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Dog Soldiers

July 31, 2007

Doing a double-bill with Shaun of the Dead the other evening, my mate loaned me low-budget werewolf Brit flick Dog Soldiers, a film I’d been keen to see on Sky Movies…right before we pulled the plug on all that pay-to-watch nonsense and went Freeview. So, anyway, I finally got my chance.

The premise is strictly down market: a platoon of British squaddies is sent on a training mission in the Highlands of Scotland against some hardcase Special Ops SAS types. Ignoring the campfire stories they hear about disappearances in the area, and bitching all the while about missing the England-Germany game (the 5-1 match from a couple of years ago), they continue with their mission and come across the bloody remains of all-but-one of the Special Ops boys. Oh, and it’s at that point a fierce howling rips through the night sky…

There’s a point about 10 or fifteen minutes in when you think you’ve been landed with a very poor Predator/Southern Comfort/Howling rip-off, but this rewards your perseverance, really it does. Mostly, it’s saved by the performance of a lifetime from cockney Faaaahkmeister Sean Pertwee, as the platoon’s been-there-done-that battle-hardened leader Sergeant Harry Wells, a man who looks at his intestines pouring out through a slit in his torso and remarks ‘sausages’! Actually, it’s at that point, about 20 minutes in, that the movie really goes up a gear.

As we retire to the abandoned farmhouse in the woods (miles from anywhere, etc. etc), chased and then surrounded by the poorly glimpsed werewolves – oh, whose house it happens to be in fact, this is a family more dysfunctional than the Simpsons – the standard group in peril set pieces all get trotted out: lights fail, an initial attack is repelled, there’s a doomed ‘something in the shed can help us’ plan, and in a quite moment the realisation that they’ve been set up Alien-style by high-ranking officials who knew all about it, and so on. And so on.

As you can see, there’s not really anything new here. The good thing is that the film is very much self aware of all this and plays up to expectations with a gleefully sarcastic swagger. It nicks lines from Aliens; there are faint strains of ‘Men of Harlech’ as they peer out of the windows between attacks to echo Zulu; the house is the cabin from Evil Dead; someone even plays ‘Clair de Lune’ on the family piano (geddit?); it’s all going on. You even get a very funny disappearing behind the kitchen table wolf-change, including heavy wolf-to-terrified-onlooker-back-to-wolf editting and zero CGI. The only thing missing is a wink to camera.

It’s Pertwee’s movie, though, and he simply runs away with it, despite the disabling belly wound and the growing realisation of what he’ll become. He certainly gets the best lines:



We are now up against live, hostile targets. So, if Little Red Riding Hood should show up with a bazooka and a bad attitude, I expect you to chin the bitch.

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I mean, think about it. We bust into their house, we eat all their porridge, we sleep in their fucking beds. No wonder they’re pissed.

Towards the end the action quotient really cranks up and there’s a genuinely thrilling chase through the rooms (and walls, and floors) of the house as the lycanthropes breach the defences and get in. It shows, I suppose, that humour has done its job and connected you to the protagonists enough to actually give a toss about the outcome and I was ultimately surprised by how much I wanted them to triumph.

This is that rare thing, then, a corking film; no pretensions to Art, but no big dumbass empty-headed multiplex cack either. Oh, and you can shove your Wes Craven Scream-u-like ‘ironic’ horror movies, too, they never really worked for me. This is ‘sarcastic’ horror, much more the thing. Maybe they should have called it Sarcy Movie?

Ok, maybe not.

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