Artisan // 2002 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 27th, 2002
Six soldiers. Full moon. No chance.
It was supposed to be a simple training mission. What it turned into was a horrific nightmare from which none of them may awake! When a group of British soldiers are dropped into the middle of nowhere for a routine war game, they find more than they bargained for when they stumble upon a batch of mean, nasty werewolves who seemingly can't be destroyed! Led by the gruff Sgt. Wells (Sean Pertwee, Event Horizon), the band of brothers take shelter in an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. There they make their stand against the enormous werewolves and their onslaught of violence (spilled intestines, anyone?). In one blood-soaked night, the men will find out what true terror is...and that the night has bite!
All I gotta say is "wow." Once in a great while you come across a movie that totally knocks you flat on your rear. Such was my experience with director Neil Marshall's horror/action/drama Dog Soldiers, which is, in the words of Total Film, "One of the most explosive and purely enjoyable horror debuts since The Evil Dead." I say, "Ditto to that." What a wonderfully intense, exhilarating ride this flick is -- the dialogue is witty and clever, the pace/suspense never lets up, and for horror fans, there's plenty of gore and slippery entrails to please. Dog Soldiers is a literal cross between Stephen King's Silver Bullet, Romero's Night of the Living Dead, the sequel Aliens, and the Schwarzenegger action film Predator. The flat fact is that Dog Soldiers isn't a wholly original film -- what it does is take a time-tested formula (werewolves, horror flicks, military films) and shakes then up to the point where they somehow feel fresh and new. The director is Neil Marshall, and from this single effort he shows that he's a force to be reckoned with in the horror community. The film is shot with such breathtaking speed and movement that it comes off as a big-budget Hollywood flick, except Dog Soldiers doesn't rely on such drivel as cheesy CGI effects or hot-teen-of-the-moment actors to be effective. There are multiple scenes of fright, including some pretty cool looking werewolves (which, taking a cue from Jaws, are smartly left off screen most of the time or only shown in quick bursts). The actors all do their jobs well, which pretty much means that they yell dialogue at each other, scream in horror, and look fearfully at their futile situation. I don't want to say much more because Dog Soldiers is worth seeing without much prior knowledge of its shocks or origins. For horror fans, this is a treat of the rarest proportions. Very highly recommended.
Dog Soldiers is presented in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen as well as a 1.33:1 full frame transfer. The widescreen print looks above average, though sports a few minor inconsistencies due to the film's low budget nature. There is a slight amount of dirt and grain in the transfer, as well as some prevalent softness and edge enhancement. Otherwise, the colors are all solid and even (be warned -- this is a predominantly dark film) without any harsh defects. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, both in English. The 5.1 mix is decent, though like the video transfer it's not overpowering. One problem I found in this mix was that it sounded as if it was recorded at far too low a volume. Otherwise, the mix is free of any hiss or distortion with a few jittery effects filtered through the rear channels. Also included on this disc are Spanish subtitles, though English ones would have been most welcome (those accents can get a little hard to understand...).
Though not jam-packed, Artisan has included a few extra features for fans to chew on. The first is a production commentary track by producer David Allen and co-producer Brian Patrick O'Toole. This is a nicely engaging commentary track with a lot of behind-the-scenes information as well as some witty banter between O'Toole and Allen. Next up is a short featurette with various interviews by the cast and crew. There isn't a whole lot of surprising stuff to be found in this featurette (mostly clips from the film and a few pontifications on the actors' characters), though it is a nice supplement to have on the disc. Rounding out the extra features are two theatrical trailers -- one international and a second domestic.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary Track by the Producers
* Theatrical Trailers
* Official Site