DOG SOLDIERS Review – (AYIF)

Posted by Brian Salisbury - July 13th 2009 @ 3:23 pm

Written and Directed by Neil Marshall, 2002


Welcome back to AYIF.  Werewolves are classic horror film fare.  A bestial throwback to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with cultural variations appearing on multiple continents.  I will not feign expertise on the subject because, with the film incarnations, my experience is limited.  But I am aware of enough werewolf films to understand that there is no shortage of entries.  So, like zombie or vampire films, the key to making a great modern werewolf movie is to put a unique spin on an old standard.  That is exactly what DOG SOLDIERS attempts to do by including a military aspect.  Let’s see if it works…

DOG SOLDIERS takes place in the wilderness of Scotland, the creepy moors-like environment that American Werewolf in London used in a similar fashion.  It tells the story of a group of Scottish soldiers on a training exercise; finding themselves dropped in the middle of nowhere to play a war game with the wankers from Special Forces.  Everything seems all apples and pears until big beasties show up and start divorcing members of the platoon from their organs.  They end up being rescued by a mysterious girl who steals them away to a cottage in the woods to hole up.  How long can they stay alive with the hounds of hell circling outside?

Let me summarize by saying that this is not a good film.  It is very, very low budget, but that is not what makes it bad; low budget films can really be special when the filmmakers understand how to compensate.  The best compensation for lack of budget is to write a great script; followed closely by putting that script into the hands of a director with serious chops.  Look at what Carpenter did with HALLOWEEN (although he actually wrote HALLOWEEN as well as directed it so we got the best of both worlds there).  But the problem with DOG SOLDIERS is that the script is full of atrocious, fundamental snafus and the direction is amateurism at its worst.

This film is completely ruined by its script.  It suffers from some other faults that are forgivable given the low budget nature of it.  But the writing really kills the potential.  It honestly has a decent concept, but that concept is totally wasted.  Let me try to narrow down my list of examples as to the ineptitude of the script.  Throughout the movie, there are moments where people are sitting around talking about absolutely nothing while there are supposedly big hairy wolfies outside that want to eat them.  The dialogue is meandering and unfocused and amounts to a complete loss of a sense of what is at stake.  Then suddenly, out of nowhere, people are yelling at each other and speaking the ends of violent confrontations that have no beginning or middle.  I kept rewinding it to see if I had missed something but there was absolutely no build up to any critical piece of information.

Not convinced yet?  Ok, how about the female character who saves them near the beginning?  Apart from the fact that she is the driver of the truck that gets them to the cottage, she serves absolutely no purpose in regard to the story.  She is utterly devoid of charm and uninteresting and contributes nothing to a plot that is already tripping all over itself.  When the big reveal about her comes about, you aren’t surprised as much as you are totally confused as to why she was ever in this in the first place.  Or how about the character named Spoon who is only called Spoon so his death can set up a Matrix joke…..screenwriting?!!!!

There is a complete lack of mood or atmosphere in DOG SOLDIERS.  I got the impression that they were going to have a cool man-vs.-monster motif with the wilderness backdrop used for the added nightmare of isolation (a la THE THING).  But since no one in the cabin seemed to give a crap that there were monsters outside and the wilderness is not used as a secondary character to enhance the terror, we are left with a bland, befuddling set piece with no reason to feel anything but boredom.  This is not helped by the fact that the monsters look terrrrrrrible.  They look like gangly dance company extras auditioning for the new Andrew Llyod Webber musical “DOGS”!

They don’t use any of their animalistic traits and instead rely on grappling and punching with their victims.  Isn’t the scary thing about werewolves supposed to be that they are primal killing machines with the reasoning power of a human?  Or even if you are of the opinion that they have no reasoning power in wolf form, shouldn’t that mean they are even more vicious?  These goofy dancers in body-suits with Mardi Gras heads were actually the antithesis of frightening.

