“Dog Soldiers” shares the meat ‘n blood aesthetic of a beef packing plant, boasting a guts ‘n glop count on par with the oozing intestinal wreckage featured in “Dawn of the Dead.” Having invested most of its special effects budget on sausage factory scraps, “Dog Soldiers” will turn you off anything Oscar Mayer.
Meanwhile, its lean, no-bullshit storyline and shrewd sense of humor give it the same surreal, furious sense of fun that infected “Dead Alive,” “Re-Animator” and “Evil Dead.” In fact, a key character’s name is Bruce Campbell, in homage to the Evil Dead series’ stoic lead man. “Dog Soldiers” is the perfect Halloween movie.
The plot is straight from a kick-a*s video game. British soldiers training in the woodsy, emerald Scottish Highlands find themselves stumbling into a campsite where inhabitants have been seemingly pureed in a giant blender, their liquid remains fertilizing the countryside.
The military men wade deeper in grue, following the discovery of a Special Forces commander whose squad has been picked off by particularly unstoppable foes – werewolves the size of minivans.
The UK faces inhabiting “Dog Soldiers” are mostly unfamiliar, although “Transpotting”’s Kevin McKidd is along for the ride as Cooper, one of the squad’s terrorized militiamen. As McKidd and his fellow soldiers face off with their furry-faced tormentors (the lycanthrope makeup appears directly inspired by Joe Dante’s “The Howling”), they bring to mind the cynical, blue-collar space marines from James Cameron’s “Aliens.”
Ultimately, however, “Dog Soldiers” reveals its true trump card to be a relentlessly staged series of chase scenes – for this viewer’s money, some of the very best ever filmed. As man battles beast from rooftops, automobiles, and rural, tree-lined expanses of rugged wilderness, it’s a heady rush of pure cinematic adrenaline. Meanwhile, the film’s heroes are mauled and mutilated, only to morph into additional werewolves and spread more gory havoc.
“Dog Soldiers” is a balls-out pop cinema masterpiece, a patchwork of set pieces that pays homage to the best moments from horror history. The film might look familiar, with viewers bound to spend time identifying which past classics inspired which scenes. A smidgen of “Wolfen” here, a touch of “Predator” there.
Unoriginal? Perhaps. But in stealing from the best, “Dog Soldiers” is the most exciting assault on the senses to rip out our throats all year. Stock up on silver bullets for director Neil Marshall’s intense freight train of a film.