This movie stunned me in its completely unexpected excellence. Its unrecognized title, cast of minors, typical B-movie premise, and sponsorship by the government of Luxembourg all suggested a weak slasher film to follow. Like Ginger Snaps before it, however, Dog Soldiers is a new brand of monster movie that blends subtle talent with creative plots, superb directorship, spectacular camera work, and over the top action to take viewers completely by surprise.
Before I continue, here’s the synopsis:…a group of British soldiers training in Scotland fall in the sights of a group of hunting werewolves. Violence and chaos ensue.
The highlights of this movie include superb acting by Sean Pertwee (Event Horizon) and Kevin McKidd (Trainspotting). Camera work and editing by Sam McCurdy and Neil Marshall (both worked together in Killing Time) is excellent as well – their sense of camera angle and editing style for different scenes is uncanny. Neil Marshall also directs this movie, and his professionalism, humour and creativity really come to light in the commentary. Incidentally, this DVD has by far the best commentary I have heard on any DVD, and that comparison includes Star Wars and Spider-Man.
Another note: take a look at the menu design. While the number of features on this disc is somewhat limited, the DVD designers did an amazing job of creating a usable, single-page menu that lets you access every feature of the DVD, from video and audio selection, to viewing trailers. Not only that, but they did it to damn scary music too…
The DVD includes both fullscreen and widescreen. Both are unexceptional transfers. Colours are alternately washed out or oversaturated and never quite seem to get it right. Similarly, there’s some graniness in the night scenes. Other parts of the film (those shot in Saving Private Ryan style – the landing of Well’s troops, for instance) have fantastic clarity. Presumably then, the grain and colour are artistic decisions and also intended to help disguise the rough edges of costumes and special effects. Whatever the case, the video is “competent.”
The disc features 5.1 and 2.0 in English. The 5.1 track is superb – there’s nothing quite like hearing the pinging of shell casings falling all around you in a firefight. Bass is well proportioned, and spatial placement is great through-out.
Special features on this DVD are restricted to the Dog Soldiers trailers (no further discussion necessary), a 20 minute featurette, and the aforementioned Director’s Commentary. The featurette is fine, by slowed down by what is essentially a play-by-play of the entire movie for the first 15 minutes of its length. The final minutes have some good discussion amongst actors and producers, but nothing truly exceptional. Furthermore, interview sections are conducted with a bloody awful pink backdrop – absolute inexcuseable for any film, much less a werewolf gore-fest called “Dog Soldiers.”
The commentary is where this DVD really shines. As mentioned it is the best commentary I have ever heard, anywhere. Neil Marshall is incredibly talkative and has absolutely fascinating things to say about the actors, the sets, the action, the story, the decisions behind the film, funny things that happened well filming, and so on. Where some movies feature a monotone second level producer making occasional, limp comments (or even worse, a “name” – read George Lucas – making occasional limp comments), Marshall is not silent – ever. Considering that he’s never boring either, this is a good thing. So, if you buy this disc, do yourself a favour and fire up this commentary – unlike many others, you’ll find it hard to shut off, and I guarantee that you’ll learn a tonne.
Through-out the commentary and in the film’s trailers, plenty of mention is made of Evil Dead, a movie that the Dog Soldiers production crew (and myself!) held in the highest regard. I love these guys. Let’s all cross our fingers and hope that Dog Soldiers gets the same treatment that the Evil Dead franchise does in the DVD world: lots and lots of releases with increasing video quality, audio quality, and special features.
In the meantime, I would strongly recommend this highly underappreciated gem to any fan of the horror or action genres. A fantastic instant cult classic of a movie combined with a well executed DVD release makes this a must-own.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- 20 Minute Featurette