The performance from the main character, played by Kevin McKidd of the HBO series Rome, is respectable throughout.  However certain elements of his character illustrate the most apparent script snafus in the film.  The opening scene shows him failing a test he needs to pass to join Special Forces division.  Why?  Because he refuses to shoot a dog.  The asshole Sgt. tries to make some facile “if you can’t shoot a dog, how can you shoot a man” argument but it could not be more forced; the guy is already in the regular military, so obviously he can shoot people when necessary so that line makes no fucking sense!  But the big issue is what follows, when the word “dog” is uttered around 3.8×1057 times in a two minute interval.  They go beyond establishing a character trait and start beating us over the head with foreshadowing.  Guess what animal ends up coming to McKidd’s aide when he needs it most?  Grrrrrrrrr.

Another quibble I have involves some of the lamest gore effects I’ve ever seen.  No, they weren’t the worst I’ve ever seen, but the fact that we were actually supposed to take these scenes seriously elevated them to ultra lame status.  Again, it would be forgivable given the low budget nature, but I’ve seen great gore effects on shoestring budgets; it can be done!  There is actually a scene where a regular dog starts chomping on human remains which is so bad it’s comical and would have worked in that capacity, but it comes at one of the only tense moments in the whole film so they successfully ruin that one gleam of actual horror.  The editing actually seems sentient of the terrible gore effects as it employs a series of jump cuts that hold no merit other than to conceal them.

Don’t waste your time on this lest you be counting down the minutes until credits roll.  There are no interesting characters, no scary beasts, no atmosphere or tension, and instead a lot of terrible writing and bad gore effects.  Pepper all that with palpable boredom and you’ve got DOG SOLDIERS.  Bear in mind, with this only being review numero dos and with me so far running at 100% pan, I do actually love horror.  It’s just that as of late, I have seen some stinkers.  I’m hoping my next AYIF horror entry will be a winner, but that is the nature of this beast.

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rss 38 comments
  1. July 13th, 2009 | 4:28 pm | #1

    Another good review. I will say that this time I am definitely on your side. I felt the same way throughout the whole film.

    When they got to the cottage I was incredibly bored and looked to my friend saying, “Hmm I guess the final battle will be happening soon!” and how I was upset to find out we had another hour to go.

    The only positive thing I could think of was that this was the best werewolf movie I have seen in the last decade (it’s the only one I’ve seen, so it also qualifies as the worst.)

  2. July 13th, 2009 | 4:51 pm | #2

    Oh man, Matt, check out GINGER SNAPS. It’s a much better werewolf flick than DOG SOLDIERS.

  3. adam charles
    July 13th, 2009 | 5:12 pm | #3

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban. That’s where it’s at yo. Ginger Snaps is quite good though. It’s probably amongst the top 20 horror films from Canada in the last 10 years. Maybe even the top 10. But, you know those Canadians and their horror films.

    All kidding aside Ginger Snaps is good stuff. No sarcasm.

  4. July 13th, 2009 | 7:31 pm | #4

    All of you are fucking insane. Dog Soldiers is fucking excellent. I know this because I’m always right, and because God dammit it’s just a good fucking movie.

    And Ginger Snaps sucked. Hard.

  5. July 13th, 2009 | 8:08 pm | #5

    Sound logic Brad, sound logic. Haven’t seen ginger snaps, but if it’s more exciting than watching paint dry on the side of a barn…it’ll be better than Dog Soliders

  6. July 13th, 2009 | 9:44 pm | #6

    Brad, the hater of all good horror, loves DOG SOLDIERS!?!?!? What the fucks?

    Also, get your ass on GINGER SNAPS ASAP. Sequels not so much.

  7. R.J. Sayer
    July 13th, 2009 | 10:24 pm | #7

    man. fuck all you guys.

    DOG SOLDIERS is awesome.

    GINGER SNAPS is awesome.

    GINGER SNAPS 2 is fucking awesome.

    kiss my ass and suck my dick. everyone.

  8. July 13th, 2009 | 10:33 pm | #8

    Again, nothing I enjoy more than a well-constructed argument!

