Saturday, October 3, 2009

October Horror Fest #3: DOG SOLDIERS

Dog Soldiers not only succeeds as a horror film, but as a film period. Director Neil Marshall says it best: "This isn't a werewolf movie with soldiers, this is a soldier movie that happens to have werewolves". Masterfully directed, well acted, and featuring some of the best non-CGI effects seen in a long time, this is arguably the greatest debut for a horror film director since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

A group of British grunts are dropped into the Scottish wilderness for war games against a rival unit. Several of the main characters have some good, gritty conflict going before any blood is shed. When the opposing team is found slaughtered, the soldiers find themselves hunted by a pack of big-ass lycanthropes and hole up in an isolated farmhouse. That's when things get really good.

I really can't say enough good things about this movie. The dialogue is spot-on, and is complimented by the great performances from a somewhat-unknown (at least to us in the US) cast. If there are any computer-driven effects, I can't find them, The werewolves are as realistic as you can imagine, realistic and huge. They never wear out their welcome, which is a trap too many horror films tend to fall into. Marshall knows that fear of the unknown is the biggest fear of all, and he keeps his audience on its toes.

As great as the action/kill scenes with the werewolves are, it's the human element that pushes this film from 'decent' to 'outstanding'. Each character has a real personality and is memorable in his or her own way. The conflicts that arise once the group has barricaded themselves in are just as dangerous as the beasts creeping around outside. If you haven't seen this movie, clear your Netflix queue and make it happen. There's rumor of a sequel in the works (of course) but in the meantime Neil Marshall's follow-up to Dog Soldiers, The Descent, is also required viewing for any fan of well-made horror flicks.

Good werewolf movies come along once in a blue moon. (Sorry, I had to.) This is the best one since The Howling. Yeah, I said it!

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