Dog Soldiers

dogsoldiersHere is another direct-to-video that falls short of expectation. But it’s not a total disappointment. The performances are unusually good, and before it devolves into a boring Night Of The Living Dead clone, it’s fairly tense. Plus, there are werewolves.

The movie opens with a killing, and with the scene of a soldier, Cooper (Kevin McKidd), refusing to shoot a dog in order to complete his Special Forces training. Cooper’s squad is a bunch of dim scallywags, and here is where the acting works. Group-think gives the squad a sense of unanimity. They’re like people in real groups. With semi-annoying tics, some of them stand out more than others, and the lack of distracting “traits” lets them stand in the moment.

When it goes for tension instead of disgust, the movie succeeds. The training exercises are increasingly strange: In one scene, for seemingly no reason, the remains of a cow hit the squad from on high. But when they find the Special Forces unit in a pile of red goo, the movie becomes a being-chased-by-killers flick before it finds a cabin in which to rip off Night Of The Living Dead. Abrupt attacks by the enemy, lots of disquiet, a chick in the house, a failed attempt to drive away, the safe morning after: all of that is here. Only we get werewolves instead of zombies, and ones that look pretty silly.

Dog Soldiers is hard to rate, because there are two distinct qualitative movements. During the first half, when the threat is obscure to the soldiers, the movie is better than it has a right to be. However, once we see the werewolves, it suffers cliche. The know-all who can’t be trusted? Check. The long explanation of the enemy which meets with disbelief? Check. The final, desperate plan? I won’t go on.

Though it’s a better film than DarkWolf, Dog Soldiers doesn’t merit the praise it’s been getting from horror fans online. It may be the direct-to-video of the year, but it’s not good enough.

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