Horror Review: Dog Soldiers (2002)

A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland wilderness.

Werewolf films, there have been an abundance of releases for this genre and if we’re honest the bad outweighs the good, but when they’re good….

“Dog Soldiers” came out of nowhere when it was released, there wasn’t much publicity about it, it was more a word of mouth film. And word did soon spread about this amazing small budget Werewolf film, it became a ‘must-see’ film and for very good reason.
The film was actually a straight-to-video release, it got cut from a theatrical release as it clashed with another werewolf film, Wes Craven’s “Cursed”. Personally I’d love to have seen “Dog Soldiers” on the big screen, it’s a shame it never happened.
This was Director Neil Marshall’s debut film and he definitely made an instant impact, he wears his influences on his sleeve and has no qualms about it. With obvious signs of “The Evil Dead”, H.G. Wells, “Aliens” to “Star Trek” it just makes the film more fun as a viewer.
The casting of the film is outstanding, veteran British actors Sean Pertwee, Liam Cunningham and Kevin McKidd all put in stellar performances especially Pertwee who is one of my favourite actors. That’s not to say the rest of the cast is bad, no-one puts in a bad performance in this film.
“Dog Soldiers” truly is a ‘must-see’ film, if you haven’t watched it already then you really are missing out!
If you want to see the “Dog Soldiers” trailer then just click on the video below:

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

Set in Scotland but filmed in Luxemborg.

The piece that Megan plays on the piano halfway through the film is Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”, roughly translatable as “moonbeam”. The link is obvious, but is possibly also a nod to An American Werewolf in London, the soundtrack of which consisted purely of songs with “moon” in the title.

One of the soldiers in this movie is called Bruce Campbell, a reference to The Evil Dead (Bruce Campbell is the actor who portrayed its hero Ash and the film seems to have partially inspired the plot of Dog Soldiers).

Near the start of the film, they discover the tracking chip in their radio and Spoon mentions the Kobayashi Maru scenario, originally in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

The G3 rifle used by Spoon and later Terry didn’t work properly when firing blanks. During some scenes in the house, you can see Terry manually working the bolt to chamber the next round.

In the scene where Wells asks Cooper to knock him out, Kevin McKidd (Cooper) throws a stage punch the first time, but misjudges the distance of the second and catches Sean Pertwee (Wells) on the nose. Pertwee didn’t feel the punch however as he really was drunk for that scene.

Sean Pertwee’s character “Sgt. Harry G. Wells” is named after H.G. Wells, one of writer/director Neil Marshall’s favorite authors.

The film makes several references to Zulu. There’s the choral music featured in Zulu when Spoon is talking about Rorkes drift, and “Dog Soldiers'” Sgt. Well’s paraphrases “Zulu’s” Colour Sgt. Bourne’s “be quiet now will you, there’s a good gentleman, you’ll upset the lads” when talking to Ryan.

Another reference/homage to Zulu is when Cooper’s character is trapped in the bathroom upstairs and he begins tunneling through the wall to get to Wells. The two then proceed to break through the wall to the bedroom, mirroring the scene in Zulu when Hook is in the Hospital as the Zulus break in.

The movie probably takes place on the 1 and 2 September 2001, as England did indeed beat Germany 5 – 1 on the night of the 1st. Those nights were indeed full moons.

When the squad first lands from the helicopter, Sgt. Wells tells Cooper “Get a position and bearing. I want to be on the move in three minutes.” He gives the command for the squad to move out exactly 3 minutes later.

Sgt. Wells’ surname is only mentioned once in the film. His first name (Harry) is never mentioned at all.

When Megan cuts her hand on the broken window, there is a very very small segment of music from Neil Jordan’s “The Company of Wolves”.

The insurance did not cover the actors jumping out of the helicopter early in the film. As most of the crew were ex-army they jumped out of it instead. The crew also doubled up as Sgt Well’s soldiers for some of the tabbing shots.

Simon Pegg was offered a part in the film, but turned it down after Edgar Wright asked him to save his first horror role for Shaun of the Dead.

Jason Statham was originally the top runner for playing the part of Cooper, but he had to back down at the last minute to do John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.

There is very little CGI used in the movie because the people involved in the filming believed that CGI was being over-used at the time and that it would take viewers out of the movie because they would be focused on how the special effects looked rather than the story, thus the werewolves are animatronics and body suits with stilts.

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