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Ah, for the days of relatively plotless and entertaining B-grade movies when clichés and caricatures were considered an essential part of the film's narrative.  The reason that this format still succeeds is that (as time goes by in the film world) the ability to come up with unique plots which are able to surprise an increasingly intelligent audiences is getting next to impossible.  Subsequently, you'd be hard pressed to associate Dog Soldiers with such words as "original", "deeply moving" or "realistically plausible", although it tries hard to pretend that it might be by pilfering from many other well-known film-fables.  But whatever it might lack in virgin territory makes up for in a slow reveal of its threadline of revelations.

Dog Soldiers

When a film wants to tread on ground that has been stepped on before, it should at least try to provide a new angle on the genre lest it appears just like a remake of an earlier film.  Even though Dog Soldiers hardly offers anything brand new in terms of thought-provoking character development or satisfyingly complex story structure, it does make the effort to extend upon the various fantastical mythologies already set in place by its predecessors which in turn will help future filmmakers aspire to create something even better down the track.

All movies good or bad have what's called the "repeat factor" ... this is sometimes to do with its intrinsic entertainment value but more importantly how much detail you are able to glean from it with multiple viewings.  Dog Soldiers is somewhat more unique in this regard since the most desirable aspect here is to come up with how many more movies it pays tribute to (borrows from) - the likes of which extend to An American Werewolf In London, Aliens, Saving Private Ryan and of course the Evil Dead Trilogy.

Dog Soldiers

The cast and crew of Dog Soldiers say that there are as many unintentional references in their film as deliberate ones and that some may well have been unconciously dreamt up at the time of filming ... but in my mind the most obvious movie-link here is with something that I doubt anyone else has attributed it to which is Demon Knight from the creators of Tales From The Crypt  ... and if anyone can think of any other flicks where the characters have to fortify their positions inside a building structure to keep out the undesirable elements wanting to make balloon-animals out of their intestines, then please let me know.

Movie
A squad of British soldiers (loosely referred to as underdogs) are sent in at the 11th hour on a training exercise by Special Operations.  What begins as a seemingly pointless trek through the highlands of Scotland turns out to be a fight for survival as they are attacked by an unknown yet deadly threat.  As night falls they are rescued by a resident female zoologist whereby they take refuge inside an old cottage.  She soon tells them that what they are dealing with is Werewolves and ironically the very house they are occupying is owned by the very same beings outside that would otherwise take on human form during the daytime.  They only have to survive until dawn, but as usual that's not as easy as it first sounds.

The many flaws of logic that abound this movie are easier to punch through than a door made of tissue paper (which the werewolves should be able to do in this movie, but don't), however there is still enough entertainment value here to sit atop the gaping plot-holes that would support an entire battalion of the beasts and not fall through them all.  The two main lapses in logic seem to be: the poor attempts by the werewolves trying to gain entry through what appear to be open invitations at every corner of the house, as well as the relative uselessness of the guns fired by the soldiers which ultimately prove little more than psychological deterrents since it's only silver can prove harmful to these monsters from hell.

Dog Soldiers

Video
The image quality for this DVD is unfortunately far from what I would consider ideal, but this is hardly the fault of DVD compression since this is a shoe-string budget production.  What we do get is a very credible rendering of the final film-negative elements which were no doubt generated to invoke a sense of confusion and dread from the soldiers of not quite being able to see what is directly in front of them.

The many scenes that take place at dusk time are probably the worst offenders with a greyed-out look to the blacks as well as very limited highlighting of the characters and surroundings, again the result of portraying the difficult naked-eye viewpoint of the soldiers.  Things generally improve once the squad takes shelter at the old house with blacks and shadow detail a lot more acceptable than before but it is still far from reference standards.  Colour is on the whole quite muted, general focus being quite soft although definable enough and grain is prevalent throughout, but since the image is pretty much shrouded in darkness you tend not to notice much of these problems in the end.  The filmmaker's would probably excuse these shortcomings by claiming a "documentary feel" to the action, but I'd prefer to use the term "as cheap-arse as possible" for the filming conditions and production values therein.

I should also note that the screenshots in this review have had their brightness bumped up since their reduction in size does not show up all that well on a PC monitor.

Audio
Thankfully, the soundtrack has a lot more going for it than would usually be the case for such a low-budget affair.  The use of the surround channels is involving and inventive, especially with some of the jarring effects that make you turn around in shock and wonder if someone isn't trying to break into your own house (that was from the rattling of the door-knob halfway through the movie, by the way).  Sub-woofer usage too is plentiful with generous support to both the music and effects although there are a couple of instances where it inexplicably goes missing, but I'm willing to bare with this shortfall.

Dialogue is clearest when it's time for the necessary expositional scenes, but the action sequences probably don't need much more verbal comprehension other than getting the general gist of the increasingly pissed-off attitudes from the soldiers towards their relentless enemy's onslaught.

Dog Soldiers

Extras
The two audio commentaries present on this DVD are as different as chalk and cheese, but go together like peaches and cream. The peaches are in the form of the first commentary helmed by the director, cast and crew as they have an absolute ball taking the piss out of each other reliving the experiences they had creating the film, this is just as informative as it is entertaining.  The cream is that of the second commentary where the producers take a much calmer approach to the discussion of the many methodologies and shortcuts required to make this film a reality.

The making-of documentary is around 20 minutes long although the first fifteen is just interviews and the last five only ever delves into anything resembling actual behind-the-scenes material, I did expect more from this outing unfortunately.  The deleted scenes are always a welcome addition to any DVD and these missing sequences help to expand even further on the characters and their situations, which is all finished off with a much-too-small gag-reel (all of this comes with an optional commentary track).  There are also a few storyboards that will appeal to the budding filmmaker in general.

There are four theatrical trailers which show different aspects of the movie's main theme.  And finally there is a short film by the filmmakers entitled Combat which is a pretty inventive look at the goings-on at your local pub backed by the sounds of war machinery but with absolutely no dialogue - clever really.

Dog Soldiers

Overall
Ever since its release in 2002, Dog Soldiers has become one of those unassuming cult hits amongst the horror fans, although this could have more to do with the extreme lack of quality scary movies that Hollywood always has extreme difficulty in mustering after the genre got a much-needed boost with Scream.  It has taken the much smaller independent filmmakers to show them how it's done with modern classics such as UK's 28 Days Later and the upcoming Aussie flick Undead.

If the term Werewolf invokes the same feelings in you as that of Godzilla, then you will know whether or not this flick is your cup of tea ... but if you are expecting the next big thing in intelligent apocalyptic-type storylines then I'm afraid you'll have to keep on waiting.  And for you lot out there in Region 4 Australia, this DVD has just been released with the encoding slightly different to the R2 UK DVD but the content is exactly the same, however the Region 1 US DVD is an inexplicably poor quality bare-bones release.

Finally, if there's one thing that this film has taught me is that I now know why my parents have wanted to keep their prized collection of silverware cutlery for so long ...


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