FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 9, 2006

Day 9- Werewolves of Scotland

Remember when I picked The Descent for a Final Girl Film Club selection and it all rocked and shit? Me too! Neil Marshall's film about a spelunking trip gone awry was gritty, gory, exhilirating, and serious. I absolutely loved it and think it one of the best modern flicks available. You can imagine my excitement, then, when Marshall's debut film Dog Soldiers (2002) arrived yesterday in a little red Netflix envelope.

In the film, a group of soldiers head out for what should be a relatively simple military exercise in the Scottish highlands. In fact, their biggest worry is that their missing a big football match whilst traipsing around the woods. Everything goes to pot as the sun begins to set and they come across the corpses of their exercise opponents...well, it's more like they come across lots of red and goo where the corpses should be. Before long, the soldiers are holed up in a remote farmhouse as a pack of hungry hungry hippos werewolves closes in around them.

Dog Soldiers certainly bears a resemblance to the film that would follow along a couple of years later, The Descent. A small group of elite, trained professionals goes into the wilderness expecting a cakewalk for their scheduled activities. Instead, they're put on the defensive by a group of vicious monsters. Both films get the audience's blood pumping and don't skimp on showing the blood flowing...and both films owe a little debt to James Cameron's Aliens.

Where the films vary greatly, however, is in the amount of humor. The only humor found in The Descent was there to ease the tension- and even then it was very spare. The first two-thirds of Dog Soldiers, while peppered somewhat liberally with clever lines, are action-packed, brutal, and at times terrifying. In fact, I was surprised to find myself so enamoured with a werewolf movie. The werewolves here are huge and far more vicious than what you find in, say, An American Werewolf in London. They're much tougher and much smarter, retaining more than a little of their human consciousness.

Towards the end, however, the film begins to veer towards Evil Dead horror/comedy territory and it was a bit jarring. Rather than continuing as a straightforward monster movie (a genre which inherently has whiffs of B-Movies, I realize), the film almost becomes a parody of itself and American action films before you know what's happening. It manages to remain a bit shy of completely far-fetched, but it does begin to feel rushed, or as if Marshall wasn't sure exactly how to end this thing.

This isn't to say I didn't enjoy the film- it is a monster movie after all. I enjoyed it very much- I was simply a bit surprised when it shifted slightly off-course. Nonetheless, it gets 8.25 out of 10 furballs.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed Dog Soldiers, which I saw for the first time on a big screen during the Austin Film Festival a few years back. It's a great flick to see in a packed theater.

The noticable shift in tone at the end is problematic, and I like that they tend to keep the (inhumanly, creepily tall) werewolves mostly in shadow for most of the film. I think the movie kind of blows it once it becomes more of a straight action film, but on the whole I enjoy it enough to recommend it. It's still my favorite werewolf movie.

Des said...

Love the wolves in this one. my fave werewolves of all.

The film is a classic for the soldier v. werewolf fistfight in my eyes.

Anonymous said...

A little help. Have any of you seen a movie starring Mark Hammill (sic) where he becomes homicidal because he receives an eye transplant? I thought the ending was pretty cool. If you have seen it, what's it called and what would you rank it on a scale of 1 to 10 crazy eye balls. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this one yet, though I've been meaning to. It's encouraging that someone is making horror movies that do not feature zombies or psychos.

We've mentioned this before: the death of the "supernatural" horror film. Though monsters DO summon up B-movies, they definitely fall into the supernatural category, which is rare these days. I know, what about the avalanche of recent zombie flicks, you ask. Personally, I don't think zombies caused by some kind of nuclear catastrophe/science disaster are supernatural beings. They are more sci-fi creatures. Now, a zombie caused by a voodoo curse...that's another story. But you never see those zombies anymore.

I guess it all boils down to this: We want more "supernatural" horror flicks. Right?

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed Dog Soldiers, but it in no way held up the entire movie like The Descent did.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous from Anonymous,

Found on IMDB:
"The third story is the best-written and directed one as it tells the story of Mark Hamil, a baseball player that loses his eye in an auto accident and has it replaced with the eye of a serial killer. Naturally the eye takes over the rest of the body(shades of The Hands of Orlac here). A very eerie, taught piece of storytelling."

