Day 14: the legendary lunar-liking fuzzybeast finally gets his due
Set in the Scottish highlands, the inexpressibly splendid werewolves vs. army guys movie Dog Soldiers proves three things:
- despite recent Hollywood attempts to bury the genre, the werewolf movie ain’t dead;
- a talented filmmaker can do wonders with very little;
- Sean Pertwee (Event Horizon) automatically makes everything better [see also: Ian Holm and Liam Cunningham, who is also in Dog Soldiers — doubleplusgood!].
In 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.
In 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.