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October 2002                                                SITE MAP   SEARCH
Dog Soldiers
cast: Sean Pertweee, Kevin McKidd, Liam Cunningham, and Emma Cleasby

director: Neil Marshall

101 minutes (15) 2002
Pathé VHS rental
[released 21 October]

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Emma French
The opening scene of Dog Soldiers presents the cliché-ridden scenario of an amorous couple in a remote spot far from help or other people being brutally attacked by an unseen and non-human predator. The reasoning behind this unimaginative start becomes a little clearer when the six soldier-protagonists arrive on the scene. The contrast emphasises that whilst a couple of horny campers might have no chance against a bloodthirsty group of monsters, the British army's hardest might have a better shot. With no particularly obvious hero, you can never be quite sure which of the soldiers is going to make it to the end of the picture un-mauled. Given the savagery of the first couple of attacks, the odds of any of them surviving seem poor.
   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.