Writer and director Neil Marshall has a strange film pedigree: he was the make-up artist for TV's Smack The Pony and the driver on John Carpenter's Ghosts Of Mars as well as writing and editing the 1998 feature Killing Time before he made this film. Marshall's directorial inexperience does not show and he converts a limited budget into a distinct advantage. Fleeting images of giant wolf men put the CGI clone armies of George Lucas to shame. Believing that there are real actors inside the wolf costumes adds a visceral dimension that is difficult to recreate with computer graphics. On a gigantic budget this was the lesson Ridley Scott took to heart in Gladiator, comprehending that CGI should provide enhancement rather than the whole picture. Old-fashioned gore and suspense is still hard to beat.
Sean Pertwee is surprisingly good as Sergeant Harry Wells, and rather suits the role of a partially disembowelled action man. Chris Robson is the most memorable and endearing of the other soldiers as the jocular Geordie Private Joe Kirkley. Emma Cleasby provides some bland but welcome female interest as Megan in an otherwise testosterone-stuffed film. As with the John Landis classic An American Werewolf In London, there is a degree of poignancy too. Half man as well as half animal, for the werewolves their condition is a handicap and an affliction that they must philosophise, theorise and live with as best they can.
Apparently a sequel is being considered, which would be most welcome. It is good to see a British film competing so effectively against the slew of franchised Hollywood ironic horror output. It is evident from the start that this will be a straightforward, worthy contribution to the genre, though there is plenty of humour here too. Perfect for Halloween viewing, it is to be hoped that Dog Soldiers will fare as well on the small screen as it did at the box office.