Friday, October 30, 2015

Dog Soldiers


   Another werewolf movie that has simply blown me away. I'd heard about Dog Soldiers a long time ago, and always meant to watch it, but just never got around to it. After the fantastic Late Phases, I figured I owed myself another solid werewolf flick. This one might get off to a weird start, and the thick English/Scottish accents are almost indecipherable at times without subtitles, but make no mistake, this movie is a hell of a ride. It has the same kind of tension and scary action as Aliens does, and that gives it major brownie points in my book. Yet, it wouldn't get any praise from me if it wasn't done right. Dog Soldiers pulls it off and then some.

   The opening is a mess of flashbacks and flashforwards but when we finally get into the present, we're following a team of soldiers up in the Scottish Highlands on a routine training exercise. Of course, nothing stays safe for long because they find themselves under siege by a pack of bloodthirsty werewolves. Any movie with a good effects team behind it can pull a movie like this off, and it'll even be really fun, but Dog Soldiers is more than guts and gore, it's flesh and blood. Pun fully intended. But, honestly. The soldiers in this movie are like brothers, they have real character and personality. They're up against a threat that could easily slaughter them all and if anything, it just brings them closer together, like family.

   Eventually, they're helped to a house by a good Samaritan where they can try and patch themselves up after their initial skirmish with the werewolves. This is where the majority of the movie takes place, but good use is made from the claustrophobic and confined setting. The movie ends up getting especially creative making the action scenes as scary as they are exciting. In fact, Dog Soldiers excels at blending action and horror. The premise of the story is undeniably frightening, yet because it also revolves around cocky gung-ho soldiers, it's also inevitably an action movie as well. Guns, swords, explosions, and more guns- it's open season in the Scottish Highlands.

   The actors are all great, and I saw a few familiar faces- which was nice. The lead protagonist is incredibly likable and fun to watch. He's probably the quietest one in his group, but when his commanding officer gets injured rather badly, he ends up taking charge and saving lives in the process. He has a natural leading man charisma about him and that always goes a long way towards making a movie watchable, at the very least. Dog Soldiers is exceptionally more than watchable for that matter, it's intense and unique- even over a decade after it's release. I will say there is something about the movie that feels vaguely dated, but not in a distracting way. It was pleasantly familiar in a weird way. Could be the film they shot it on or something, but it caught my eye for sure.

   The movie's weak point is definitely the first act. None of the soldiers really get a chance to show individual personality much and I often got the characters mixed up. Things feel kind of tedious for a bit, like they were padding screentime until they could have the werewolves show up. I was patient and it paid off, but thankfully I didn't have to wait long all the same.  There are some movies that work with a slower, methodical pace, but this wouldn't have been one of them. This is an explosive action-horror flick like Predator. It's knee deep in blood and guts but it'll excite you as much as it'll scare you.

   I have a soft spot for eye catching visuals, and I tend to notice this kind of stuff in the moment a lot quicker than some other people do, or so I've been told. Dog Soldiers is definitely full of striking visuals that caught my eye left and right. There's some really cool looking moments in the movie, and visual flair and style is one of the first things to distinguish a movie from other lesser ones- at least in my opinion. Dog Soldiers has a nice blend of everything. It has a decent story that turns out to be a little bigger than I originally expected, it has a strong camaraderie between the leads, thick creepy atmosphere, and plenty of balls-to-the-wall bloodshed. Dog Soldiers is not one to miss, and it's a must see for genre fans.

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