  9. July 13th, 2009 | 10:36 pm | #9

    Brian, as far as RJ Sayer goes, that there is actually coherent. Clearly you haven’t read his TRICK ‘R TREAT review: http://horrorsnotdead.com/wpress/2008/guest-review-trick-r-treat/

  10. July 13th, 2009 | 10:50 pm | #10

    Wow! Ok, frame of reference achieved. But on the upside, Trick-r-Treat plays Fantastic Fest in 2.5 months!!! Huzzah!

  11. R.J. Sayer
    July 13th, 2009 | 11:41 pm | #11

    i love how the TRICK ‘R TREAT review is the example you bring out, Peter. you dick.

    no mention of my brilliant critique of THE DORM THAT DRIPPED THAT BLOOD.

    and here’s your well-constructed argument, Brian:

    if you don’t love DOG SOLDIERS, you’re an asshole.

  12. adam charles
    July 14th, 2009 | 12:14 am | #12

    I DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE YEEELLLING AAAABOUUUUUT!!!!

    Gosh diggity the heck people, go suck something with a mouth and spit out some waste!!! and while you do it watch Ginger Snaps, because it’s the busty lumps on the chests of women.

  13. July 14th, 2009 | 1:25 am | #13

    Brian: my logic clearly was not supposed to make sense. I loved every second of Dog Soldiers. It was funny, violent, well-acted, and in no way cheesy (well, at some points).

    Ginger Snaps just bored me. Now, if you want to see a bad werewolf flick, watch Skinwalkers. Holy mother of fuck was that awful.

    “Brad, the hater of all good horror, loves DOG SOLDIERS!?!?!? What the fucks?”

    I still can’t believe you think Abominable is a good movie.

  14. Brian (the original! I knew this would get confusing!)
    July 14th, 2009 | 7:19 am | #14

    Yeah, DOG SOLDIERS is pretty damn good. I’ve been hearing about this GINGER SNAPS for years now, but I just can’t bring myself to watch a werewolf movie with a title that reminds me of cookies.

  15. July 14th, 2009 | 8:23 am | #15

    GINGER SNAPS was awesome.

    ABOMINABLE was awesome.

    DOG SOLDIERS was ok.

    R.J.Sayer’s arguments are fucking awesome, so awesome in fact, I might rewatch DOG SOLDIERS, as it has een some time.

  16. July 14th, 2009 | 8:35 am | #16

    Hahaha, hilarious! These comments are great!

  17. July 14th, 2009 | 8:50 am | #17

    Damnit Cody, I know we were drunk, but you do remember ABOMINABLE was not a werewolf movie, right?!

  18. Brian (the original! I knew this would get confusing!)
    July 14th, 2009 | 8:59 am | #18

    DOG SOLDIERS screening at Peter’s house Friday!

  19. R.J. Sayer
    July 14th, 2009 | 8:59 am | #19

    i wouldn’t call ABOMINABLE awesome.

    the suit was awesome. Jeffrey Combs, Lance Henriksen, and Paul Gleason (RIP) were awesome. the chase through the house was pretty awesmoe. the score was awesome.

    but as a whole, i still think that Schifrin is kind of incompetent when it comes to filmmaking.

    but Cody, you’re awesome. rewatch DOG SOLDIERS.

  20. July 14th, 2009 | 9:02 am | #20

    Wrong RJ, try again, ABOMINABLE is bad ass.

  21. R.J. Sayer
    July 14th, 2009 | 11:33 am | #21

    yeah. i guess.

    if by “bad ass” you mean, “inept and dull.”

    seriously, look at the camera placement/movements. the performances (aside from Combs and Henriksen and Gleason). the pacing. the bad cuts and transitions. the clunky-as-fuck dialogue.

    i guess i shouldn’t expect someone who didn’t go to film school to understand the subtle differences between “bad ass” filmmaking and incompetent filmmaking.

    but at least we can agree that the suit is fucking badass. and the score.

  22. emily
    July 15th, 2009 | 9:07 am | #22

    DAWG SOLDERZ!!!

