Portions of this review also appear on our coverage of the film's previous Blu-ray release.
'Dog Soldiers' is quite possibly one of the best werewolf movies to ever grace the screen. It's a non-stop action horror film with a bit of comedy mixed in for good measure, one that can be watched over and over again. Part 'Predator,' part werewolf could be the best description, as it features an elite team of military personnel who come across a pack of vicious werewolves in the woods. There's tons of violence, guns, and enough blood and guts for two films. This is horror moviemaking at its finest.
We focus on an elite group of Scottish soldiers who are out in the woods for a military training exercise. They stumble across a gruesome scene of what seems to be the remains of a special forces unit that was packing very high-tech equipment and enough weapons to take on another country, which includes tranquilizer darts. Unaware of what has happened, they find one sole survivor, Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham) who can only muster out the words, "There was only supposed to be one." As fast as you can say transformation, the soldiers are ambushed by werewolves. But these werewolves run on two legs and stand over 9 feet tall, and are quite muscular. They have very long claws and very sharp fangs and are only out for one thing. Blood.
Though it seems like the entire soldier squad is about to meet their untimely and grisly doom, a truck pulls up driven by Megan (Emma Cleasby) who rescues the surviving soldiers and brings them to a cabin in the woods so that the soldiers can regroup and tend to their Sergeant (Sean Pertwee), who has had his guts ripped out by one of the werewolves. It is here that the rest of the film takes place with few showdowns between man and werewolf. From here on out, the giant werewolves try to break into the house while the soldiers think of new ways to escape with their lives.
Each character is given a good back story to distinguish each of them throughout the film with the Captain, Sergeant, Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd) and Megan being the main leads. Much of the banter between the soldiers is comical as they discuss girls and soccer games, as well as unique ways to kill werewolves. Neil Marshall's directing is impeccable.
The climax has quite a few twists and turns that you won't see coming and one brutal scene involving a sword and teeth. I'll never get that image out of my head. 'Dog Soldiers' is a an absolute crowd pleaser. The costumes and make up on the werewolves are top notch and still look like some of the best monsters I have seen to date. There was no CG in this movie. Everything is organic and real. This was a perfect mix of action, horror, and comedy all rolled into one with a heavy dose of werewolves. Make sure you see this movie.
This Collector's Edition of 'Dog Soldiers' from Scream Factory is a big improvement from the previous release. This new transfer is from a 2K scan and is presented in 1080p HD. It sports a 1.78:1 aspect ratio as well, which was supervised and approved by director Neil Marshall, which is funny, because he filmed 'Dog Soldiers in 16mm. Taking a 16mm film and upgrading it to 1080p HD can cause some issues.
That being said, this is the best the film has looked on the Blu-ray format so far, but it won't turn heads by any means in the form of clarity or true HD like the latest big action blockbuster would. Detail throughout is strong, especially in well lit closeups that showcase every piece of fur on the werewolves, drop of blood, inch of intestine, and bead of sweat on the army soldiers. It's just to bad that the only real source of light comes from lanterns or a fireplace.
The image doesn't look flat by any means. In fact there is some great depth while the soldiers are in the woods and particularly in the cabin. Colors are muted with the exception of the blood reds and the green leaves on the trees, which both stand out and pop off screen nicely. Other than that, the colors just seem to blend in, but that might be source related, and not a transfer problem. There is still a layer of grain, but it never really fluctuates with the exception of the a couple of very dark scenes, but it never hinders the viewing experience.
Black levels are mostly deep and inky throughout and the skin tones are very natural. There were still some instances of dirt, debris, and scratches here and there, but that seems to be true to the 16mm source. Other than that, there were no major issues to speak of, leaving this new video presentation with very good marks.
This release comes with both a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and a DTS-HD 2.0 stereo mix. Both sound great, but I prefer the 5.1 mix, because you'll feel total immersion when inside the cabin with the rear speakers pouring out some great sound effects and ambient noises. Those sound effects are loud, realistic and pack a punch. The explosions, helicopter blades, and multiple gun fights are impressive here and never sound overly done.
There is some great directionality as well. The score always adds to the suspense throughout the film and never drowns out any of its counterparts. The dialogue is crystal clear and easy to follow, even with the accents. There were no pops, cracks, hiss, or high shrills either. The bass kicks into high gear during the heavier action sequences and has a nice rumble to it. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range is wide, leaving this audio presentation with great marks.
Audio Commentary with Neil Marshall - Director Neil Marshall gives a great commentary track here as he discusses shooting the film thirteen years ago on a small budget, the use of practical effects, working with a great cast, and the difficulties of the shoot. It's a great commentary track, full of fun facts from the movie. A must listen.
The Making of 'Dog Soldiers': Werewolves Vs. Soldiers (HD, 62 Mins.) - This is a fantastic hour-long feature on the making of 'Dog Soliders' with most of the cast and crew coming back to talk about the film. There is some on-set footage, clips from the film, and tons of great interviews. There were some very funny moments where some of the actors of the film discussed some of their mistakes while shooting.
A Cottage in the Woods (HD, 14 Mins.) - Here we have the set designer of the film talk about how he built and shot the scenes in the cabin. He also talks about they were able to get the camera in all those hard to see spaces.
'Combat' (HD, 8 Mins.) - This is a short film by Neil Marshall, starring a couple of the actors from 'Dog Soldiers'. It's worth watching.
Photo Galleries - There are two sets of photo galleries here. One is a behind the scenes slideshow and the other is promo images and stills from the film.
Trailers (HD 5 Mins.) - Trailers for the movie are here.
'Dog Soldiers' is one of the finest if not the best werewolf movies to date and Neil Marshall perfectly captured the suspense, comedy, and gore in less than two hours here. The characters are fantastic, the action is brutal, and blood is unrelenting. I wish I could watch this movie for the first time again. This Collector's Edition from Scream Factory is definitely worth the upgrade and re-buy due to the new video and audio presentations, which are quite nice. Not only that, we finally get a wealth of amazing extras here, all of which are worth watching. If you're a fan of the film or love werewolves, this is a MUST-OWN!