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Thursday, October 31, 2019

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2019-Day 31: DOG SOLDIERS (2002)

Yeah, that's you, well and truly fucked.

A group of British soldiers are dropped into the Scottish Highlands for exercises against a squad of elite SAS operatives, only to find that the SAS unit has been savagely torn apart, apparently by vicious animals. The unit's lone survivor, Captain Ryan (Liam Cunnigham), is seriously wounded but apparently knows what wiped out his men, though he remains kind of cagey about that information. Taking the captain with them, the soldiers realize they are being pursued by...something. They encounter a zoologist Megan (Emma Cleasby), who takes them to a house whose dwellers are nowhere to be found, and that timely bit of shelter proves their only defense as the place is surrounded by the returning family, who just so happen to be a pack of ravening werewolves. As the soldiers fight to survive against insurmountable odds, details of the how and why of the soldiers being dropped into this particular remote area are revealed, and it's only a matter of time until the inevitable...

I wanted to close this year's round of 31 DAYS OF HORROR with something strong, and DOG SOLDIERS qualifies in no uncertain terms. I discovered it with a friend during Thanksgiving in 2003, when we had nothing better to do in Connecticut, so we drove around to several of the county's mom-and-pop video rental joints in search of entertainment. We ended up snagging both DOG SOLDIERS and DAGON in what turned out the be the best randomly-selected double-feature of our lives up to that point. Both films went on to become personal favorites and I immediately purchased DVD copies for my own collection.

Taking the tried and true "base under siege" setup carved in stone by the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD  DOG SOLDIERS proves to be a savage, visceral treat for horror-lovers in general and werewolf fans in particular. The list of genuinely great werewolf movies is a rather short one — I cite THE WOLF MAN (original version), THE HOWLING, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON,  WOLF, and LATE PHASES — and DOG SOLDIERS can proudly be counted among the best of the best. It's got a story that is best approached with a minimum of plot foreknowledge (hence my not going into too much detail), but it can be said that the werewolf effects are superb, it's gory as a motherfucker (to most sensibilities), features a solid script and performances, and the set pieces are all memorable and engrossing.

 When you know you're gonna die horribly anyway, why not go out like a man and fist fight a fucking werewolf?

As previously noted, it's pretty much a re-staging of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD's no-way-out scenario, only ramped-up on a fistful of Study City animal stimulants. Trust me on this one. You absolutely will not be disappointed.

And with that I wish you a safe and Happy Halloween 2019!!! And remember: "Evil" spelled backwards is "live."

Poster from the original release.

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