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Review: Dog Soldiers

21 Oct

October Horror Month

When I first saw this werewolf film I had never heard of it or its director Neil Marshall but I loved it right away. I love the characters, the locations, the gallows humour, the fantastic werewolf design and I want a Spoony.

A couple are camping in the woods in the Scottish Highlands and they are celebrating the guy getting a promotion. She’s bought him a present, a solid silver letter opener. It’s a strange present but the guy seems pleased and they kiss and go into their tent, probably to have sex. They get interrupted by someone slowly opening their tent. Then a pair of monstrous hands grabs the woman and there’s a short tug of war with guy trying to pull her into the tent while whatever it outside pulls her legs. She screams as she is ripped in half and she dies. Whatever killed her then comes into the tent after the guy and we see him trying to reach the letter opener but he fails and we hear him die.

At the same time in the Welsh countryside we see a soldier Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd) trying to evade soldiers dressed in black and he takes down several of them before being caught by Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham). Ryan congratulates him on evading capture for so long. This was a test to see if Cooper can get admitted into Ryan’s special forces squad and Ryan is impressed but tells Copper that they key to avoiding getting caught is to remove your enemy’s ability to track you and tells Cooper to kill the tracker dog. Cooper refuses, even when Ryan tells him it’s an order. Ryan calls him useless if he can’t even kill a dog but Cooper says he won’t kill that dog for no good reason. Ryan fails him and shoots the dog himself. Cooper is outraged but manages to get a punch in, wiping the smug superior expression off Ryan’s face

Some time later a squad of soldiers get dropped off in highlands of Scotland for a training mission led by Sergeant Harry G.Wells (Sean Pertwee) and the rest are Private Cooper, Private ‘Spoon’ Witherspoon (Darren Morfitt) who is scrappy little smartarse, Private Joe Kirkley (Chris Robson) who is constantly whining and resents missing a football, Private Terry Millburn (Leslie Simpson) and Corporal Bruce Campbell (Thomas Lockyer). Wells and Cooper discuss the layout on a map and make plans. They are up against Special Forces and Wells wants them to go in hard and brutal

They walk for a few miles they stop for rest and a smoke. Cooper mentions the deaths of the two campers in that area only a few weeks ago but they don’t take the story seriously. They walk on a few more miles and they all whistle a tune called Tom Hark that seems to be popular on the football terraces but with various lyrics. As they walk they are being watched by Captain Ryan through a pair of binoculars who says to one of his men. “Contact the camp tell them the flock is heading for the fold.”

When it gets dark they stop next to a cliff and settle in with a fire. Joe whines about their processed food and is still in a bad mood because he’s missing the football and the others wind him up about it, especially Spoon. Cooper asks them about what scares them and Bruce gives a really pretentious answer about the state of the human condition. Spoon says he’s scared of castration which gets a general murmur of agreement. Joe is scared of the football match ending in penalty shoot-out and Terry is scared of watching a penalty shoot-out with Joe. Cooper says he’s scared of spiders, women and then adds spider-women.

They all believe that Wells won’t be scared of anything but he tells them a creepy story of a friend who got tattoo of a laughing devil and when he got blown up the only part of him that wasn’t damaged was the bit of him with the tattoo. This story makes everybody go quiet so Spoon starts telling a joke. He doesn’t get to finish it because a dead cow drops out of the air with a thud and a splash of blood that covers Terry who freaks and shoots at it while Spoon rolls about laughing and Joe reminds Terry that he’s firing blanks. They examine the cow and Cooper thinks it looks like it was attacked by an animal. Wells decides that there’s nothing they can do about it in the dark and arranges a watch schedule and tells the rest to get some sleep

Ryan sees something moving around in the dark and whatever it is it attacks him. In the morning Wells and the squad have a look around and find the place the where the cow went over the cliff. There is a trail of blood so the cow seems to have walked some distance from where it got it attacked. Wells is curious about what happened to it and so, ignoring Joe’s complaints, they follow the blood. When they get to the place the cow was attacked they figure something bad happened to it. In the air they see a signal flare.

They head towards the location the flare came from and find guns, ammunition, nets and tranquilizer darts but no sign of the men, except for a pile of guts that Terry steps in. Things have turned serious so Wells orders all of them to drop their fake guns and get armed for real. Ryan pops up from behind some boxes of equipment and he’s been torn open. Wells orders them to put a field dressing on him and they try to get him to tell them what happened but he keeps raving about how there should only have been one. Their radio was sabotaged by Ryan and the Special Forces radio has been wrecked

They get organised and move through the woods while catching glimpses of massive hairy beasts with big teeth and claws chasing after them. Bruce is guarding their rear and he sees something coming but his gun isn’t working so he runs through plantation of young fir trees with something coming after him. He isn’t looking where he’s going and he impales himself on a broken branch that goes right through and out his back and while he’s hanging there dying a werewolf attacks him. Wells comes to look for him and the werewolf comes for him but he shoots at it and manages to get away and he finds Bruce’s body. The werewolf catches up and rips his guts open. Wells is just lying there with his guts hanging out and he probably thinks he’s going to die but Cooper arrives, shoots at the werewolf and forces his guts back into his body and patches him up.

