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Tan and I couldn’t think of a movie that involved both werewolves and angels. If you can think of one, let us know in the comments! Instead we reviewed a horror flick neither one of us had seen before: Dog Soldiers.

KATIE
Hello my lovely frenemy! Before we get down to reviewing the nitty gritty details, I have to confess that I hadn’t seen this flick before. When considering what movies to review, I did notice this one popping up on a number of lists for top 10 werewolf movies. It was actually passed up for North American theatrical release for a variety of reasons, including the accents. And, I’m sorry, but that’s just a ridiculous reason. Trainspotting anybody? It’s obviously not the high production value Hollywood movie that we’re seeing in this genre. But, for a low budget British horror flick what are your thoughts?

TAN
Ridiculous indeed – horror movies with accents (even subtitles!) are perfectly acceptable to me.

My very first thought having finished the movie was that this was Dead Snow, but with werewolves. Isolated cabin where the undead enemy surrounds the small group of humans, eventually breaks in, tears out their guts, and infects most of the group until there is just one person left. That being said, both are pretty entertaining low-budget horror flicks, so I was happy. I did, however have a small problem with one character: the dog.

KATIE
Aw, why no love for the dog? I, for one, was glad that there was a friendly canine presence because I needed to anthropomorphize something in order to lighten some of the super intense moments. Truth be told, I’m a complete wimp when it comes to the genre (I know, I know) but it doesn’t stop me from watching or reading. And I think Dog Soldiers is a pretty solid flick.

I can definitely see why, despite the production value the movie is on so many top werewolf movie lists. It’s a comedy-horror that’s sort of reminiscent of the cult classic, and one of my personal faves, An American Werewolf in London. There are plenty of genre in-jokes with an ample mix of gross-out gore to add a bit of dark humour to the movie. As you point out, it’s not entirely original and has a plot that follows a certain formula but I found it highly entertaining as a whole.

It doesn’t hurt that Kevin McKidd (Trainspotting, Grey’s Anatomy) is in it either. In fact, the acting overall was neither flat nor over-acted as some lower budget horror films tend to be. At least that’s how I felt. Not necessarily Oscar, or more fittingly BAFTA, worthy but good for a scare. Apparently, it did win an award at The Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Film in 2002..!

TAN
Ok.. here is my beef with the dog:

At the beginning of the movie, McKidd’s character refuses to kill the dog on his training mission, earning him a dismissal from the Special Ops team he is training for because he can’t follow orders. Now, to me, this scene has foreshaddowing written all over it – at some point, this character will have to kill a seemingly innocent dog to save himself or others. But that never happened. I kept waiting for the cottage dog to do something evil.

But, instead of siding with his pack – the werewolves that have presumable raised and cared for this dog – he sides with the human interlopers who are killing them. At the end of the movie, it’s McKidd and his new canine friend, which he’ll probably take with him back to civilization. Couldn’t they have hinted that he was a weredog or something, just to bring the movie full circle?

Here is a question for you: (I’m not sure I’ve seen enough werewolf movies to answer this myself) What does Dog Soldiers contribute to the genre? For me, if a movie is going to make the top ten list, it should contribute something unique to the werewolf tradition.

KATIE
Yes, I definitely got the same vibe from the dog but that’s what added to the thrill for me. The dog was kind of a red herring. I shared that same feeling of foreboding and was certain it was going to turn out to be the werewolf leader or something. Right down to the very end, actually. There was a lot of web talk about a sequel but I think that project might be dead now. Maybe the dog would have played a role in that?

As for adding to the werewolf tradition and whether the movie deserves to rank on top ten lists, I’m not so sure either. I think it scores so well on many a blogger’s list because it’s kind of an homage to the horror genre. I mean, one of the characters is named Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead). The humour is pretty subtle and dark. Apparently it’s rife with so many movie references that only film nerds catch all of them on first viewing. Maybe it doesn’t add to the genre but it’s kind of a balls out example of the genre at its low-budget best, don’t you think?

I appreciated elements of the cinematography showing both the werewolf and human perspectives throughout. Also, despite the production value, those were some freaky ass werewolves. There’s something about elongated limbs that reminds me of aliens (which scare the bejesus out of me more than any supernatural creature because I can’t discount the possibility of their existence). The photographs in the credits were a nice touch, too.

Does it belong on a top ten list? I’m on the fence. I’ve watched it twice in one month already though and want to watch it again to see if I can catch any more of the references and in-jokes. I think it’s a movie that has great cult appeal.

TAN
You know – I think you’ve just convinced me to watch this again with an eye to catching these movie references.

All in all, I enjoyed this movie. Maybe not as much as I loved Cursed, but I can see why people like it so much.

My vote is 7 out of 10.

KATIE
Maybe we’ll have to compare notes at a later date on the movie references. LOL! As far as I know, according to the DVD commentary (which I haven’t listened to yet) the references and subtle head nods in the film include: H.G. Wells along with movies The Evil Dead, Zulu, Aliens, The Matrix and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.

I enjoyed the flick too and give it a 7.5/10. It’s no American Werewolf in London–which is being remade–but I enjoyed the thrill and humour overall.

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The movie poster for Blade II

The movie poster for Blade II

Over the course of the last few weeks, Dan and I have been watching some Undeath Match-style films. The first one we thought would be good to discuss was Blade II because it’s directed by The Strain co-author Guillermo del Toro. This particular discussion took place via email at the end of July.

