Tuesday, May 18, 2010

hungry like the wolf

As an avid fan of The Descent, I'd been meaning to watch Neil Marshall's cult film Dog Soldiers for quite a while. So when I stumbled upon it on television in Sweden, I knew it was time. And that is how my best friend Elen and I ended up spending an evening doing the exact same thing in Stockholm that we do in Minneapolis: watching horror movies and drinking red wine.

Dog S0ldiers takes place in the Scottish Highlands, where a group of British soldiers is slated to compete against a special forces unit in a routine training exercise. While scouting through the forest, the soldiers locate the shredded remains of the special forces team. The only survivor is the injured Captain Ryan, who appears to be in shock. Shortly after, the men are attacked by vicious carnivores that, due to the heavy brush and some frenetic Evil Dead-style camera work, remain a mystery to the audience. Sergeant Wells is disemboweled by one of the beasts, but the surviving soldiers carry him and Ryan to a nearby road. They are rescued by Megan, a zoologist who is living in the remote area to study the local werewolf legend. She drives them to a deserted farmhouse where the soldiers tend to their wounded and prepare to defend themselves against the vicious werewolves that have surrounded them.

Part of what makes Dog Soldiers work is that it's perfectly content to fit into the typical horror movie formula. Marshall doesn't waste time trying to subvert the genre or show off his cleverness. And since he's situated comfortably in an established plot arc, he can focus his energy elsewhere. The movie has plenty of fun with war movie cliches, but shifts effortlessly from engaging humor to quiet suspense to graphic violence. The fight scenes are kinetic, particularly when a soldier faces off with one of the canines in hand to hand combat.

Would you look that badass if you were about to get into a fistfight with a werewolf? I'm guessing not. This guy is my hero. Maybe Dog Soldiers won't change your life, but its cult status is well-deserved. Besides, decent werewolf flicks are hard to come by. I take what I can get.

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