DOG SOLDIERS **** UK / Luxembourg 2002 Dir: Neil Marshall. 105 mins
Neil Marshall’s feature directorial debut was refreshing in the early 2000s (along with a tiny few other modestly budgeted genre films like GINGER SNAPS) for its enthusiastic use of old-school werewolves and make-up effects at a time when godawful CGI lycanthropes were starting to become the norm in Hollywood movies. DOG SOLDIERS even has a transformation sequence involving a character disappearing behind a desk in the vein of key metamorphoses in classic horror.
The set-up is simple, albeit with some backstory twists in the second half: six squaddies in the Scottish Highlands are menaced by werewolves who can’t be destroyed via traditional methods. In an extended gross-out gag echoing the early splatter films of Peter Jackson, hard-as-nails Sarge Sean Pertwee (who would continue to face grisly deaths in later Marshall movies) has his intestines ripped out early on but survives to comic effect via whiskey and superglue: “We’ll just have to put ’em back in!” / “They won’t fucking fit!”
Engaging performances and Marshall’s brisk, breezy direction keep it light and fun: it’s the only werewolf movie in which a hapless victim yells “I hope I give you the shits you fucking wimp!” as the monster eats him alive. Emma Cleasby is fun as a “posh” zoologist with a surprisingly foul mouth and the man-in-a-suit creatures are terrific. It’s arguably a better audience movie than it is a solo home-video watch, and the football jokes / laddish humour don’t necessarily travel (or age) well, but it’s endearing throughout and the frying pan-enhanced final battle is great fun.
Review by Steven West