It looks like it was in a collection of shorts called Body Bags. It aired on USA back in 1993.

More info from IMDB (link below):
"This film features many great horror directors that act and/or direct. John Carpenter director of Halloween (1978) plays "The Coroner" and introduces each segment as well as directs two of the stories, "The Gas Station" and "Hair", Tobe Hooper director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) plays "Morgue Worker # 2" and directs the last segment, "The Eye", Wes Craven director of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) plays "Pasty-Faced Man" at the gas station, and Sam Raimi director of The Evil Dead (1981) plays "Dead Bill"."

It looks like fun. I may have to see about finding a copy.


Jesse Hammer said...

Now, see, I never saw anything wrong with the final act. It is a bit jokey and over the top, but it's not like there isn't any precedent for it in the film. There's lots of humor and zingers all the way through. That's why this movie does feel like 'Aliens'. All of the witty banter from great, hard-ass characters thrown into a butt-crazy situation. And you throw a bunch of thick, Scottish accents and wit on top of that and I'm sold. Love this movie. Can't wait for December 26th! D-Day!!!!

Anonymous said...

Bizarre. I watched that movie last night, too. I really liked it. It was funny and clever and the werewolves stood up on two legs. They were silly looking, too, like Halloween costumes some 8-foot-tall pedophiles would wear to seduce rotten-toothed children into a big blue van.

Mr. Director Whatshisface certainly knows how to put a movie together, I reckon.

Anonymous said...

Dog Soldiers was the reason I was so excited about Descent when it came out. As monster movies go, its one of my favorites. I watch a lot of British programing, can't resist an English, Irish or Scotish accent.
For those that may not have the very cool subscription to Netflix this movie has been on Sci-Fi quite a few times in the last year. Thats were I first found it.
Saturday night on Sci-fi occationally has some cool monster flix, when they are not destroying the earth or finding new life forms in space.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Joel, pretty interesting. I may try to find that. Classic, eye of a serial killer, but I remember it being pretty good. Of course, I saw it about 10 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Joel-Body Bags is prety 'meh'. The second story ('Hair') has an odd twist at the end, but I didn't much care for 'The Gas Station'. Never stuck around for #3.

For me, Dog Soldiers was the reason I got so excited for the Descent, too. I never really noticed any tonal shift in the third act-that kind of black humor is pretty much a constant throughout the film. It's a little rougher than the Descent, certainly-it's easy to just let the idea of soldiers vs werewolves play out logically. But at the least, it's nice to see a movie where the soldiers actually act like soldiers-their retreat from the first attack is impressively orderly. Supposedly, a sequel (w/o Neil Marshall) is forthcoming, but I'm not holding my breath.

Personally, as great as the fistfight is, my fave scene is the jeep. You should expect it, but you really don't.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved Dog Soldiers and it's probably in my top ten horror movies to have come out in the last ten years.. or at least in the last five. I loved the fact that they went for practical effects on the werewolves rather than CGI, they looked great, at least I thought they did.

Hehehe.. "There is no Spoon."

Anonymous said...

Until I see The Departed, The Descent is the best movie I have seen this year.

Anonymous said...

"The Departed" kicks ass! I knew it would be pretty good, but I didn't know it would be amazing. It is...

Anonymous said...

I liked "The Gas Station." The other ones sucked.

Stacie Ponder said...

This was definitely a great werewolf many great werewolf movies are there, anyway? This so-called "Neil" "Marshall" is certainly a beacon of hope for the horror genre.

Ah, Body Bags. I reviewed that last October! It's really not a great- or even very good- movie, but I have a huge soft spot for anthology movies. You can read about it here!

Anonymous said...

I think "Ginger Snaps" is one of the few modern Great Werewolf Movies. I didn't care for the sequels, though.

Also, I have to admit that I liked "Wolf," too. I know that puts me in the minority.