Dog Soldiers (2002 movie) review…

Dog Soldiers (2002 movie) review after the break…

Dog Soldiers (2002 movie) review…

If you take the movie “Aliens,” replace space aliens for werewolves and space marines for British troops and a partially terraformed planet with an old Scottish farmhouse in the middle of nowhere… You’ve got “Dog Soldiers,” a 2002 low-budget horror movie starring a pre- HBO TV series “Rome” Kevin McKidd as a British soldier who’s group starts out on a routine military exercise but becomes embroiled in a much more paranormal fight for survival.

After Kevin McKidd succeeds in evading a special forces squad as part of a test but fails because he won’t shoot an innocent dog (if you can’t smell Chekov’s Gun yet, then you haven’t watched enough movies) he is bumped back to his regular squad where he forced to partake in a military exercise.  During the exercise, they happen upon the remnants of a decimated special forces squad with only one soldier left alive, Captain Ryan (the man who failed McKidd). Now knowingly pursued by something not quite human, the remaining soldiers intersect with a woman driving an SUV (or whatever it is that passes for an SUV in Scotland) and they all pile into her vehicle where they drive to a seemingly deserted farmhouse in the proverbial middle of nowhere (although, to be honest, how many “middle of nowheres” can there possibly be in the small space of Scotland?). Once at the farmhouse, the film turns into a series of stand-offs and plot revelations about who everyone is, what they’re doing there and why.

“Dog Soldiers” wants to be a good movie and you can see it’s valiant efforts to be one. The use of physical special effects is appreciated and the physical costumes of the werewolves are convincing. CGI has it’s place in movie making but it still can not capture the physical presence of an actual prop or costume. As the movie progresses, the space in which our heroes have to work with (along with the number of heroes) shrinks until only a few are left to worm their way through the house with werewolves in hot pursuit. There is general tension during the various stand-offs and some of the mystery surrounding the circumstances gives the film an added edge of desperation.

Unfortunately, what makes the movie good prevents the movie from becoming great. Unlike space aliens, werewolves as creatures have “rules” and these rules aren’t really addressed in the film. The laws of physics are disregarded for some sort of supernatural hokum equivalent to Kevlar and this definitely deflates the suspension of disbelief. It’s one thing to club a werewolf with a lead pipe and expect it to not be affected but to recover after a burst from a modern machine-gun? Really? Seriously? The “game play” of the werewolves becomes ridiculous as the movie progresses where you simply have to throw your hands up into the air and walk away, knowing that the movie was stacked against the troops from the start.

The more one thinks about “Dog Soldiers,” the more one must concede that it offers precious little in either the action or werewolf genres. The plot revelations about the woman or Captain Ryan are predictable and time wasters; Unlike the character Bishop from “Aliens” who is presumed evil (at least by Ripley) but always plays it completely good, Captain Ryan has no such arc, simply being evil from start to finish. His transformation into a werewolf is a bit laughable, going from fully clothed and normal one minute to naked and werewolf the next. Megan, the lone female presence in the movie, also has a peculiar revelation that doesn’t make much sense – Why wait to turn evil after being so good for so long? What was the point?

“Dog Soldiers” makes a valiant attempt to entertain and, as the movie plays, it does just that – Entertain. Yet, once the movie stops and the viewer thinks about the movie, several plot holes and inconsistencies loom to devalue the movie’s post-viewing value. Using werewolves might afford the movie to have an Earth setting but the ridiculous amount of punishment the werewolves take with little effect dampens the impact; The vast revelations add nothing to the film because they really aren’t “game changers” for either the movie or the werewolf mythos – If the farmhouse family are werewolves, why were they making dinner when they turned into werewolves? Wouldn’t they be skilled in knowing about turning into werewolves not to start making dinner? And how does Megan fit into the family and if she was running away from the family, what was the point?

“Dog Soldiers” is a fair action movie that doesn’t make much sense upon reflection and part of the reason is because the werewolves themselves aren’t really updated to fit modern times (Why a full moon? The moon is still there during the day so what’s the big deal about daylight?). Without a logical villain, you can’t have much of a logical movie and a movie that doesn’t play by it’s own rules doesn’t command the respect from the people who watch it. The director should be commended for attempting an action movie with “old-school” physical effects but in a day and age where everyone but religious troglodytes (and Republican presidential candidates – Sorry, I couldn’t resist) accepts science, it might have been nice to have offered a modern-day werewolf to fight against modern-day soldiers. Sadly, the movie “Aliens,” for which so much of this movie attempts to emulate, did it better first.


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