Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dog Soldiers (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - Werewolfin' in the Woods

Scream Factory has decided that 2015 is the year of the werewolf. Fan favorite (or perhaps fan favorite to make fun of) The Howling II hits this July, but before you get a chance to see some gratuitous, blond Sybil Danning werewolf boobs, you get the more-gore stand up and prowl werewolf feature Dog Soldiers. Dog  Soldiers is a cult fan favorite for all the right reasons. It’s got great looking werewolves, a brilliant cast, eerie setting, clever plot with a nice twist and gore galore.

What starts off with an exceptional introduction, so much blood so quickly, turns into a slow building monster picture. The pacing is near perfect with a strong hit to give you a jolt in the beginning followed by a clever story that gradually reals you in before it goes bat shit crazy with wolf attack after brutal lupine slaughter. If you get tired in the middle of Dog Soldiers you better not turn it off before the big finish. It’s worth the wait.

Dog Soldiers features some of my favorite werewolves. They most resemble the lupines in the original Howling, looking wolf like but walking around on their hind legs, tall and with pointy ears. They do not resemble real wolves and they are NOT computer generated. When I think of the werewolves in this movie, I think of Grizzly bears that change from human to wolf only thinner and more rageful. They’re frightening though I must admit you do get the occasional glimpse of budgetary restriction in their design. Still I found them frightening and intimidating. Half the wolf flicks out their fail because they skip on their beastie. They either CG it up or give the actor an ape suit with a wolf head (I’m looking at you Howling II).

While many of you have become familiar with Neil Marshall since his efforts on recent Game of Thrones episodes, he is known to the horror community for The Decent and Doomsday (Doomsday a movie that comes highly recommended to me). The Descent is a dark, brooding, downtrodden thing of a movie that features some excellent effects, perfect dark claustrophobia and a kick as nail-biter of a finish. Dog Soldiers’ success is actually based on very similar attributes using darkness well, a great setting and a balls to the wall finish. Marhsall gets maximum performance from his players. Hell you ever get Kevin McKidd from Grey’s Anatomy and Liam Cunnigham from Game of Thrones looking ever so young and dashing. Of course McKidd has more of a horror background having appeared in Event Horizon as well, but in my house Thursday night means I watch him create drama an surgery on Grey’s with the wifey.

This is a maxed out disc featuring new cover art, new commentary from Neil Marshall, a making of featurette involving the cast and director as well as a look at the set models. You even get Neil Marshall’s short film, Combat. It looks gorgeous with the transfer preserving the film-like quality and taking even some of the darker scenes in this ever so dark movie and making them very accessible to the eye. The transfer was supervised by none other than Neil Marshall himself.

What starts off as a forest based Horror picture turns non-traditional cabin in the woods fare with hallmarks and respects paid to some of your favorite wolfman pictures of yesteryear all the time with an explosiveness. Enjoy the wolves. Enjoy the fight and enjoy the gore.

Bonus Features:

NEW 2K Scan HD Transfer Supervised And Approved By Director Neil Marshall
NEW Audio Commentary With Director Neil Marshall
NEW The Making Of DOG SOLDIERS Featuring New 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!
NEW A Look At The Model Of The Sets Created By Production Designer Simon Bowles
Theatrical Trailer
Neil Marshall's Short Film: Combat
Two Still Galleries – Photos From The Film And Rare Photos From Production Designer Simon Bowles And Special Effects Artist Dave Bonneywell's Archives

Order this neo-wolf out classic now. Consider this the sequel the Howling never got (which plays into our coverage for Howling II coming soon from Scream Factory).

From Scream Factory:

A group of soldiers dispatched to the Scottish Highlands on special training maneuvers face their biggest fears after they run into Captain Ryan – the only survivor of a Special Ops team that was literally torn to pieces. Ryan refuses to disclose his mission even though whoever attacked his men might be hungry for seconds. Help arrives in the form of local girl who shelters them in a deserted farmhouse deep in the forest…but when they realize that they are surrounded by a pack of blood-lusting werewolves, it's apparent their nightmare has just begun!

