My Favourite Films #36: Dog Soldiers

Sometimes you don’t need the effects to be amazing. Sometimes a monster movie can get by on the characters, the script and the general feeling the movie gives you. This is one of those flicks, because when the werewolves finally have their big reveal they’re a bit rubbery and clearly just blokes in a suit, but it doesn’t matter, because by then I was sold.

ds sarge

The reason this movie works for me is that it’s extremely British in a way, although maybe not the vision of Britain most foreigners have. This isn’t tea drinking poshos, this is the other end, slightly laddy and naff, if Downton Abbey is as British as high tea, then this is as British as spending all day down the local watching the football.

ds pos

The plot is simple, a bunch of British squaddies led by Sgt Wells (Sean Pertwee) are on a training mission in the Scottish hills, miles from anywhere. The men think it’s a bit of a waste of time and generally complain about the crap weather and the fact they’re missing an important England match.

However, things get a lot more interesting when they find the “enemy” who have been attacked and slaughtered, the only surviving member is Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham), the SAS officer who passed over squad member Cooper (Kevin McKidd) because he wouldn’t shoot a dog in training. Something begins to hunt the men, who flee with the injured Ryan, and are rescued by Megan (Emma Cleasby), who’d moved to the area to study wildlife. In the process Wells is severely injured.

Holed up at a farmhouse they find themselves surrounded and cut off by the mysterious enemy who seem to be extremely clever and start to cut off any form of escape and pick off the men. As the tension mounts they have to realize that the enemy are in fact werewolves and that Ryan was using them as bait, as the night goes on Cooper starts to suspect that Megan and Ryan aren’t exactly strangers.

What I love about this movie is the humour that runs throughout, because even though there is tension, gore and action, I mainly remember laughing with this film. A lot of the humour comes from the way the characters bounce off each other, especially the squaddies, who banter and bicker like old mates. The dialogue is wonderfully observed for the most part although it does contain a couple of daft moments and one pop culture reference which cracked me up the first time.

The performances are pretty good as well, Pertwee is fantastic as the tough, gruff Sergeant who clearly cares for his men’s wellbeing and Kevin McKidd is fantastic as the resourceful, smart Cooper, the film’s hero. The Britishness extends to this as there’s no massive rousing speech or cocky swagger, just a bloke trying to get through the night, usually with a sarky comment or look of utter disbelief in response to what he faces, and the film has it’s tongue well in cheek throughout.

The other squaddies are also rather good especially the loudmouth Spoon (Darren Morfitt), who when about to go out against a werewolf delivers the fantastic last words “I hope I give you the s**ts, you f**king wimp!”. Classy it ain’t, entertaining it definitely is.

Spoon goes toe-to-toe with a werewolf
Spoon goes toe-to-toe with a werewolf

Neil Marshall directs his debut movie with great skill, building the tension nicely and given the shaky werewolves does a good job of keeping them off screen for much of the movie, just giving little glimpses until near the end. As a script writer as well he knows what’s up and the movie zips along at quite a lick meaning it never lets up and that we know just enough about the characters to care about them.

ds wolf

It’s a solid B movie, with some cracking dialogue that deliver genuine laughs and is one of those movies that you can rewatch over and over again, for my money, Marshall’s never topped his opening salvo.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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