Wednesday, May 19

Some quick thoughts on Dog Soldiers (2002) on Blu-ray

I've heard some say that Neil Marshall's debut, Dog Soldiers, has been deemed great werewolf horror merely because of the dearth of any "real" examples of the subgenre for so long. There is some truth to this with the only lycanthrope romps of note in the few years prior to this 2002 feature being the fantastic Ginger Snaps and perhaps '96's Bad Moon. I would mention An American Werewolf in Paris and the last few Howling sequels, but they fucking sucked. Yet Dog Soldiers is indeed a solid werewolf flick; the underused/misused mythical creatures are married with a great tough guy siege mentality which elevates the proceedings past what otherwise would have probably been an average programmer.

Marshall's secret isn't the ever-so-welcoming presence of some excellent practical wolf suits, animatronics, and effects. The focus on honing the ill-fated military squad as believably "lived-in" is what good writing and filmmaking is all about. Instead of simply relying on the effects work or concept, the evenly paced Dog Soldiers shares the narrative glue that holds similar greats like Predator and The Thing together. The gruff Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, and stone cold Liam Cunningham deservingly receive top-billing being perfectly cast. Saying all this, I believe the director's following film, The Descent, is slightly superior by placing horror all around the protagonists trapped in forever dark, inescapable surroundings instead of a cottage stronghold by night. That and Dog Soldiers feels a bit long in the tooth (pardon the pun) at 105 minutes and its later twists get top heavy in the believability department. Here's to looking forward to Marshall's impeding Centurion and hoping the scatterbrained Doomsday was merely a fluke.

Moving on to First Look's Blu-ray, this film has had a hard road on home video stateside. First, the now rolled into Lionsgate Artisan Entertainment released a DVD in 2002 with producer commentary, making-of featurette, and two theatrical trailers. Then the mysteriously 20th Century Fox-distributed "Key DVD" picked up the film for a DVD that mirrored the Artisan right down to the cover art. Then Key altered the cover into this terrible abomination. Key disappeared into the void and First Look Studios took the reigns of video distribution with a DVD with the cover seen above along with the extras seen on the Artisan and Key editions. All seemed finally settled, but then First Look issued a limited DVD edition in Steelbook packaging without any extras! Sadly this is where we are with the studio's Blu-ray. Despite including both the Blu and DVD, this edition has zero extras whichever presentation you choose.

As for the Blu-ray's 1080p MPEG-4 AVC-encoded picture quality, detail is really no better than the standard definition discs. Dog Soldiers was shot in Super 16mm and blown up to 35mm. This mixed with the dark, guerrilla style of shooting makes for an extremely grainy appearance with low image resolution. First Look probably didn't care much in the creation of this Blu-ray, so any slight edge the high def image has is just the result of the advanced encoding method of the format. If anything, this is basically a better DVD presentation and it would take a caring hand to make an up to snuff Blu-ray transfer. The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio also isn't terribly better than the standard Dolby 5.1 track.

1 comment:

Buscemi said...

You might want the UK release. Two commentaries (including an exclusive one with the director and cast), a short film and deleted scenes were on to that DVD. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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