Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Dog Soldiers

The direct-to-video universe largely remains the domain of generic genre movies and vehicles for Blockbuster-friendly stars with names like Don "The Dragon" Wilson. But every once in a while, a sleeper falls through the theatrical cracks to receive a premature direct-to-video burial. The past few years have witnessed a video-store renaissance, thanks to films like Wet Hot American Summer, Donnie Darko, and Ginger Snaps, which found an audience on video after negligible theatrical runs. The impressive directorial debut of writer-director Neil Marshall, Dog Soldiers has all the makings of a cult phenomenon: black humor, a genre-mashing plot, and an irresistible premise that pits agile super-werewolves against terrified military grunts. Dog Soldiers could easily coast on the ingenuity of its premise alone, but Marshall's film has a lot to recommend it beyond its fusion of genres. Trainspotting's Kevin McKidd leads a fine cast as a gifted, humane soldier sent to participate in war games against an elite special force. But the games soon take a backseat to survival, as McKidd and his band of grunts discover that their mock foes have been torn apart by a mysterious beast, leaving only the doomed troop's sinister captain behind. Desperate to stay alive, they encounter sympathetic zoologist Emma Cleasby, who takes them to a house where they make a final determined stand against an enemy far fiercer than any they've encountered. Dog Soldiers walks a fine line tonally: With too much humor, the film might devolve into camp, but played too straight, the conflict between werewolves and dog soldiers risks becoming silly instead of suspenseful. Thankfully, Marshall finds an ideal mixture of comedy, suspense, and horror. Equally effective as a war movie and a horror film, Dog Soldiers' cast and punchy script help turn its luckless soldiers into much more than interchangeable werewolf chow, and put an invigorating new spin on two of cinema's most venerable genres.