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The film opens with a young couple camping in woodland in Scotland who are suddenly snatched from their tent and massacred by an unseen enemy.
Then we move to Wales where Dog Soldiers quickly introduces us to our protagonist and antagonist. Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd) is on the brink of completing his special forces training when Captain Ryan (Liam Sullivan) orders him to shoot a dog, the dog hasn’t
done anything wrong so like any good hearted bloke Cooper refuses. Captain Ryan pulls the trigger himself, and Cooper fails his training for not following orders.
Four weeks later, in Scotland, Copper is back with his squad led by Sgt. Harry G. Wells (Sean Pertwee) in a routine army exercise against the Special Forces. When the squad reaches their target they don’t find what they expect. Instead they find a severely wounded Captain Ryan surrounded by what’s left of his men, which does not amount to much more than some chopped liver and a lot of blood. Ryan, no longer the arrogant arse-hole we met in Wales whimpers and begs for them to get him out of there. It is quickly apparent that they are not alone in the woods and that they are being hunted.
On the run, with both Ryan and Sgt. Wells injured, and being chased by an ever advancing enemy, the squad are rescued in the nick of time by a woman called Megan who drives them in her Land rover to her friends’ house in the wood. It is here that the film resembles Night of the Living Dead; the squad board themselves in as well as they can and hope to sit it out until daylight. The problem is, those pesky werewolves are determined, and hungry - each time they attack the ammo supplies are depleted a little more and the squad begin to doubt they’ll ever see dawn.
Dog Soldiers is not only action packed, but very well-written by Marshall. The screenplay was deemed ‘too British’ to appeal to the U.S. market and as such it didn’t ever make it to cinema screens over there, which is a real shame given it made the top three over here behind About A Boy and Panic Room. The screenplay is like a breath of fresh air; the humour is right on the money, ridiculous, and over-the-top, yes – but funny. I love Sean Pertwee as Sgt. Wells; he’s a terrific caricature of a character and a lot of fun to watch. This is not a heavy, hard going horror, and nor is it so funny that it isn’t scary. It is a perfect balance of horror and humour, which is really refreshing.
Clearly Sgt. Harry G. Wells is a nod to H.G. Wells, and there are also references to several films, which I’ll leave you to suss out, watch it a few times and you’ll probably spot them all.
Dog Soldiers is a tongue-in-cheek, action packed, roller coaster ride. It ticks all the boxes.
DOG SOLDIERS (2002). Director/Writer: Neil Marshall. Cast: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Liam Cunningham, Darren Morfitt
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