    ARF!!
    *drags butt on floor*

  23. Brian
    July 22nd, 2009 | 12:59 pm | #23

    Can we reserve this thread for use anytime people feel like degenerating into aicn talkbackers?

  24. adam charles
    July 22nd, 2009 | 1:21 pm | #24

    Rj Sayer

    yeah. I guess.

    If by “bad ass” you mean stupid and just full of hair.

    I guess I shouldn’t expect someone who didn’t go to fashion design school to understand the subtle differences between a “bad ass” suit and something that even you would never wear out in public. AND YOU KNOW IT!!!!

    But whatever. Schifrin gotta eat. I remember when this site actually had great news about horror not dying. Now we’re talking about suits and shit.

    /aicn talkbacker response

  25. Porpoise Boy
    July 22nd, 2009 | 1:28 pm | #25

    DOG SOLDIERS WITH HULK HOGAN AS THE BADDIE!

    Dog Soldiers? This movie has been out for like 15 year? This iz supposed to be news? God, this site iz so shitty!

  26. R.J. Sayer
    July 22nd, 2009 | 4:34 pm | #26

    FIRST?

  27. R.J. Sayer
    July 22nd, 2009 | 4:35 pm | #27

    Neil Marshall drinks a beer and cheats on his wife!!!

    HAIR ON ABOMINABLE SUIT = NIPPLES ON OPTIMUS!

  28. July 22nd, 2009 | 4:43 pm | #28

    R.J.
    I am aware that you hate me, but damn if you aren’t starting to grow on me. Funny stuff!

    P.S. Transformers 2=Nipples on Optimus

  29. R.J. Sayer
    July 24th, 2009 | 2:19 am | #29

    no way dude, Transformers 2 = Flames on Galactus Stormcloud’s TAINT!

    srsly tho, Danny Glover’s Dickblood gotta Juggfuckle and EAT!

  30. R.J. Sayer
    July 24th, 2009 | 2:20 am | #30

    ok. i officially hate myself.

    no squid in Watchmen DC dvd = R.J. SAYER MURDERS ZACK SNYDER, SELF.

  31. R.J. Sayer
    July 24th, 2009 | 2:21 am | #31

    also, Brian, i don’t hate YOU…

    i just hate the person you are.

  32. R.J. Sayer
    July 24th, 2009 | 2:25 am | #32

    P.S. – happy birthday, Peter. even though it’s not technically your birthday anymore….

  33. July 24th, 2009 | 2:33 am | #33

    Fair enough RJ

  34. Brian (the original)
    July 24th, 2009 | 7:15 am | #34

    I wanna have sex with this thread.

  35. July 24th, 2009 | 11:44 am | #35

    LOOK HOW LOUD I HAVE TO YELL!

  36. UE
    February 14th, 2010 | 3:11 am | #36

    Nice way to bias and lead an audience with a review, I have no idea but I have the feeling you would like hills have eyes remakes.

    The movie was good from it’s own standpoint but you obviously missed the key points.

    I would also like to mention it was intended as a comedy horror not a out and out horror.

  37. Brian K.
    July 1st, 2010 | 3:32 pm | #37

    I miss the good ol’ days.

  38. Stan Stennett
    September 22nd, 2010 | 4:37 pm | #38

    Strikes me that that in this review we have an American perspective which has completely missed the humour designed to make this movie a black comedy and not an out and out horror flick ( did you ‘get’ Shaun of the Dead’?) There are many skilful moments in Marshall’s direction and set pieces designed to shock [Raimi has made a good career out of it – ‘Drag Me To Hell Anyone?)and a good use of sound. The dialogue is aimed at a Brit crowd; is this your major malfunction? And whilst one or two set pieces feel hammy and yes, the creatures aren’t brilliant, this a good first effort from Marshall. It’s really easy to put films down and it’s really important to support young and new film makers,particularly when they are non-US film makers. These guys struggle to get exhibited in the UK as it is because of the plethora of Hollywood shit that we get rammed down our throats in American owned multiplexes.

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