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  • Writer's pictureJohn Parker

‘Dog Soldiers’ Limited Edition Blu-ray Review

Neil Marshall’s feature debut, the wild werewolf action horror ‘Dog Soldiers’ has been given a spectacular limited edition release courtesy of Second Sight Films. Marshall’s cult classic has never looked better thanks to a brand new 4K restoration approved by the director himself and DoP Sam McCurdy, and is presented here with a host of terrific special features. This is definitely one of the essential physical media purchases of the summer.

Featuring a number of familiar faces from British television, including Sean Pertwee and Kevin McKidd, the film follows a squad of soldiers on a routine training mission in the Scottish Highlands. The exercise is supposed to see them pitted against an elite SAS unit, led by Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham). But when they finally make contact, the entire special ops unit has been brutally slain, and only Ryan remains alive, though he is mortally wounded.

The troops attempt to retreat, but the assailants return and have them surrounded. They just about make it to a rural road running through the forest, where they are rescued by zoologist Megan (Emma Cleasby) who drives them to a nearby farmhouse to take shelter. It is here that she reveals that the attackers are werewolves. There’s no chance of escape. Their only hope is to defend the house, and try to survive until sunrise.

‘Dog Soldiers’ is one of the most fun and thrilling British horror movies ever made, and one of the key components to its success is that it is unashamedly a movie. One can’t help but suspect that if this were made now, the cast would have all spent a month on manoeuvres in Wales with ex special forces commandos, learning how to move and talk like proper soldiers. The script would have been filled with incomprehensible and humourless military jargon, and the whole thing would have been straining for credible authenticity.

But ‘Dog Soldiers’ isn’t interested in any of that rubbish, and I love it for that. This is a good old fashioned monster movie that wants to entertain you with blood and guts and jokes, not impress you with authentic details. I assure you I’m not doing the film a disservice here, I’ve no doubt they had a military adviser on set to keep them right, but what I’m saying is – this isn’t ‘Generation Kill’ – and that is definitely a good thing.

The squaddies dialogue is all ridiculously ripe banter and hilarious one-liners. The kind that only really exists in movies and television. Then you’ve got the action scenes which hold nothing back. Zero punches are pulled in this film. It is wild, full on, and unapologetically brutal. The practical effects are terrific, and the work by the entire makeup team on this film is incredible.

Beyond the cabin in the woods comparison, there is an almost ‘Evil Dead’ feel to the film. It’s so fun and inventive and silly and gory, you just can’t help but have an enormously fun time with it. Yes, there are a few clunky moments, but the film moves at such a lick you just forget it and move gleefully onto the next tension-filled set piece, or vivid disemboweling. ‘Dog Soldiers’ is low budget horror filmmaking at its very best.

If you are familiar with previous Second Sight Limited Edition releases, you will know that they are among the very best when it comes to physical media. The 4K UHD/Blu-ray case comes housed in a rigid slipcase with brilliant new artwork by Chris Malbon. There is also a 108-page book filled with essays, interviews, and behind the scenes photos. There are also six collectible art cards.

The disc itself come with three audio commentaries to choose from. Two are from the archives, one with Neil Marshall, and the other with producers David E. Allen and Brian O’Toole. The other commentary is brand new and features writer and film professor Alison Peirse. ’Werewolves, Crawlers, Cannibals and More’ is a brand new 40-minute interview with Neil Marshall, reflecting on his career, his journey to filmmaking, and the long struggle of getting ‘Dog Soldiers’ to the screen.

‘A History of Lycanthropy’ sees author Gavin Baddeley providing an expert view on British horror, werewolf movies, and where ‘Dog Soldiers’ sits within the canon. Also exclusive to this release is video essay ‘Werewolves, Folklore and Cinema, by Mikel J. Koven.

We then delve into the archives with ‘The Making of Dog Soldiers’ which is an hour-long documentary ported over from the 2015 Shout Factory release. This very comprehensive programme features interviews with all the main cast and crew. Also from the Shout Factory release is ‘A Cottage in the Woods’ which is an interview with production designer Simon Bowles.

The disc is rounded off with ‘Combat’ a short film directed by Neil Marshall in 1999, a selection of trailers, a photo gallery, and just under ten-minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes with optional commentary from Marshall.


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