‘Dog Soldiers’ – A Thrilling Horror Hybrid Brimming with Action and Atmosphere

Before there was The Descent, there was Dog Soldiers; Neil Marshalls’ 2002 debut film about a British Squad of soldiers on a training mission in the Highlands of Scotland who encounter and do fierce battle with a pack of bloodthirsty werewolves. With this film Marshall put himself solidly on the list of horror directors to keep a close eye on.

Dog Soldiers is a film that combines the best (read as most exciting) elements of Aliens, Predator and the werewolf genre in general to make a horror film that is every bit as fun as it is scary and intense. It is a thrill a minute joy ride through the world of the werewolf. By the way, these are not your Twilight werewolves that you can take a rolled up newspaper to. These are the werewolves that would have made Little Red Riding Hood piss her pants and crap her drawers. They are big, mean, terrifying brutes with no remorse and plenty of appetite. They are the bastard children of Peter Stumpf and The Howling rolled into one.

With his explosive 2002 debut ‘Dog Soldiers’, director Neil Marshall announced himself as a horror maestro, blending creature terror, military action, and black comedy into a furiously entertaining werewolf thriller. When a squad of British soldiers find themselves hunted by a pack of vicious lycanthropes during a Scottish Highlands training exercise, the resulting bloodbath makes for a white-knuckle ride balancing carnage, claustrophobia, and laughs.

Marshall wastes no time establishing nail-biting tension, subjecting his capable cast of soldiers to assault after assault from the beastly enemies. Massive and menacing in their lupine glory, these werewolves evoke genuine terror, tearing through flesh and devouring organs in gruesome detail. As numbers dwindle, paranoia and desperation mount.

Yet the young soldiers’ banter and bickering adds humor to offset the horror. Marshall maximizes his modest budget with atmospheric woods and a single claustrophobic cabin setting, creating high stakes and breakneck pacing through the simple tried-and-true horror formula of isolating victims and unleashing hell.

There is not one moment in this film where you feel that it is safe to take a breath. Every time you try, you are once again assaulted by a wave of action and horror. This film, like The Descent in 2005, does something that not too many horror films are capable of nowadays and that is that it scares the living piss out of you.

‘Dog Soldiers’ bites down hard, sinking its teeth in and never letting go as it gnaws to the marrow. Marshall’s mastery of tone and genre creates a highly satisfying hybrid. One decade later, its explosive id at work fuses into a cocktail of horror and humor that hasn’t lost its bite.

If you haven’t seen this film yet, all I can say is this:

What the hell are you waiting for?