Tuesday, August 30, 2022

DOG SOLDIERS (2002) Blu-Ray/UHD Review

Dog Soldiers (2002) d. Neil Marshall (UK) (105 min)

Dispatched to the Scottish Highlands, a half-dozen soldiers find their special training maneuver exercises interrupted by an S.O.S. signal flare. Upon arrival at the distress site, they discover the sole remaining member of a Special Ops team, Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham), raving and bleeding profusely. Moments later, the team is besieged by mysterious, snarling assailants that decimate one of their number and leave their leader, Sgt. Harry G. Wells (Sean Pertwee), grievously wounded. Their panicked retreat under the command of Pvt. Cooper (Kevin McKidd) leads to a chance encounter with a local woman, Megan (Emma Cleasby), who helps them escape to a secluded cabin in the woods. Low on ammo and facing periodic but increasingly effective attacks, the pinned-down troops must use their every resource to combat the lycanthropic menace until the full moon sets.

I detailed my initial encounter with writer/director Marshall’s smash werewolf hit in a previous post when Shout! Factory first released Dog Soldiers to Blu-ray in 2015. At the time, there was much kerfuffling and kerwhinging about the scan being sourced from two cinema prints as opposed to the original negative. Marshall himself came out in defense of the release, saying that “FOR FOOK’S SAKE, LADS, WE’VE TRIED TO FIND THE NEGATIVE AND NOBODY SEEMS TO KNOW WHERE IT IS SO LIGHTEN THE FOOK UP.” (I paraphrase, of course. The original quote, more elegant and extended, can be found HERE.)

Now, as Marshall pointed out, because the film was shot on 16mm and then blown up to 35mm, the darn thing was never going to look as pristine as the kefufflers and kerwhingers in question demanded. Still, the 2015 release looked pretty darn good, the movie is still awesome, so the dust settled, and life went on.

Well, miracle of miracles, on the 20th anniversary of its theatrical release, Dog Soldiers’ original camera negative has sprung into view (and Second Sight Films' 4K scanner, approved by Marshall and DP Sam McCurdy) and the kerfuffling and kerwhinging can begin anew. Thankfully, this is no mercenary double dip, as the good folks at S!F have festooned this latest edition with oodles of new supplements, including a spanking new audio commentary from author and professor Alison Peirse (Women Make Horror, After Dracula: The 1930s Horror Film, and Korean Horror Cinema).

As might seem apparent by her C.V., Peirse knows her stuff and makes several excellent lilting observations throughout the runtime, including comparisons to the 1980s slasher and how Marshall’s vision differs from other werewolf efforts in that it concerns itself less with a cursed individual and presents the lycanthropes within a siege picture premise, where our protagonists are beset by a powerful foe (or a pack of them, in this case) and we identify with them as opposed to the hairy ones. It’s a terrific track from an educated and informed fan, which other educated and informed fans will undoubtedly appreciate.

Additionally, there is a brand new interview with Marshall, fresh off his highs (HBO’s Game of Thrones) and lows (2019’s Hellboy, about which he pulls no punches about studio meddling), and everything in between. Still bursting with boyish enthusiasm, the filmmaker looks back on his humble beginnings in a bleak British landscape where no genre features were being produced and how, against all odds, he and his mates pulled off a major coup with his debut and then topped it with The Descent in 2005, launching a revival in UK horror in the process.

There are also two new wonderful featurettes on hand. The first, "A History of Lycanthropy," has author Gavin Baddeley covering the essentials dating back from Werewolf of London; while seasoned veterans won’t learn much they didn’t already know, there are still many approving nods and grunts of satisfaction/recognition to be enjoyed. Equally enjoyable is the context Baddeley provides regarding the aforementioned dearth of UK horror efforts following the decline of Hammer in the 1970s and the Video Nasties controversy throughout the next two decades, making Marshall’s achievement that much more impressive.

This is followed up with a charming companion piece, "Werewolves, Folklore, and Cinema," which sees Mikel J. Koven exploring not only the rich cinematic traditions (or “fakelore”) created by Curt Siodmak for 1941’s The Wolf Man, but also the historical origins of lycanthropy, actually much more of a psychological disorder than a supernatural one.

Marshall’s info-packed commentary is ported over from the 2015 release, as well as one with producers David Allen and Brian O’Toole from the UK disc, making its North American physical media debut. There is also Aine Leicht’s superb retrospective, “Werewolves vs. Soldiers: The Making of Dog Soldiers” which clocks in at just under an hour. Leicht’s team tagged four countries in the process of collecting interviews from the cast and crew, with truly magnificent results. On hand are Marshall, McCurdy, production designer Simon Bowles, special effects supervisisor and creature designer Bonneywell, FX legend Bob Keen (Hellraiser), producer Christopher Figg (also Hellraiser), and actors McKidd, Cunningham, Pertwee, Cleasby, Leslie Simpson, and the scene-stealing, macho grunt Pvt. Witherspoon himself, Darren Morfitt.

Things are rounded off with the “A Cottage in the Woods” featurette, a look at the model of the sets created by Bowles (a lovely bit of production design geekery), two still galleries, a theatrical trailer, and Marshall’s short film Combat, which takes a humorous look at the pub pickup scene and the battle of the sexes.

Ladies and Germs, Dog Soldiers is a cracking great flick, one that belongs on any horror fan’s shelf, and this is a marvelous presentation thereof. Don’t delay, pick this up today.


NEW 4K Restoration from The Original Camera Negative by Second Sight Films – Approved by Director Neil Marshall and Director of Photography Sam McCurdy
NEW Audio Commentary with Writer and Associate Professor of Film Alison Peirse
Audio Commentary with Director Neil Marshall
Audio Commentary with Producers David Allen And Brian O’Toole
NEW Werewolves, Crawlers, Cannibals And More – An Interview with Neil Marshall
NEW A History Of Lycanthropy – Author Gavin Baddeley on Werewolf Cinema
NEW Werewolves, Folklore And Cinema – A Video Essay by Author Mikel J. Koven
Werewolves Vs. Soldiers – A Look At The Making Of DOG SOLDIERS Featuring Interviews with Director Neil Marshall, Producers Christopher Figg and Keith Bell, Actors Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Leslie Simpson and Emma Cleasby, and Special Effects Artist Bob Keen
A Cottage In The Woods - A Look At The Production Design with Production Designer Simon Bowles
UK Theatrical Trailers and U.S. Home Video Promo
Combat – A Short Film by Neil Marshall
Two Still Galleries – Photos from the Film and Rare Photos from Production Designer Simon Bowles and Special Effects Artist Dave Bonneywell's Archives

"Was it something you ate? Or something that ate you?"

Dog Soldiers is available now on Blu-ray and UHD from Shout! Factory (with new and wildly improved cover art from Laz Marquez) and can be ordered HERE:



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