Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dog Soldiers

When The Descent wound up being a surprise hit among horror fans, I had had some hopes that this would lead to fans then seeking out director Neil Marshall’s previous film Dog Soldiers, which I hold up as being possibly the best werewolf movie ever made. Sadly (and perhaps obviously), this did not happen, and it still languishes in semi-obscurity.

The film follows a group of Scotch soldiers on what seems to be a routine training mission out in the wilderness, when they find that the team they are fighting against has been almost completely wiped out by a pack of werewolves. Taking the lone, badly wounded survivor, they pretty much run screaming away from the vicious pack and hole up in a local’s home, where they have to make a NotLD-style defense against them all.

One of the things that makes this work so well is the rather frantic pacing of it all. I mentioned how it plays out somewhat like Night of the Living Dead, but only if you remove those wussy slow-moving zombies with the ones from the Dawn of the Dead remake. And make them smart, so they can figure out all the extra-sneaky ways to break in and kill people. Also, I don’t know if Britain just takes extra care in training its actors, but unlike many (read: all) of the United States’ low budget horror movies, there’s not a single bad actor to be found here.

This is not to say that the movie is perfect. I did, after all, not rate it quite four stars, pretty much entirely due to the ending, which takes all the momentum the film had built up and lets it drop with an ugly thud on the floor. It’s admittedly not the worst ending I’ve ever seen (I think that honor may permanently belong to Atonement), and also admittedly it’s not like there’s not a small army of horror movies out there that completely fumble the ball at the end, but for a movie that’s been so great up to this point, it’s all the more glaring. Still, if you watch it, the option is always there to turn it off ten minutes before it ends and imagine a different, much better ending. You can’t get that with most movies these days, you know.

Rating: *** ½

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