It’s an unrealistic scenario of course, but the way the characters react is incredibly organic. Quite often—especially in the case of zombie films—I find myself cursing the idiotic reactions of characters to situations when I believe I would have reacted better (though honestly, I’d probably mess up equally in similar situations). The characters in Dog Soldiers are remarkably grounded, and their actions are relatable, which makes them far more interesting.
The stand-out character has to be Sergeant Harry Wells, played by Sean Pertwee—somewhat the father figure to the squad, trying to keep them together while dealing with the werewolf threat. One particular scene has to be my personal favourite monologue from a horror film, and even Robert Englund had high praise for it. Sitting around a campfire, the squad discuss what scares them most. After a few humorous admissions, eyes turn to Sergeant Wells, who begins to tell them a story about his friend Eddie Oswald who was blown up by an anti-tank mine in Kuwait. Pertwee tells the story is such a chilling way that it is probably even scarier than the werewolves.
What this scene does is set up the reactions of the characters to the werewolves later on. Many of these soldiers, such as the Sergeant, have already seen the horrors of war. To them, werewolves are just another enemy. Their outlook in the face of the new threat makes more sense when you realise that these are men who have seen terrible things before. Quite often, people with jobs revolving around death, such as soldiers, morticians or doctors, have a seemingly macabre sense of humour. Dog Soldiers sets up its comedic moments to make sense in the context of the film. It is a coping mechanism for the squad, a way of overcoming the horrific images they have seen.
It’s this that enables Dog Soldiers to walk this fine line between horror and comedy so perfectly. None of the dialogue seems unreasonable or out of place. It is witty, but realistic, and that portrays the characters in a realistic way, which is good when you are dealing with such an unrealistic concept such as werewolves.
Speaking of the werewolves, it would not be fair to not comment on the quality of the special effects in Dog Soldiers. The design of the werewolves themselves is unique, and they are far more wolf-like than many of renditions. Quite often, werewolves in media are brutish, muscular creatures such as those seen in the Underworld franchise. Those in Dog Soldiers however, are leaner, more agile looking creatures, as you’d expect from something part-wolf. Even with the film’s modest budget, the werewolves look impressive, and the gore is up to par also.
Dog Soldiers may very well be a contender for the best werewolf film of all time. It is a sub-genre that hasn’t been as saturated quite as much as zombies or vampires, so if you’re bored of the latter, then this is definitely a must-watch.
Why We Heart: Dog Soldiers
By Ross Wildish - 27th July 2014
Being such an outrageous and over-the-top genre, horror films often end up reaching into the realms of comedy. Quite often this is done unintentionally—there are certainly many films that try to be serious and just end up being laughably bad; however, Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers (2002) serves as a demonstration to all as to how this fine line should be navigated. The film manages to juggle being a black comedy and a horror without straying too deeply into either.
Set in the Scottish Highlands, a group of plucky British Army soldiers on a training exercise are faced with a threat they couldn’t possibly have trained for: a pack of ravenous werewolves.