Deanna
So… your first thoughts. The special effects were kind of cool but this was really more of a martial arts movie than a pure vampire movie. And it was a little lacking in a couple of essentials, like, um plot and character development.

Dan
Plot? Character development? Were you expecting Shakespeare?

I actually like this movie. I kind of think character development would only have got in the way of Blade delivering the whupass. Did you know he’s a jazz trumpeter in the comic book? I’m just trying to imagine how the movie would’ve been if they’d worked that into the plot!

Deanna
You know, I would have preferred him to be a jazz trumpeter, at least then he would have done something more than wear sunglasses and do that whole muscly-broody thing that Snipes does so well. I haven’t seen any of the other Blade films, but this one made me wonder why they made a sequel. Is it the action that makes people like them or the vampires, a combination of both?

I know you haven’t read The Strain yet but there were a lot of familiar themes — you’ll know what I’m talking about — between this film and the book. That surprised me, a lot. I always find the creation bits of the story — the hows, they whys — far more interesting than the actual fighting and eating bits. You know what would have made this a better movie? Actually seeing the first super vampire’s story, maybe even in flashback, would have added a level of context the film needed. But I do understand that’s not actually the point.

Dan
Just the thought of a melancholy Blade playing noodling jazz in black turtle-neck while contemplating his soul (or lack of) is kind of hilarious… Didn’t Wesley Snipes play a jazz trumpeter in a movie? Oh wait… Maybe it was a saxophone? And I would have been LMAO if Blade was a jazz saxophonist (as would the vampires).

Anyway… I think they play to Snipes’ strengths here. All he has to do is kick some vampire ass — dialogue would just slow him down. But yes, Blade II is definitely a Guillermo del Toro movie. His films always look great, but he often relies on a lot of the same themes and visual tropes, so it doesn’t surprise me (at all) that The Strain has some similarities. Maybe that’s why (whisper) I’m quite looking forward to reading it…

I also liked that the infected vampires are kind of like zombie vampires (zampires?). There is definitely some thing creepy about the way they sort of crab-skip (can crabs skip? scuttle maybe?) sideways. I mean quite apart from the hair loss and the fact their faces split in half and they have weird barbed tentacle tongues…

The downside to this movie for me was the “Blood Pack”. They were kind of rubbish.

Deanna
The Blood Pack was ridiculous. They seemed nothing more than an excuse for Blade to fight against the fight, and the pseudo-“love” story with he and Nyssa was also ridiculous. Why does every other vampire burst into light like an explosion when they die and she just floats away like dust on a really pretty wind at the end. Yawn.

I did feel bad that the Marcus character from the Underworld series had to die so soon but, meh, they were all there just as excuses for the super vamps to feed on them or attack them in a really gruesome way. Less characters than things to get in the way of other things so cool scenes can be planned around their deaths.

In other cheeseball-ness, “Scud”. Really? With everyone committing some form of betrayal upon someone else but with everyone being aware (except the girl, of course, she didn’t know anything, natch) that they’re being betrayed why, um, did they all end up in the giant fight at the end?

And yes, there’s a lot of zombie-like characteristics to the vampires in The Strain. It’s like these super vampires are reduced to only the essences: their drive for eating and that’s about it. The head fellow was blessed with a brain but I don’t understand how having the entire race evolve to that sub-species was actually a good idea.

But you have to admit when their jaw opens…it’s damn scary.

Dan
The Blood Pack was useless. What was up with tattoo-face? Some good your ridiculous sledgehammer turned out to be, eh jackass?

The romance with Nyssa was lame. Not a lot of chemistry there. Maybe it would have been better if she HAD exploded? Can you imagine? Blade and Nyssa’s shared moment of tenderness across the vampire-dhampir divide shattered by her violently exploding corpse setting his leathers ablaze in the morning sun. Brilliant.

It is also kind of odd that Luke Goss who plays super-vampire Nomak was in 80s pretty-boy band Bros (did Bros ever make it to Canada?). It really is a good job that he knew kung fu and had that whole scary splitting-jaw-barbed- tentacle-tongue thing down otherwise he really wouldn’t have been all that scary.

And it was kind of funny that Damaskinos’ lair was like a sanguineous Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I mean who has a great big pipe of blood flowing into an enormous bath in their atrium? I think even among vampires that might be considered a little kitschy! I was waiting for the vampire umpa lumpas to emerge from behind the scenes… (hmm… I’m beginning to think somebody should write “Blade: The Musical” with Blade on jazz trumpet and an umpa lumpa vampire chorus singing the harmonies… That would be awesome!)

Anyway, I shouldn’t be too harsh on this movie, because I enjoyed it. It’s delivers a good quotient of stylish whupass even if plot and bit-characters are a bit rubbish.

How would you rank this movie out of 10? I think it’s around a 6 1/2 for me.

Deanna
But maybe the whole Blood Pack aspect of the film belongs to a tradition of whoop-ass that we just can’t relate to. Those characters who are there simply to die so that the picture hits its action beats. You always know who they are — they’re the ones who die first (unless they’re a really special star brought in simply to die first) and needlessly bloodily… the expendables, if you will.

I would go see Blade: The Musical. I would go see it just to have a giant set recreate the massive blood bath in all its 80s-Scarface glory. We thought we were so progressive after the 90s finished, but B movies still have a kitsch factor (the blood bath makes that apparent) to them even if they’re not necessarily trying to be “B”-style movies. I much prefer the “lairs” in True Blood, tasteful, normal, even historical in some senses.

Ummm, I’d agree, 6 1/2 is just about right.

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