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There is something to be said when a filmmaker keeps the formula simple, but still brimming with creative energy and flair. In his directorial debut back in 2002, the world bore witness to the talent of writer/director Neil Marshall as his Dog Soldiers announced himself to the world as fresh new voice in the world of genre and horror, and now 13 years later it debuts on Blu-Ray with all the flair and high intensity action intact reminding us how we all felt back when we saw this for the very first time.
It feels like a routine training exercise for a group of soldiers dispatched to the Scottish Highlands for a weekend of training, but their fears ultimately become a reality after they stumble upon Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham). Severally wounded and barely alive, he is the only survivor of a Special Ops team that was sent into the woods to bring home what torn him and his team practically limb from limb. Ryan sticks to protocol and keeps his mouth shut, in spite of the fact that whatever attacked him is hot on their trail and hungry for more. They find help from a local girl and they all find shelter in a deserted farmhouse, hoping to wait until the morning to go for help. However when they realize that they are surrounded by a pack of 10 foot tall werewolves that are hungry for blood, their night gets longer and this nightmare that they have stumbled into has only just begun.
A terrifying thriller and one hell of a debut feature as Neil Marshall announces his presence on the filmmaking landscape with a slick, action filled thriller that doesn’t skimp on the action or the blood.
Smart enough to shoot in mostly the dark and let the advantage of the candlelight, the moon light and the woods work to his advantage, Dog Soldiers does something that quite a few debut horror features forget to do. It creates a genuine sense of atmosphere and actual dread as we see these silhouetted monsters coming ever closer. Marshall is smart in the fact that he keeps the actually reveals of his werewolves, who still look pretty damn good, under wraps and in the shadows. We know something big and ugly that likes to eat people is coming for us, but that doesn’t mean we need a perfect look at it either and then once we do get our money shots it means that much more. Marshall wrote the script with a perfect sense of timing as he balance the action with the character exposition to a near perfect tee. Marshall didn’t have to re-invent the wheel on this one, but what he did do was maximize the formula with all the talent around him to make it feel like it was an innovative and fresh effort.
The acting is fine for the most part as veteran character actors like Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd and Liam Cunningham carry the bulk of the heavy lifting for the entire film. It is a werewolf movie after all and it’s not like anyone has to do any dramatic lifting, but the narrative gets to where it needs to go in a painless fashion thanks to these three along with Emma Cleasby.
Before Dog Soldiers the werewolf genre had been pretty dormant for years but in an exciting fashion Neil Marshall brought it back with one hell of a bang and announced himself as a genuine talent and force to be reckoned with on the genre scene for years to come.
While the picture quality on this new Blu-Ray isn’t great, they had a hard time getting a hold of the original cameral negatives. What is does do is maintain the soft but gritty feel of celluloid as this was never a movie that was supposed to be overexposed or clarified and the grimy visuals only work in its favor in setting one hell of a mood.
The special features on this combo pack release (which sadly is only available in the US) includes a feature length commentary track with director Neil Marshall, a making of documentary featuring a slew of interviews with the entire cast and crew, the original theatrical trailer, Neil Marshall’s first short film; Combat as well as extensive stills galleries.