I was familiar with Dog Soldiers long before I watched it, seeing it on the shelf at my local video store and thinking that it was just another straight-to-video D-grade horror film, directed by ‘nobody’ Neil Marshall. Years later, I watched The Descent (Marshall’s next film), a tense, frightening, smart horror film and decided to give Dog Soldiers a chance, hoping that it would be half as good as Marshall’s later film. Thankfully, I wasn’t let down: though not as polished as The Descent, Dog Soldiers is incredibly kinetic and suspenseful, and easily one of the best werewolf films of the last ten years.
To begin with, the action sequences are tense and exciting, full of realistic weapon use and quick editing. In fact, every aspect of this film is built on realism (ironically enough, in a film about werewolves in the Highlands of Scotland). This is one of Marshall’s strengths as a director, to be able to make an unbelievable or supernatural situation credible and real.
The actors help to strengthen this believability, with a solid cast of (relative) unknowns. Though Sean Pertwee does go slightly over the top in some scenes (purportedly because he was actually drunk for those scenes), he anchors the cast in a good performance as a tough Army sergeant.
Dog Soldiers isn’t without flaws, however. The editing is a tad patchy at times, with some scene transitions not making much sense. As well, the film is generally too dark, especially in the forest sequences, though this is perhaps due to the low budget of the film. As well, some of the characters get lost in the shuffle, only their names and regional accents differentiating them.
Director Marshall has a long career ahead of him, with his excellent grasp of horror and strong sense of narrative. Dog Soldiers, a film that risked getting lost in the video store, manages to shock and entertain, delivering a memorable experience.