Wednesday, 7 July 2010

What Do You Mean You've Never Seen...Dog Soldiers

With the exception of George W.M. Reynolds’ excellent Wagner the Wehr-wolf, literary depictions of werewolves are generally thin on the ground. Werewolves, like zombies, are mostly a modern creation, and have their roots in the cinema with Werewolf of London and The Wolf Man kicking it all off. As usual, though, for every The Company of Wolves there is a The Howling III: The Marsupials, and for every An American Werewolf in London, there is an An American Werewolf in Paris.

Originally released in 2002, the (mostly) British Dog Soldiers is essential viewing for the emotionally fourteen, bringing together as it does psychopathic levels of violence, several ocean loads of foul language and some pretty good looking werewolves.

A squad of British Army soldiers are dropped into the Scottish Highlands. Expecting to carry out a routine training mission, they find the savaged remains of a special-forces squad, who were presumably part of the same training exercise. The single survivor, Captain Ryan, has been badly wounded, and makes cryptic references to what attacked them. Unseen creatures make their presence known and they attack the troops. Running away, the group encounter Megan, a zoologist, who takes them to a lonely house. As darkness arrives, the house is surrounded by the attackers: to the remaining soldiers' incredulity, these are revealed to be werewolves.

What follows is, admittedly, pretty much Night of the Living Dead with werewolves instead of zombies – but what makes it stand out is its fantastic sense of character. All of the soldiers feel like real characters, cracking jokes, being scared, throwing up when something spectacularly gross happens. It doesn’t feel like you’re watching a gang of action heroes, or a group of slasher-movie teenage summer campers making a series of really fucking stupid decisions. What it feels like is that you are there with them...because they do what you would do. Pragmatism is something that rarely features in a horror movie, but here it actually works.

A large part of what contributes to that realism is the dialogue. Certainly one of my favourite aspects is that there are no real “Action Hero” style one liners of the Arnold “Stick Around/Let off some steam/He had to split” Schwarzenegger variety. What is more typical in Dog Soldiers, is that when a character is jumped, attacked or even just surprised is dialogue along the lines of “Fuck off! Fuck off! Fuck off! Get out of it, ya bastard!”. This gets a laugh, and is pretty damn realistic too.

Sean Pertwee, the British Thomas Jane, turns in a really good performance as the squad’s leader, Sergeant Wells. At turns endearing, psychopathically violent, hard man and funny man, Wells is a great leader – and the scene where he puts his stomach back together with household adhesive is awesome.

With the monsters always seen briefly, an in darkness to boot, you probably think that they’re all crap. It’s a low budget movie, so the effects have to suck, right? Wrong. The werewolves look pretty good. No, they probably wouldn’t look at good when studied up close in a car park in the middle of the day – but Neil Marshall knew what he was doing. The werewolf costumes are good, but the way they’re used makes them even better. They move realistically, they’re shot to make them look imposing, and they’re the centre of conflict whenever they appear.

And of course, the movie also features: impaling, evisceration, stabbing, blood, gore, swearing, limb removal, cannibalism, blood, gore, gunfire, blood, gore, dental extraction, and someone gets shot in the face.

There is a black comedy bent running through the movie, however. I don’t want to make it sound like a hardcore “oh fuck everyone dies” picture, because it isn’t. Several moments are played for laughs, and it works brilliantly. One of the werewolves spends the majority of the time running around with a broadsword stuck through it, due to an injury suffered earlier in the movie. There are several cheeky references to other great movies, such as The Matrix, Aliens and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan scattered liberally throughout.

Dog Soldiers was hardly a runaway success when it first opened at the cinema, but it does have something of a cult following on DVD, and it’s certainly worth watching when it comes on TV. It’s nice to know that, as British artists, we don’t have to be low budget and self-deprecating. We can be low budget and awesome.







THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE

Two pretty American girls on a road trip across Europe end up alone in the woods at night when their car breaks down in rural Germany. As they search for help they find an isolated house. Offering to call them a taxi, the house's owner Dr. Heiter, a retired surgeon, invites the girls inside with the promise of a drink and dry place to wait until help arrives. However they realise that there is something not quite right about the formidable Dr. Heiter...

As their demented host explains his twisted vision, the two girls discover that they are soon to become a lot closer to each other than they ever wanted to be. Heiter’s plan is to connect the two girls with a third person, a hapless Japanese tourist, to each other via their gastric systems in a daring bid to be the first person to create a Siamese triplet - bringing to life his sick lifetime fantasy "The Human Centipede!!!".



Alledgedly inspired by a conversation about what would be a suitable punishment for convicted paedophiles, Tom Six’s bizarre "biological horror" The Human Centipede is supposedly 100% medically accurate.

The internet hype has already started, with all the usual bumpf about people in cinemas passing out, vomiting, yadda-yadda-yadda. Can it live up to the hype, or is it going to be as retarded as, frankly, that trailer makes it out to be? Looks to us like a car crash of slasher movie cliche, mid-00s torture porn and a bucketload of "fucking ridiculous"...

The Human Centipede hits UK cinemas on 20th August.

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