Monday, November 08, 2010

Dog Soldiers

(2002) *****

In anticipation of Horrorthon, my lovely wife Julie set the dvr to record a slew of horror flicks off of various sources. (We'd turned our cable off for the summer to save some scratch, and having it back on has made us drunk with power. Also regular drunk.) As she was rattling off the names of them, she got to Dog Soldiers and I started so violently I spilled my margarita into the big ottoman in which we store Zack's toys. "Why, that's the best werewolf movie ever made, according to some guy on the internet!" I said, grabbing one of the replacement margaritas from its spot on the folding TV tray.

Deciding it must be viewed at once, we settled in for the best fucking werewolf movie ever. But it turned out it was the best ___ing werewolf movie ever, because it had been taped off a channel that edited for content. Lousy kids. Thanks to the instantly engaging characters in this movie, we were already too far into it to stop. And even with some good bits missing, Dog Soldiers kicks all kinds of ass.

In a testament to laziness, I am going to paste the review of the internet guy that I mentioned before, which is okay because that guy is me. I viewed this for the 2006 contest back when there were only four contestants, so I hope it's new material for most of you. Now please join me in a fresh margarita from my thermos (because I am at work, you know), and turn the clock back...back...

(The picture gets blurry here, fades to 2006...)

Wow! Who is this Neil Marshall guy, anyway? I'd heard this was good, but it's freakin' fantastic. I think it just replaced American Werewolf in London as my pick for best werewolf movie ever.

The story follows a squad of Scottish soldiers whose routine exercise goes sideways when they find the gory remains of a Special Forces squad who were on a black op gone bad. In no time flat they're on the run from lean, furry shapes that they can barely see. They manage to make it to a farm house, and the siege begins. This may sound like any number of horror movies you're seen before, but trust me: this is a standout, quality flick with a punch all its own.

First of all, Neil Marshall has an amazing ability to make you care about his characters in a short time. As in The Descent, he builds and develops these people all though the story, giving the high-octane climax a much richer feel.

Second of all, also like The Descent, the group of people who are hit with these extraordinary circumstances are extremely capable people. You know when you're watching a horror movie, and the screaming teens are in a car and the monster punches a hole in the roof, and you wish one of them had a knife? Well, these guys do have knives, and they stab the fucker! They're determined, organized and smart. There's no clue or detail given to the audience that the characters don't catch themselves. Having spent much time yelling at the idiots in these movies, I found this supremely satisfying.

Lastly, these werewolves are awesome. The way they're shot is just right -- never more than the glimpse that we need for maximum fright, and their long, lean shape is perfect. (The picture above is a bit misleading, as it's such a clear shot of one. I had to pull that off the net because the movie moved too fast for me to grab a good frame.) No punches are pulled with their monstrous abilities; our heroes may be capable folks, but these critters are faster and stronger and bullets only phase them for a while. But the good guys push like mad for survival, and while they're doing it you just like them more and more.

I can't recommend this one enough. Good dog!

(And the picture goes blurry again, slowly refocuses as the ceiling of your room. You passed out on the floor, drunky! Get up!)

I can't really add much more to that except to bring up that gang of Chilean miners they recently hauled up from Hotel Underground. There was a lot of talk about how the foreman kept his men occupied during the ordeal, and how much that enabled their survival. The same strong hand is felt here, each time a soldier comes to the squad leader, he gives them a task, keeps them going. It's completely real, believable, and awesome.

A couple of other awesome moments: a guy yelling "fire in the hole!", throwing a grenade out the window, and then diving away -- onto the couch. And another: a soldier furiously hammers a board across the front door when the long fingers of a werewolf poke through the mail slot. Without missing a beat he hammers the fingers with twice the ferocity.

There are a few movies I consider Horrorthon essentials; flicks that possess that perfect mix of story, characters, scares, gore, excitement and fun. And they're slightly obscure ones, too, so that word of mouth (or of blog) plays a part in our discoveries. Ravenous is one, Dagon is another, but Dog Soldiers is at the top of the list. I'd like to see it sweep Horrorthon 2011, because you all need to see it. I'll be watching it again too, because I have to make sure Julie hears all the swears.

Recommended reading: 50's review from 2009, which inspired a couple of you to comment that you'd see it. Did you? Well, DID you?


Jordan said...

High praise indeed. Great review, even though you wrote it four years ago.

Are "the replacement margaritas" like "the replacement killers"?

I agree with you totally about how great it is when the movie doesn't use the crutch of stupid characters in order to propel the plot. It's so much better when competent, smart people are the protags. (Alien springs to mind.)

I remember your remark about Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead: "This is the kind of movie where the heroine dashes frantically out of the room but grabs her car keys on the way." It was, indeed, that kind of movie. (I wish Snyder would go back to that kind of thing instead of With The Owls or whatever they've got him doing post-Watchmen.)

Jordan said...

I got a couple of lines into 7 Souls where the main character's walking towards a scary house and she thinks about how any movie audience would be screaming at her not to go in there...but, of course, it doesn't make any difference. It was very satisfying, for exactly the reason you're saying. Character who are thinking "This is probably a bad idea" always appeal to me more than the straight-up idiots you usually get.

Remember the end of Time Bandits? "Mum! Dad! Don't touch it! It's evil!" (So what do they both immediately do?)

DCD said...

I'm relieved to see I wasn't one of those who said they would watch it - since I haven't. Although your clearly drunk self couldn't do anything about it, could it? Nyah!

Sounds great though, I'll definitely watch it next year.

Octopunk said...

What Zack Snyder is up to.

Octopunk said...

(Click it! It's a new trailer.)

Jordan said...

Holy fucking shit does that look good!

The only thing I don't like is Scott Glenn's cheesy line at the end ("If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything"). LAME-O.

Jordan said...

Is that based on some famous comic or manga or Wii game that I've never heard of?

Jordan said...

It's an original screenplay! And Jon Hamm's in it! Go Snyder!

Whirlygirl said...

Oh damn it! I'm one of the bloggers who said I would watch it and never did, and I'm really pissed about it. How did I forget? This movie sounds way too awesome to be forgotten. Next year for sure.

Landshark said...

Cool, I haven't seen Descent or Dog Soldiers. I love having good shit to look forward to.

I'm reading a really fun novel right where the group of plucky heroes sound just like your crew of Scottish werewolf fighters. Smart, determined...and way fucking outnumbered and overmatched.

It so makes the horror way more terrifying.

Catfreeek said...

I watched it post thon last year due to 50P's rave and loved every howling minute of it. Definitely the best werewolf film ever.