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Dog Soldiers (December 7/02)

Before Dog Soldiers emerged on home video, it received its North American premiere on the SciFi Network. Now, if you watched the version that was shown on that cable channel, you really should go out and rent it. For one thing, since it was squeezed into a two hour time slot, who knows how much story had to be cut out? Secondly, and this is far more important, the massive amounts of gore on display in Dog Soldiers surely couldn't have remained intact under the watchful eye of a trigger-happy censor.

The film opens with a young couple making out after a day of fishing and other outdoor activities. An unseen force quickly murders them (quite brutally), and we're soon introduced to the heroes of the story - the titular dog soldiers. They're led by Wells (Sean Pertwee), a tough-as-nails soldier who actually cares quite a bit for his ragtag squadron. They're in the middle of the woods for a training exercise, but after their rival group is found brutally murdered (save one), they come to the realization that something very strange is afoot. After a few comrades are murdered, the situation seems hopeless - until a plucky young woman just happens to drive by and offers to give the survivors a lift to her farmhouse. Once there, the film essentially becomes Night of the Living Dead with werewolves.

Dog Soldiers takes a decidedly tongue-in-cheek approach to the material, which is likely why the film is as effective as it is. The werewolf genre has been known to churn out serious-minded films, but the majority of those fail miserably (last year's much-talked-about Ginger Snaps wasn't nearly as much fun as it should have been) - with comedic films of this genre left to pick up the slack (the most influential werewolf movies of the last 25 years are undoubtedly An American Werewolf in London and The Howling). Dog Soldiers is cut from a similar cloth - that much is obvious almost right off the bat, after a soon-to-be-ingested victim tells his assailant, "I hope I give you the shits."

The film's also quite violent, something that's always appreciated. And though Dog Soldiers does slow down substantially during its mid-section - under the guise of "character development," when all we really want is more wolf killin' - it remains enjoyable throughout due mostly to some fine acting (even though by the time the film ends, it remained almost impossible to identify anyone by name). These guys are stereotypes, but that certainly works here.

It'll never win any awards, but Dog Soldiers is one of the better horror comedies to hit video store shelves in a while.

out of

© David Nusair