‘Dog Soldiers’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.

It’s amazing what a 4K upgrade can do for a film like “Dog Soldiers.” I remember renting the DVD many years ago, and the quality was so poor that it was hard to even watch the film, let alone enjoy it.  Now, with this 4K Collector’s Edition from the fine folks at Scream Factory, the film is much improved from an image standpoint.  This one comes with a 4K scan of the original negative, and it has never looked better. Keep in mind, it is a low-budget film, so some of the grain and messiness of the film is included here, but that is intentional and adds to the guerrilla filmmaking style of director Neil Marshall. It’s supposed to look that way.  This was Marshall’s debut film, and he came onto the scene with a bang.

After an unsuspecting couple is killed by a werewolf, we are introduced to Cooper (Kevin McKidd) who is being recruited to join a special forces unit.  However, they don’t think he has the killer instinct necessary to do the job because he won’t kill a dog.  This was a direct order from Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham) who was in charge of picking his team.  Cooper thought the process of killing a dog was unnecessary and didn’t understand the reasoning behind it.

Four weeks later, Cooper is part of a training exercise with six other men in the Scottish Highlands when he happens to discover that Captain Ryan is in bad shape.  Ryan’s team was attacked by something they don’t quite understand.  They receive shelter thanks to a zoologist named Megan (Emma Cleasby) who takes the remaining men along with Captain Ryan to a house where they will figure out what to do in order to survive.

At first, this group of men can’t believe what they have seen.  They don’t know what has attacked them, and they have a hard time believing it was werewolves.  Once Megan explains the situation with the house and the werewolves, they learn they must survive by sunrise while fending off the werewolves that are coming for them.  The film does a great job of letting us get to know Cooper, Megan, Ryan, Sergeant Wells (Sean Pertwee), Joe, and Terry. We are right there with them, and we know all of their quirks and personality traits, such as the fact Joe is really upset about having to miss a football game between England and Germany. We are right there with them in the house, fighting off the werewolves.

At this point, the soldiers are wondering what their best course of action is. Do they wait until sunrise, or do they fight back against the werewolves? There isn’t any help for miles, and it’s not exactly safe to leave the house because the werewolves are ready and willing to maim and kill. They wait for this time of the month where it’s a full moon, and they usually make quick work of whoever gets in their way.

A huge positive about “Dog Soldiers” is that it has a sense of humor about the werewolves. Make no mistake about it, the filmmakers take these animals seriously, but they also realize the absurdity of the situation without making it too campy. It’s a fine line, and the film nails it perfectly by trying to ease the tension with humor while also not mocking the seriousness of the action.

As mentioned earlier, this film had a low budget, but that is part of “Dog Soldier’s” charm.  There is something truly magical and exciting about watching a film make up for its lack of budget with creativity.  The werewolves are very twisted and creepy, and they come out at just the right time.  The fact the majority of the action is set in this house also adds to the terror and tension.  The third act is also filled with a ton of twists and turns where you don’t really know who is going to survive, who can be trusted, and what their individual motives are as things come to a close.  The film is also not afraid to splatter blood all over the screen.  It’s a hugely entertaining ride.

“Dog Soldiers” starts off a little slow at the beginning, but once they enter the house, there is not a wasted scene or moment throughout.  It’s remarkable and has just the right amount of anxiety, humor, heart, and gore. It’s also not afraid to go balls-to-the-wall. With many first-time directors, they don’t know if they will get a chance to make another feature, so they throw a lot into their first project.  All the ingredients work here to make a magnificent horror film where the action is timed just perfectly. We get to spend time with all of these characters, so we care about what happens to them. 

The more I thought about “Dog Soldiers,” the more I loved it.

* * * ½ out of * * * *

4K/Blu-Ray Info: This is the 20th anniversary of “Dog Soldiers,” and it’s released on a two-disc 4K and Blu-ray combo pack from Shout Factory/Scream Factory. The film has a running time of 105 minutes and is rated R for strong violence, gore and language. There are two discs here: one featuring the 4K version, and the other one featuring the Blu-ray.

Audio Info/Video Info: The 4K comes with a 2160p Ultra High-Definition HDR Widescreen (1.85:1) transfer while the Blu-Ray comes on 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.85:1). The audio for both films comes on the following formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Stereo 2.0.  I found the video quality to be much improved from the original DVD I watched many moons ago. The film is grainy and dirty at times, as mentioned earlier, but it’s also clear and bright during the rare outdoor scenes. When I say it’s grainy and dirty, I am acknowledging that it adds to the look of the film and that is a positive, not a negative. The high dynamic range is also a huge bonus with any 4K release. You can also watch the 4K of the film in Dolby Vision as well.

Special Features:

DISC ONE (4K UHD):

NEW 4K Restoration from The Original Camera Negative by Second Sight Films – Approved by Director Neil Marshall and Director of Photography Sam McCurdy-Presented in Dolby Vision

NEW Audio Commentary by 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 4K Restoration from The Original Camera Negative by Second Sight Films Approved by Director Neil Marshall and Director of Photography Sam McCurdy

NEW Audio DISC TWO (BLU-RAY):

Commentary by writer and associate professor of Film Alison Peirse

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

Audio Commentary with Director Neil Marshall

Audio Commentary with producers David Allen and Brian O’Toole

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, Special Effects Artist Bob Keen and more!

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

Should You Buy It?

Considering there are over three hours of special features, both new and old, and the quality of the film, I cannot recommend this special edition of “Dog Soldiers” enough.  One thing I will say with a great deal of confidence:  Please watch the HDR version over the Dolby Vision version. This is a dark film to begin with, and the Dolby Vision version is too dark at times to fully enjoy the experience.  Dolby Vision is great for certain films, but I don’t think it fully works here. The HDR version is miles ahead in terms of clarity, mood, and picture quality.

As far as the film itself, with the 4K upgrade, I felt like I was watching a whole new movie.  “Dog Soldiers” is in-your-face and unrelenting.  I truly had a blast with it.  I look forward to September and October with some of the releases from Scream Factory, as there are some really cool horror titles coming out. As of right now, if you are a hardcore collector of boutique labels like myself, this one is going to be right up your alley. If you pick up this film, you won’t regret it!

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