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dog soldiers



I am a big fan of writer/director Neil Marshall and while it is his The Descent which really sold me on him as a filmmaker, it was his freshman film Dog Soldiers which first got my attention. The film is a simple yet very effective and intense story of a group of British grunts on training maneuvers in the Scottish Highlands, who not only find their SAS opponents dead, but by the claws of what appear to be a pack of werewolves straight out of legend. With their Sergeant (Sean Pertwee) injured, stoic Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd) takes control of the panicked group and attempts to get them to safety. They soon find themselves in the company of pretty Zoologist Megan (Emma Cleasby) who leads them to a small cottage where they decide to make a stand and fight against their lycanthropic pursuers. Thus begins a terrifying siege through the night as unbeknownst to our group of beleaguered soldiers, that when the moon is not full, the cottage is where these werewolves call home.

Sure Marshall’s werewolf flick does evoke Aliens with it’s soldiers v.s. monsters story, which even includes a bit of military conspiracy concerning the SAS unit’s true mission, but we let him slide because, he does it so damn well. Dog Soldiers is a very intense and sometimes very gruesome horror flick with a group of tough and likable grunts in the fight for their lives against supernatural creatures in the middle of nowhere and with no one coming to their aid. Unlike James Cameron’s classic, these guys also have to deal with their own who get bitten, as we all know what happens when the moon is full to those who get bit. There are moments of quiet to let the audience catch their breath, but Marshall then gives us sudden explosions of intense action and sometimes in some very tight places within the small cottage. Bullets and blood fly regularly, but it’s all the more effective because Marshall has given us enough time to get to know and like his besieged soldiers and he gives their canine opponents a real sense of menace…and an intelligent menace at that. These are cunning, vicious and powerful creatures and as the myths are true, the soldiers weapons are only a temporary inconvenience. This sets up a sense of not only dread but, of a growing hopelessness as our protagonists are running out of time, options and numbers in which to save themselves.

Marshall gets very good work from his cast, especially McKidd who is a strong and heroic lead. Cooper is a simple but smart and tenacious man who is not going to give up even when faced with opponents from out of a horror movie. We get a cute but very smart and spunky heroine from Cleasby as Megan and a tough but lovable sergeant from Pertwee. The rest all give their characters a personality and life beyond the printed script and the performers under the latex and fur give our lycanthropes some real threat. As for our wolves, the costumes are effective animatronics and prosthetics and since they are created on a low budget, Marshall keeps them effective by shooting them in quick shots and keeping them in shadow giving them an air of mystery, as well as, hiding any possible flaws from budgetary restraints. The rest of the gore and bloodshed is also quite well orchestrated and there is plenty of it!

While not perfect…there are a few plot holes, but most flaws come from a limited budget…Dog Soldiers is an atmospheric and action-packed tale of hard and tough men up against something even their steel nerves and military skills can’t handle. It’s witty and fast paced and takes a time honored siege story and really makes it work. A solid and scary horror/action flick that also has a bit of a sly sense of humor and is not without a few surprises too. Highly recommended! Also stars Liam Cunningham as sole surviving SAS Captain Ryan, a man with quite a few secrets of his own.

There has been continual talk for years about a sequel. but so far, nothing has yet to happen…and maybe that’s a good thing as we all know how the sequel to Marshall’s The Decent…which he didn’t write or direct…turned out.

3 and 1/2 bullets…which only annoy a werewolf since they are not silver!

raid rating









And to celebrate the birthday of one of my favorite new generation filmmakers, I review my favorite of his films! (Though, I like them all!)





Our chilling story begins with the tragic death of the husband and daughter of Sarah, (Shauna Macdonald) one of six adventure seeking friends. A year later, group leader, Juno (Natalie Mendoza), decides to take Sarah and the rest on an underground cave exploring expedition. But the overzealous Juno has tricked them into exploring a supposedly undiscovered system and soon they become trapped inside with no one but the cave’s carnivorous inhabitants knowing where they are.

Writer/director Neil Marshall creates a truly scary and suspenseful roller coaster ride as these six women get lost in this undiscovered system and worse yet, find out they are not alone. The Descent is a claustrophobic and tense experience even before the creatures show up. With the tension between group members and of the cave-in that traps them inside, the film would have been entertaining and satisfying enough had that been the extent of it’s story. But it is a horror film and cave dwelling carnivores soon show up and when they do, the real nightmare begins for our spelunking sweeties. One of the reasons Descent is so successful is that the women are all likable three dimensional characters and there is some really nice and realistic interaction and banter between them. They are a diverse and likable group and even Juno has her positive qualities though, her actions do make her very morally questionable. Marshall gets really good performances out of his sextet of heroines and It has impact when they come to harm. And Marshall doesn’t spare them, or us, when they do, it’s brutal and bloody. But these ladies also give as good as they get when it comes to fighting back and the last third is quite a bloodbath. Marshall also ups the ante by adding a personal conflict that develops between the two leads Sarah and Juno, that adds an extra dynamic and gives an extra dramatic punch to an already pulse pounding finale.

The production looks good and Marshall makes maximum use of his setting. The cave itself becomes a character as Marshall filmed the movie using only the light the girls themselves are using, to light the scenes. It gives a better illusion that the viewer is there with our heroines as they move through the underground labyrinth and creates a really claustrophobic atmosphere that adds to the suspense and dread. As for the cave’s inhabitants, they are kept in shadows and seen briefly, which keeps them mysterious and scary and Marshall even imbues them with a bit of character so they become more real to his audience and more than just monsters. The make-up and gore effects bringing these creatures and their carnage to gruesome life are also top notch.

Very intense, very scary, very gory and one of the best horror flicks of the last decade. Watch it in the dark, but not alone! Also staring Alex Reid as Beth, MyAnna Buring as Sam, Saskia Mulder as Rebecca and Nora-Jane Noone as Holly. Buring and Noone were also featured in Marshall’s fun Escape From New York/Road Warrior mash-up Doomsday (2008).

Birthday boy Neil Marshall also directed Dog Soldiers, Doomsday, Centurion, episodes of Game Of Thrones and is slated to helm the upcoming Hellboy reboot.

An intense and gory 4 cave critters!

descent rating