Dog Soldiers 2002 is the best werewolf film since An American Werewolf in London, says ANDREW GARVEY
Title: Dog Soldiers
Year Released: 2002
Director: Neil Marshall
Cast: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd and Liam Cunningham
After an apparent training exercise in the Scottish Highlands goes gorily awry, the film’s heroes (a well-written and acted group of British squaddies led by Sean Pertwee) find themselves trapped in a remote farmhouse. Their enemy? A family of exceptionally tall, fantastically hairy and mostly realistic werewolves – three cheers for well-made costumes and animatronics everyone!
The son of the iconic Dr. Who and Worzel Gummidge actor John, the younger Pertwee is the film’s biggest name and gives a strong performance as a shouty sergeant who’s not quite good enough for the SAS but is trying to hold together a group of terrified, confused but very British, very belligerent soldiers in the most desperate of circumstances.
One hefty and unexplained plot hole aside (relating to when and how one particular werewolf changes) the script is very well put together, balancing some great shocks and spectacular violence with more genuinely funny lines and exchanges than you’d normally find in a great, bloody fistful of so-called horror/comedy films.
Dog Soldiers 2002 is also stuffed with film references that reward multiple viewings. A special forces/secret government programme subplot helps move things along as the soldiers stage an increasingly desperate, ever-more bloody last stand, trying to hold out until dawn. Will they make it? Well, obviously some won’t – and they die in a variety of satisfyingly bloodthirsty, sudden ways at the claws and teeth of their unusually cunning, intelligent tormentors.
A British production with some funding and the majority of filming taking place in Luxembourg of all places, Neil Marshall’s debut feature as director (he also wrote and edited the film) marked him as a new and exciting director to watch. Indeed, his next film, The Descent (2005) was even better. And even if his subsequent projects Doomsday (2008) and Centurion (2010) were somewhat disappointing, Marshall remains one of British action/horror’s very best directors.
With plenty of memorable moments – few films include a soldier taking on a werewolf in a fistfight or a pet dog tog-o-warring with a still-living man’s intestines, Dog Soldiers 2002 is an immensely enjoyable werewolf film.
On its 2002 release it was the probably the best werewolf film since 1981 classic An American Werewolf in London. And now, a decade on, with a couple of follow-up teaser trailers out there, and sequels planned, announced and shelved dating back to 2004, surely it’s time, finally, for Dog Soldiers 2? Few werewolf films deserve it more.
What did you think of Dog Soldiers 2002? Tell us in the comments!
5 Things You Didn’t Know about Dog Soldiers 2002
- Neil Marshall is reported as saying he wrote Dog Soldiers 2002 as a “knee-jerk reaction” to An American Werewolf in London 1981, which he thought was terrible. He wrote the first draft in 1996 and took six years to refine it.
- Jason Stratham was initially going to be cast as Cooper, but he had to bow out at the last minute to do John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars 2001.
- The film was set in Scotland but it was actually filmed in Luxembourg because of financing. Neil Marshall says all he remembers of the filming is being covered in mud.
- The badge the soldiers wear has a wolf with a spear through it. It was designed by Neil Marshall.
- The events of Dog Soldiers probably took place on 1 and 2 September, because England did beat Germany 5-1 on 1 September 2001. And those nights were full moons too!