Werewolves finally get some love

31-Days-of-Horror

Dog SoldiersDay 14: the legendary lunar-liking fuzzybeast finally gets his due

The following originally appeared on Flick Attack, 8 November 2011.

Set in the Scottish highlands, the inexpressibly splendid werewolves vs. army guys movie Dog Soldiers proves three things:

  1. despite recent Hollywood attempts to bury the genre, the werewolf movie ain’t dead;
  2. a talented filmmaker can do wonders with very little;
  3. Sean Pertwee (Event Horizon) automatically makes everything better [see also: Ian Holm and Liam Cunningham, who is also in Dog Soldiers — doubleplusgood!].

dogsoldiersIn a set-up of concise perfection, Sgt. Wells (Pertwee), alongside the resourceful Cooper (Trainspotting’s Kevin McKidd, also fantastic), leads a regiment of ragtag soldiers on a routine training exercise (“I expect nothing less than gratuitous violence from the lot of you!”). Before long, they find themselves pawns in a scheme to capture an actual werewolf, and must hole up in a farmhouse to fend off a very hungry, very determined, well-nigh unstoppable family of lycanthropes. The resulting carnage is the best thing to happen to werewolves since the 1981 one-two furry punch of The Howling and An American Werewolf in London.

LiamIn his directorial debut, Neil Marshall (The Descent [a must-see!], Doomsday [fun!], and Centurion [kind of okay!]) delivers a breathless action-horror movie along the lines of a werewolf Aliens. The casting is top-notch, Marshall keeps the tension high and the bloodshed gruesome, and the monsters themselves are beautiful practical effects with nary a CGI atrocity a la American Werewolf in Paris in sight. It’s low-budget, but Marshall keeps his deadly furries dimly lit, disguising their limitations and becoming genuinely eerie.

Combined with a tight script chock full of offbeat allusions to Star Trek II, Jaws, and The Matrix (among others), the end result is an endlessly entertaining slam-bang horror actioneer, and the best werewolf movie in a dog’s age. It is indisputably the best thing to ever appear on the then-called Sci-Fi Channel, including the 2004 Battlestar Galactica series (let’s not even mention the pinnacle of human stupidity that is Sharknado—oops, dammit).

Bonus marks: During a scene of meatball surgery, Pertwee screams “Sausages!” at the sight of his own entrails. Just. Freaking. Perfect.

For the month of October I’ll be posting stuff about horror and junk and things. You’re surprised? Really?