From Neil Marshall, the director of The Decent, Doomsday, Centurion and episodes of Game Of Thrones, comes this terrifying thriller starring Kevin McKidd (Rome, Hannibal Rising), Sean Pertwee (Soldier, Event Horizon), Emma Cleasby (Doomsday) and Liam Cunningham (Game Of Thrones, Clash Of The Titans). 

Quick update from to address the "transfer controversy" from Neil Marshall himself as posted on the Scream Factory Facebook page. In light of this, my review still stands and is unaltered. I think it looks great for a movie shot on Super 16mm (blown up to 35mm) and the issues with the night/darkness are... well... kinda silly. I'd love for someone to get a hold of the negatives and do it up proper, but I stand by this Blu. :

It seems myself and Scream Factory are experiencing some major flack regarding the Dog Soldiers blu-ray release. So I figure I should fill in a bit of background here. First of all, I wholeheartedly support the Scream Factory release. The previous blu-ray (not available in the UK) was made without any involvement from me, and I remember when it came out the general consensus was that the picture quality was not great. All credit to Scream Factory for wanting to involve the film-maker in this process as much as possible.

When they first announced this blu-ray release last year, the original plan was to work with me to create a whole bunch of original extras based on new interviews with all the key cast and crew, but that the movie itself would essentially be the same version as last time. I asked them to delay the release because I felt that we could do better for the fans and try and track down some original film elements to make a fresh HD transfer. Since the movie never received a theatrical release in the US (although I believe it screened at The Egyptian for a week) I knew we’d have to turn to the UK to find the best possible elements available. What I didn’t know was that after an exhaustive search I’d discover the original negative was nowhere to be found. Neither the UK producer, distributor or film processing lab has any idea where the negative is. Without it we simply could not achieve the kind of high quality HD transfer I would have wished to deliver. Instead we managed to get hold of 2 original cinema prints, and despite being 13 years old and having a few scratches here and there, they represent the most accurate version of the original theatrical release that we could find.

However, as close as they are, they are just cinema prints, and in terms of colour timing for the new blu-ray we were limited to the parameters of the print itself. Which means, in basic terms, if the contrast is high on the print and the blacks are crushed (as indeed they are) then there is no more visual information to be gained from them. You can’t brighten up the image and see what’s hidden in the darkness like you can when you’re working from the negative or from digital. All that will happen is that the black will turn to grey and just give the movie a washed out flat look.

Another issue seems to be that one scene in particular now seems to be a daytime scene when it used to be a nighttime scene. Well, this is wrong on both counts. It’s meant to be a dusk scene, and since it features shots of the sunset then it’s graded accordingly - with a warm sunset glow that then gets cooler and darker as it fades into night. Again, this is all taken directly from the print. It was never intended to have such an extreme dark blue tint over it. We had major continuity issues filming this sequence because the weather kept changing from dull grey and rainy to bright sunlight. This is far from ideal for pulling off convincing day-for-night photography.

Like it or not, when the movie was originally released in the UK in 2002, the blacks were crushed, the contrast was high, the colours were rich and the image was grainy as fuck, because let’s not forget, this movie was shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm. So under no circumstances was a blu-ray of this movie ever going to look as smooth and pristine as a movie shot on 35mm or any of the hi-res digital formats we use today. In fact, transferring it to HD actually highlights the grain just as it does any other detail, so this version inherently looks more grainy than before. It’s unavoidable unless you have the money to do a full restoration and clean-up, but again, you need the negative for that.

So, is this version of Dog Soldiers the best it could ever be? No. Of course not. If we had the negative and a shit-load of cash we could have done a lot better. Is it the best it could be under the circumstances? Yes. Will it appeal to everybody? No. But that's movies for you!

At the end of the day everybody involved, myself included, put in a lot of work to give the fans a blu-ray worth forking out their hard-earned cash for. And nobody involved, myself included, got paid anything for doing it. There are no royalties, ancillaries or anything else. This is not an attempt to exploit the fans. It was, on my part, an attempt to give the fans something new and unique, and not simply a repackaged version of what’s already out there.


Thanks to Scream Factory and Screamcast for sharing this info from Neil Marhsall. 

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