With werewolves on their tails and two seriously injured men they really need to get to safety. Spoon gets to a road and he sees a jeep coming so he leaps down the hill and dives on to the road right in front of the oncoming vehicle which stops just before hitting him. The driver is a young woman Megan (Emma Cleasby) who tells them all to get in the jeep. Megan had been out looking for them because she heard gunfire the previous night.

Megan tries to drive off but they are stuck in the mud and the jeep gets attacked by a werewolf. The werewolf rips through the roof and tries to grab them but Spoon puts a knife through its arm and Megan finally manages to get the jeep moving. Cooper say they need to get to a shelter and Megan tells them that the only people nearby are a family who have a cottage a few miles away.

When they reach the cottage there is no sign of the family and the cottage seems to be empty. Cooper enters first and there’s a pot of food on a lit gas stove, suggesting that the inhabitants haven’t been gone long. They go inside and Cooper sends Spoon to check out upstairs who says “Little pigs little pigs we’ve come to nick your video,” as he heads up the stairs. Cooper hears a noise and finds a dog shut in a cupboard. They get Wells and Ryan out of the jeep and Cooper notices that Ryan no longer seems to as injured as he was.

Joe spots the pot of hot food on the stove and helps himself telling the others that it tastes like pork. It probably isn’t pork but Cooper approves of them getting some food and tells them all to help themselves. Spoon puts a dressing out on Wells and Cooper asks Megan where nearest town is. She tells them Fort William is about 4 hours drive so they should get going right away.

Cooper and Spoon go to check outside and find out the engine of the jeep has been shredded and the werewolves are prowling around in the tree-line  They shoot at them and get back inside and the jeep blows up from a stray bullet hitting the fuel leaking out from the jeep. A werewolf tries to get in the door and there a bit of running around and shouting. To add to the chaos the dog starts biting at Wells’ bloody bandage and of course Ryan wants to kill the dog. Suddenly Terry pukes on Ryan’s head and it all goes quiet. Ryan starts having a go at Terry but Joe gets right in his face and Ryan backs off and goes upstairs to clean himself

Cooper checks if Terry is okay and Terry jokes that he fancies a kebab. Cooper gets him to boil some pots of water and while he’s doing that he makes them all tea. They work on securing the windows and doors. Spoon compares the situation to Rourke’s Drift (as seen in the classic film Zulu) and Joe is pissed because Spoon seems to be enjoying himself too much and of course he thinks it’s bone which is apparently not at all good. Megan tells Cooper about what they are up against and explains that they are part wolf part human or in other words they’re werewolves but he’s sceptical. Megan and Cooper take Wells upstairs and Joe, Terry and Spoon hunt for weapons. Joe finds an axe, Spoon finds a sword and Terry can only find an electric knife.

Cooper and Megan put Wells in a bed and give him a lot of booze to drink so he soon completely plastered. They use superglue to put him back together. Wells is getting far too drunk but the pain is getting terrible and he demands that Cooper knocks him out and it just takes two punches. Now they can get fix his wound with a lot less trouble. Cooper asks Megan about the werewolves and she tells him she’s a zoologist and she came here chasing rumours about them and she was just as sceptical as Cooper but she knows they are real now and she promises that Cooper will know it to before the night ends

Cooper and Megan come downstairs. Spoon is really enjoying himself playing with the sword but when Cooper comes back down he takes the sword and not the frying pan Spoon offers him. Megan tells them about werewolves and Spoon is totally happy with that explanation but Joe is sceptical like Cooper. Cooper tells Megan who everyone is but doesn’t introduce Ryan until Megan asks. Cooper doesn’t know why Ryan is there and why he seems to be a lot better so he demands Ryan show them his wound. Ryan objects to that and pulls his gun which Megan smacks out of his hand. While Joe holds Ryan down Cooper peels off the dressing to look and he sees that the wound has healed up nicely.

They tie up Ryan and discuss torturing him for more information but suddenly the lights go out. The werewolves have cut the power and are going to attack so everyone goes to the windows and gets ready. The werewolves try to get in the doors or the window and the squaddies throw everything they’ve got at them: guns, fire, hot water and even just smacking them with pots. Joe gets grabbed by one and Cooper chops its arm off with the sword. He hears one upstairs where Wells is sleeping. Cooper fights it off with the sword and finally Wells wakes up and joins in shooting at it and chasing it away

Downstairs things have gotten quieter and Terry sneers at the werewolves and calls them pussies and just then gets grabbed through the window by a werewolf. When Cooper comes down he gets told they took Terry. He wants to go get him but Ryan says he knows Terry is dead. Megan talks about what lives in the shadows. Ryan is sneering at them again and Megan tells Cooper that she’s already met Ryan and she was hired to advise his group about the werewolves.

