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Review: Dog Soldiers

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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Posted by on October 21, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Awakening

This is not really a horror film. That is not to say that it does not have it share of tension and scares but just that this film deals more with grief than with horror. Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) is an author who is interested with investigating paranormal claims and is especially obsessed with busting fake mediums scamming members of the public. The film starts with her busting one group and having them all arrested because pulling these sorts of scams used to be illegal in Britain. This is in 1921 and it is only 3 years after the end of the First World War where Britain nearly lost an entire generation of young people to a war conducted by rich people sitting in map rooms. There is a lot of grief and desperation for these ghouls to feed on but the victim of the con is not happy about the bust. The fake mediums were selling the woman hope but Florence has nothing but cold hard reality to offer.

Florence is a bit of an evangelist of science and rationality but she hates her victories against the supernatural because Florence lost her fiancé in the war and each time she finds a logical explanation or con trick to explain away any mysteries she comes across it confirms her belief and fear that death is really the end and that this is all there is.

She gets a visit from John Mallory (Dominic West) a history teacher at a boy’s boarding school. He wants to use her skills to bust the ghost stories at the school which have led to one boy at the school dying because of his fear of the ghost. She has been recommended to the school’s headmaster by the school’s matron who is a big fan of Florence’s books. Mallory himself is not a fan. He shows Florence the school photographs and each year the same ghostly figure can be seen at the end of the group of a boy the same age as the boys at the school. This intrigues her and she agrees to investigate the school.

At the school she gets introduced to the groundskeeper Edward Judd (Joseph Mawle) who drives Florence and Mallory from the station. Florence detects a frosty attitude between the men and it turns out that while Mallory fought in the war and was injured and lost all his friends Judd avoided being conscripted. At the school we see another teacher McNair (Shaun Dooley) who is supervising the boys while they run across the school’s grounds and he coughs and downs tonic. The matron Maud Hill (Imelda Staunton) is waiting for them at the entrance and she almost seems star-struck to meet Florence. Mallory takes Florence inside to introduce her to the headmaster Reverend Purslow (John Shrapnel) who greets her then leaves her in the care of Mallory.

Florence gets he equipment set up and start investigating the ghostly mystery that scared a boy to death. She does succeed in uncovering schoolboy pranks and doe manage to solve the mystery of the boy’s death but she has a sense that she is missing something and investigates further. Any more about the story would be a spoiler but I was not very satisfied with the way the film turned out in the last the third when the film springs a little twist on us. I may change my mind about this but I thought it was just not up to the standard set by the first two-thirds of the film. I’ll probably see it again because I think this film does need more than one viewing just to see if questions I have about the story are actually answered. If you like low moody ghost stories that are light in blood you may enjoy this.There is some sex and nudity both male and female so that’s either a warning or a bit of fan service.

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Asylum

This is another one of Amicus Productions‘ portmanteau films featuring a blend of stories written by Robert Bloch. It has a brilliant cast which is very typical of Amicus Productions films. The music in this film is particularly striking with a great deal of the highly energetic music of Mussorgsky featuring throughout the film.

The film opens with the highly familiar Night on Bald Mountain as a car drives up to the Dunsmoor Asylum. This heralds the arrival of Dr Martin (Robert Powell), a young psychiatrist who is applying for a position at the asylum. He hoping to be interviewed by Dr B. Starr who runs the asylum but is instead introduced to his assistant Dr Rutherford (Patrick Magee). Dr Rutherford is confined to a wheelchair after being injured by one of the patients at the hospital. Specifically he was injured by Dr Starr who has gone mad and is now a patient at his own hospital. Rutherford tells Martin that Starr has a new personality and offers the young doctor a challenge to identify which of the patients was formerly Dr Starr and if Martin is right he has the job. Martin is sent up on his own, since Rutherford can’t go upstairs, where the orderly Reynolds (Geoffrey Bayldon) will show him each of the patients.

The first patient is a woman called Bonnie (Barbara Parkins). Martin had made a sexist assumption that Dr Starr was a man but Rutherford points out that he never said if Dr Starr was a man or woman. Bonnie does not face Martin as she tells her story called Frozen Fear. Bonnie is the lover of Walter (Richard Todd), a weak man trapped in a loveless marriage by archaic divorce laws. His wife Ruth (Sylvia Syms) won’t divorce him, seemingly out of spite so Walter and Bonnie have come up with a plan. Walter tricks Ruth into coming down to the basement to show her a new freezer he’s just bought. Then he kills her with an axe and chops her body up. He wraps the bits up in brown paper and stores them in the new freezer. He also tosses in a protective talisman she had received from her guru.

