Dog Soldiers (2002)

Directed by
The dog soldier's bollocks
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-08-16

Six squaddies are dropped in the remote Scottish highlands for a training mission, their task to infiltrate an area that is defended by a squad of special forces. On arrival they discover the special forces have been slaughtered, reduced to a bloody mess, with only the severely wounded captain surviving, babbling incoherently. Before long they find out why when beasts with sharp teeth and long claws attack. They manage to escape and bump into a young woman who takes them to a nearby cottage where they can hole up, and tells them about the half man half wolf creatures that stalk the area every full moon.

DOG SOLDIERS was the debut film of director Neil Marshall, a low budget action horror hybrid that takes inspiration from ALIENS, PREDATOR and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and infuses it with dark British humour and gleeful gore, with some surprisingly impressive creature effects.

The squad are foul mouthed working class lads, not the brightest bunch but brave and loyal and not about to take any nonsense from a pack of werewolves or a special forces captain with a stick up his arse. They have limited equipment but their training and teamwork allow them to fight off the werewolves and fortify the cottage. Unfortunately it seems their foe can't actually be killed with bullets, and the wolves regroup and begin a more carefully coordinated siege.

The film is packed with action that is well staged and filmed by Marshall and crew, especially as the squad begins to run out of ammunition and has to start improvising their weapons and tactics. It doesn't take long for things to kick off and then it barely lets up until the end. There are some very gory kills and buckets of blood and guts are spilled.

The low budget shows in places, e.g. occasionally inconsistent film stock, but Marshall uses (marshals?) his resources wisely to create an engrossing atmosphere of tension, heightened rather than compromised by the witty script. The characters are a distinct lot, and the cast represent them well. Emma Cleasby is particularly impressive as the lone female, who proves to be just as tough as the boys.

DOG SOLDIERS is a great demonstration of how low budget genre films serve as a proving ground for filmmakers, allowing them to demonstrate their skills and their unique qualities in a well understood context. It would have been very easy to make a terrible film with these ingredients, so the fact that it's such a fun and thrilling experience proves the talent of the team.