Dog Soldiers (15)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director, Cast and Crew Commentary; Producer's Commentary; Deleted scenes; 'Making of' Dog Soldiers; Gag Reel; B Roll footage; Storyboards; Photo Gallery; Theatrical trailers.

TAKE six pissed-off British squaddies, place them in a wood infested with werewolves, throw in a now-obligatory vest-wearing feisty female and a nice line in pitch black humour and what have you got? One of the best British horror movies to come along in quite some time, actually.

Cliche-ridden it may be, and with some truly appalling dialogue at times, Dog Soldiers is nevertheless a winning take on the werewolf genre, packed with cinematic references, blood-thirsty set pieces and some well-executed shocks.

Sean Pertwee (of Event Horizon fame) plays the leader of the troop, a dedicated career-soldier who is totally unprepared for the horrors which lay ahead, as is his unit, a rag-tag bunch of bickering squaddies who would rather be back in the UK watching England take on Germany.

The trouble begins when they stumble into the blood-spattered camp of a special operations unit and find only one survivor - Liam Cunningham's stiff-upper lipped but sadistic Captain Ryan - who begs them to get him out. But it gets quickly worse as, with only 30 minutes of daylight remaining and a dodgy radio, they find themselves surrounded by the insatiable pack of hungry carnivores.

Even a surprise rescue by Emma Cleasby's gutsy local zoologist offers only a temporary reprieve, as the disbelieving soldiers find themselves holed-up in a remote farmhouse with no means of communication, a full moon above and precious little silver-tipped ammunition to equip them til dawn.

First-time writer-director Neil Marshall takes a fairly familiar premise, borrows from several other locations - Predator, Aliens, An American Werewolf in London, Southern Comfort and The Evil Dead being among them - and still manages to turn out a movie which remains fresh and exciting throughout.

And while not everything works - there are occasional lapses in logic, the aforementioned tacky dialogue and some amazing acts of stupidity, such as standing with backs to windows or going off alone - Marshall should be applauded for the enthusiasm he has brought to the project, barely giving the audience time to draw breath in between attacks and producing some well-conceived and very bloody set pieces (how the film escaped with a 15-certificate is a bit of a mystery).

His cast is also superb, with Pertwee making a credible father-figure, Kevin McKidd a suitably brow-beaten hero and the likes of Darren Morfitt and Chris Robson providing the type of supporting players which audiences can actually root for (rather than merely waiting to die).

And given that this is a Brit-flick (shot in Luxembourg instead of Scotland) and therefore cannot make use of the mega-budget, CGI-backed Hollywood special-effects teams, it is quite pleasing to be able to report that the grisly wolf pack is particularly impressive, as are some of the latter transformations, while the movie as a whole only occasionally feels like the low-budget flick that it is.

All in all, this should have horror fans howling in delight, rather than with derision.