakers seem to have fitted Halloween masks to collies to make the killer shrews).  Then I thought they were butchers dressed in butchers’ capes and hoods, carrying pigs’ heads.  But in the last few scenes I realised that they were wearing leather pants, platform shoes and big hair.  That’s it – Attack of the Drooling Queens.

Believe it or not, the writer/director Neil Marshall sees fit to work an office-politics type revenge sub-plot into the story.  And another sub-plot has a Special Weapons division standing behind the werewolves (see Alien again if you think this is original).

Quite a bit of money has gone into this film.  The special effects were done by Bob Keen and Image Animation, who worked of Ronin (1998, Frankenheimer), Elizabeth (1998, Kapur), Event Horizon (1997, Paul Anderson) and Fairy Tale: A True Story (1997, Sturridge).  They’re good at blood and guts, but perhaps the creature workshop was having an off day…  

Some of the actors (mostly unknowns) were quite good, but they didn’t get much of a chance to show what they could do.  The scenery looked lovely (Luxembourg standing in for Scotland).  But how this film actually got made, I don’t understand.  Didn’t anyone see how bad it was?  Maybe the filmmakers took as their credo this compelling line of dialogue from the film: “We’ll make it through because we don’t scare easily”.  If only they did.

© Michèle M Asprey 2003

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