The plan is to hold out until dawn but the are getting low in ammo and the guns might hurt the werewolves but they don’t kill them. Megan tells them about a Landrover kept in the barn and if they can hotwire it they might be able to get away. Joe volunteers and they decide to get Spoon to be a decoy to give Joe the chance to get to the Landrover. Spoon gets outside shouts and waves flare and taunts the werewolves and when they start coming at him Spoon runs back to cottage with a werewolf on his tail

Joe gets to the Landrover and in the light from the headlights he sees a werewolf eating Terry and it throws Terry’s head at him. Joe gets the Landrover started and backs out of barn but he realises a werewolf is sitting behind him and he gets slaughtered. The others find Joe’s body when they open the door of the car

Megan plays Clair de Lune on the piano while everyone sits depressed. Wells is up and about again and feeling fine. Cooper checks out the Landrover and realises the car is knackered. Cooper wants to know what Ryan is really up to.  Ryan explains that Special Weapon Division wanted a werewolf but it went wrong when there was more than one. Well’s squad was expendable bait for the werewolf and Ryan chose Cooper’s squad out of petty spite. Ryan then turns into a werewolf. Wells picks up something to use a weapon but it’s just a stick so he throws it at Ryan and says fetch. Cooper grabs the sword and shoves it through Ryan’s chest and Spoon shoots him so Ryan jumps out of the window.

Cooper figures that since they are mostly human the werewolves are the family who live at the cottage so they aren’t going anywhere. Megan tells them that the werewolves will be hiding out in the barn. They decide to use the Landrover and a large of bottle of propane to kill or hurt as many werewolves as they can by sending the car into the barn and blowing it up. Cooper asks Wells how he is and he feels fine and knows what that means. He’s turning into a werewolf but doesn’t know when but Wells is going to fight to the death against the werewolves. Cooper starts the Landrover and Spoon cuts the fuel line so it leaves a trail of fuel as it goes to the barn. Spoon can’t get a match to light so Wells throws a petrol bomb at it and the barn goes KABLOOOEY FWUMP.

Then Megan apologizes and tells them that there’s no hope of getting out. There were no werewolves in the barn. She doesn’t have a house in the next valley and the only reason she’s not in the family photos is that she took the photos. And lastly she let the werewolves in because she is one and then she starts changing. Wells shoots her in the head and then he and Cooper get upstairs, while Spoon heads for the kitchen. Spoon runs out of ammo pretty quickly but still dares the werewolves to come on

Upstairs Wells hides in the toilet (khazi) but he has a werewolf trying to break the door in. Cooper breaks a sink and smashes his way through the wall into the toilet next to Wells then breaks through another wall into a bedroom.

In the kitchen Spoon really goes totally mental on a werewolf, punching it, battering it with a frying pan and stabbing the hell out of it but a second werewolf grabs him and his last line is “I hope I give you the shits you fucking wimp,” then the two werewolves tear Spoon apart and eat him.

Upstairs the werewolves are getting into the bedroom so Cooper and Wells get into a wardrobe whose floor is littered with old human bones. Wells shoots a hole right through the floor and they get down into the kitchen. Wells finds a pile of gore with his watch in it that he gave to Spoon earlier and when Cooper asks where Spoon is Wells replies, ”There is no Spoon.”

They find a trapdoor down to the cellar and Wells makes Cooper and the dog go down there while Wells stays behind to take care of the werewolves He cuts the gas pipe to the stove and gas soon fills the kitchen. Wells can feel the werewolf change is coming but manages to hold on until the werewolves break into the kitchen and he ignites the gas KABOOMBOOOMBOOM

Cooper and the dog survive in the cellar but it turns out that Ryan is in the cellar too, hiding among the dead bodies of his Special Forces squad. Ryan and Cooper fight and Ryan gets Cooper pinned and he forces the sword that is still penetrating his body into Cooper’s mouth but the dog jumps him. Cooper spots the silver letter opener and stabs it into Ryan’s chest and then finishes him with a bullet into the brain.

As I said before I just love this film. It has great characters and I really believed their banter even when it was about werewolves. The stand out character for me is definitely Spoon, he’s just so funny and totally crazy but the whole cast are brilliant, natural and funny. I know it’s possible to find plot holes and weaknesses but when I watch it usually I’m usually enjoying myself too much to notice them.

Rating 9.5/10

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2 Comments

Posted by on October 21, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

2 responses to “Review: Dog Soldiers

  1. Tim The Film Guy

    October 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    One of the best werewolf films, loved it! 😀

     
  2. Victor De Leon

    October 21, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Awesome write up, Peter! One of your best, man! I love this film. An excellent entry in the Werewolf movie canon. Good job.

     

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