Later Walter sees the head rolling around on its own in the kitchen and tosses his brandy bottle at it but it’s gone just as suddenly. He goes down to the basement and sees the freezer lid open. When he goes to check on it the arms seize him by the throat and choke him. Bonnie arrives at the house later and can’t see any sign of Walter. She eventually tries the basement which is empty. Bonnie looks in the freezer and finds Walter lying dead. She also finds herself surrounded by animated body parts. Bonnie finds the axe and tries to use it to attack the hand that grabs at her face from above. Back at asylum she turns and shows her face to Martin with the scars where she hit herself with the axe. Martin gives her mental state a name and then he is satisfied to banish tale to realm of delusion. He tries to get information from Reynolds but he’s been instructed to tell him nothing until he decides who Dr Starr is.

The next patient is Bruno (Barry Morse) who sits obsessively miming the motions of stitching clothes This segment is called The Weird Tailor which is more like a working title than something you’d call a short story. He is tailor and he no longer gets enough business to pay his rent. His landlord gives him five more days to find money to pay his rent or he’ll have to leave. Just then he gets a customer, a strange old man called Mr Smith (Peter Cushing) who wants a special suit made for his son from a fantastic cloth he supplies. This cloth glows and shimmers in shifting colours. The instructions for the suit are as much about astrological timings as about the design of the suit. Bruno promises to have it ready in four days.

Four days later Bruno delivers the suit to Mr Smith. He asks for the money but Smith confesses he is broke  having spent all his money on a rare book of magic spells. Bruno discovers Smith’s son is dead and the suit is part of spell to bring him back to life. Bruno refuses to hand over the suit and Smith pulls a gun on him but Bruno attacks him and in the struggle Smith is shot dead. Bruno flees back to his shop with book and the suit

Bruno tells his wife Anna to destroy the suit but finds that instead she has dressed the shop dummy in the suit. Bruno insist that they have to destroy the book and the suit. His dummy then comes to life and attacks him and  the story ends. Once more Reynolds refuse to give any more information.

The third room is another female patient called Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) who insists she shouldn’t be there. She tells her story in segment called Lucy Comes to Stay. Barbara is being taken home by her brother George (James Villiers) after a period of time staying in a psychiatric hospital. Barbara asks about her friend Lucy but George doesn’t want to talk about her. When they get home Lucy is introduced to Nurse Higgins who has been hired by George to take care of Barbara. The nurse puts her to bed with sedative but Barbara is tired of being treated like a patient. She finds some pills that she had hidden away and takes one. It is then that Lucy (Britt Ekland) appears, concerned that George has practically imprisoned Barbara. She has sent the nurse on a wild goose chase to London with fake call about her mother. Lucy promises to return that night and help her to escape.

When Lucy returns she drugs George with some sedative intended for Barbara and tells Barbara to get ready to leave. She goes downstairs with large pair of scissors to cut the phone line while Barbara gets dressed. Meanwhile Nurse Higgins returns to house and she finds George lying dead in his chair, a pair of scissors stuck in his chest. She goes up to check on Barbara and Lucy stabs her with knife. Back at the asylum Barbara is finishing her story and explaining that it was Lucy not her that killed them. Martin asks if he can talk talk to Lucy and and Barbara points at Lucy in the mirror, or where she sees Lucy but Martin only sees Barbara.

The last room is a patient called Byron (Herbert Lom) who is a doctor. This segment is called Mannikins of Horror and takes place in the hospital in the present. Byron is a doctor before he was admitted to the hospital. He has created strange dolls made up of simple toy robot bodies with carved heads of real people. He has also created one of himself and his obsessed withe idea that by concentration he can transfer his consciousness into the doll.

Martin returns to Rutherford expressing his dismay that the patients have simply been labelled incurable and locked away without treatment. Rutherford think that the best treatment is lobotomy which really shocks Martin. Neither of men notice the doll with Byron’s head come up behind Rutherford, pick up a scalpel and plunge it into the back of Rutherford’s head. Rutherford falls down dead and Martin sees the doll. He throws it on the floor and crushes it with his foot. The broken doll oozes blood and organs like it was alive and there is a scream from upstairs. Martin rushes up and Reynolds tells him that Byron is dead, his body crushed.

You may notice I have not revealed who Dr Starr was but why spoil it? It is an interesting mix of stories since although some can dismissed as delusion that is not the case with Byron’s story since it takes place in front of the highly sceptical Dr Martin. Amicus films often have a story that is a bit more comedic than the others but that really doesn’t happen in this film and there’s certainly no story with a happy ending. It is not a favourite of mine but it is still a fun watch if you like British 70s horror films.

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Film

 

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