Dog Soldiers (2002)
Director: Neil Marshall
Starring: Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee, Emma Cleasby & Liam Cunningham
Released by: Scream Factory
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Marking the directorial debut of Neil Marshall (The Descent, Game of Thrones), Dog Soldiersfocuses on a team of soldiers dispatched to the Scottish Highlands for routine training. After discovering Captain Ryan, the lone survivor of a Special Ops team who were savagely torn to shreds, the soldiers realize the same bloodthirsty creatures are still lurking in the forest. When a local girl guides them to a desolate farmhouse for shelter, the same pack of deadly werewolves track them leading to a tense standoff. Kevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy), Sean Pertwee (Gotham), Emma Cleasby (Doomsday) and Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) star.
Considered one of the finest werewolf pictures of the 21st century, Dog Soldiers is an adrenaline-fueled experience, leaving little room to catch your breath. Overflowing with chilling suspense and terrifying with its effective creature designs, Neil Marshall’s feature-length debut casts a hypnotic spell that will leave viewers on the edge of their seats. After being dispatched to the Scottish Highlands for training procedures, a band of soldiers find themselves in a fight for their lives against a pack of ravenous werewolves. Filled with likable characters exchanging naturalistic chemistry, the soldiers never shy from humorously heaving obscenities at one another and expressing their disappointment at missing a football game for this uneventful training mission. After discovering Captain Ryan and the bloody remains of his Special Ops team, the soldiers quickly realize the dire situation they have entered. Struggling to hold their ground in the forest, a local girl rescues the team and ushers them to a secluded farmhouse to battle the deadly werewolves. With ammunition and men running low, the surviving soldiers must get creative in order to stay alive through the night. Opting for a traditional approach, Dog Soldiers utilizes animatronics and costumed performers for its hairy antagonists that breathes an authentic tone of terror. Blending high-octane action and atmospheric carnage, Director Neil Marshall’s frightening tale of lycanthropes reinvigorates the subgenre with its accomplished cast and claustrophobic setting, placing the film amongst the finest werewolf efforts of all-time.
After nearly a year delay, Scream Factory proudly presents Dog Soldiers with a 1080p transfer, bearing a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Scanned in 2K with supervision and approval from Director Neil Marshall, Dog Soldiers sports a slightly soft picture credited to its original 16mm roots that were blown up to 35mm for its theatrical distribution. With occasional instances of scuffs and vertical lines on display, colors are decently relayed with the film’s bloodier moments popping most effectively. Shrouded mostly in darkness, the film offers sufficiently inky black levels that allow for appropriate clarity and minimal speckling. Based on previous subpar home video releases and the scarcity of desirable elements, Scream Factory, with the assistance of Marshall, provide fans with the closest representation of the director’s vision. While viewers may still feel divided, there’s no denying this is the best Dog Soldiers has ever looked on home video. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is clear and free of distortion while, moments of heavy artillery, explosions and werewolf shredding make a thunderous statement that are balanced accordingly. In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 has also been provided for your listening pleasure. True to its collector’s edition banner, Scream Factory provides an exuberant amount of special features including, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Neil Marshall while, Aine Leicht (Night of the Demons, Class of 1984) delivers another top-notch featurette withWerewolves VS. Soldiers: The Making of Dog Soldiers (1:01:50). Featuring new interviews from the cast and crew, this lengthy look back ranks as one of Scream Factory’s finest retrospectives and easily the crowning jewel of the disc’s supplemental offerings. In addition, A Cottage in the Woods: Building the Sets of Dog Soldiers with Simon Bowles (13:26), Trailers (5:02), a Dog Soldiers Photo Gallery (47 in total), Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (22 in total) and Director Neil Marshall’s early short film Combat (7:37) are also included. Finally, a reversible cover art and DVD edition of the release wrap up the impressive bonus features.
A successful hybrid of intense action and effective frights, Dog Soldiers turns the werewolf subgenre on its head for a unique experience that understands the art of suspense. Starring an ensemble cast delivering earnest performances and containing noteworthy practical effects, Director Neil Marshall’s bloody excursion through the Scottish Highlands is a career highlight that still ranks as one of the most impressive pictures of the genre. Far from a simple undertaking, Scream Factory delivers Dog Soldiers with its finest home video presentation to date that will easily trump previous releases. With the original negative lost, Scream Factory and Director Neil Marshall have gone to great lengths to preserve the film’s vision, resulting in a successful outcome that should greatly appease fans. In addition, Aine Leicht’s impressive array of special features and Nathan Thomas Milliner’s newly crafted artwork treats this collector’s edition like horror royalty that will ultimately leave fans howling at the moon in delight.
For more Blu-ray/DVD reviews from Mike Kenny, head over to Mike’s Pop Culture Playhouse!