“Dog Soldiers” 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review

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A group of soldiers sent to the Scottish Highlands for special training maneuvers face their greatest fears after meeting Captain Ryan, the sole survivor of a special ops team that has literally been torn apart. Ryan refuses to divulge his mission even though whoever attacked his men might be hungry for a few seconds. Help arrives in the form of a local woman who shelters them in a deserted farmhouse deep in the forest…but when they realize they are surrounded by a pack of bloodthirsty werewolves, it is obvious that their nightmare has only just begun!

From Neil Marshall, director of The Descent, Doomsday, Centurion and episodes of game of thronescomes this terrifying thriller starring Kevin McKidd (Rome, Trainspotting), Sean Pertwee (Gotham, Event horizon), Emma Cleasby (Doomsday) and Liam Cunningham (Game Of Thrones).

For thoughts on soldier dogs, please check out my article on The Video Attic:

Video quality

Scream Factory Presents dog soldiers with a terrific 2160p transfer in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio from a 4K restoration of Original Camera Negative by Second Sight Films with Dolby Vision/HDR. This film was originally released on Blu-Ray by Scream Factory seven years ago, but this release is notoriously poor thanks to the fact that it was derived from theatrical copies due to the inability to find the original elements of the film. Thankfully, a lot has changed in the years since, and we finally get the film in all its 16mm glory with a transfer overseen and approved by director Neil Marshall and cinematographer Sam McCurdy. In terms of movies that desperately needed an upgrade after being botched on Blu-Ray, this one was among the top entries.

Those expecting a traditionally handsome transfer may want to adjust their expectations; this presentation rocks our world. but that’s because it retained its grimy, filmic 16mm roots. The film’s sumptuous natural grain allows for a great level of detail and clarity in the natural environment, production design, special effects and more. The texture on display in the gory makeup, outfits, and in the cabin is amazing. The special effects feature an impressive clarity that makes the work all the more visceral, like when the torsos are ripped apart. The grit resolves incredibly well, with nothing feeling too gritty, even in smoky or murky environments. This transfer did a great job of cleaning up a lot of the print damage, although a few smudges did come through the restoration glove. This presentation preserves the original look of the film with the added resolution that makes the elements more immediate and natural.

While not a movie bursting with vibrant color, the Dolby Vision presentation with increased color output is sure to impress with its depth and nuance. While the lion’s share of the film takes place in a darkened cabin at night, there’s a world of nuance to be found in this setting with the more chilly daytime scenes. The new presentation features colors in production design and effects such as fire orange or free-flowing blood that surges from the screen with unforgettable intensity. Lighting is a huge part of building this film’s tension and this record easily handles every slight change in environment. Black levels are very strong with almost no crushing present, and white levels show no evidence of blooming. There don’t seem to be any jarring digital anomalies such as compression artifacts, banding, or any other such nuisance. In terms of capturing a movie’s intended aesthetic, the Scream Factor team has a winner on their hands.

Audio quality

The 4K UHD Blu-Ray disc comes with previously released DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Master Audio tracks, both of which serve the film quite well but could have benefited from an upgrade. These older DTS tracks allow for plenty of moments with the immersive sound of wolves descending on the cabin in a memorable way. Although the track uses a powerful soundscape, there are admittedly times when the action could be a little more nuanced in its execution. Fidelity sometimes struggles in the most chaotic settings for sounds to blend into each other rather than having a clear distinction. Environmental sounds such as gunshots and claws against the cabin are rendered with the most authority. The dialogue is far from incomprehensible, but the distinct clarity sometimes struggles as it borders on distortion at times. There’s also at least an audio pop or two that hasn’t been cleaned up since the last time Scream Factory released this one. The score holds up well and is used impeccably to establish the mood of the story. There’s room for improvement, but this audio track pretty much gets you where you need to go. SDH English subtitles are provided for those who wish.

Special Features

Disc One (4K UHD)

  • Audio Commentary #1: Writer and Associate Professor of Film Alison Peirse delivers a very compelling and thoughtful new commentary track in which she looks at this werewolf film through a slasher lens, how the film plays with certain horror tropes, the place of werewolves in fiction over the decades, the dynamic between the characters, the importance of Scottish location, the unexpected layers of this film and more.
  • Audio Commentary #2: Director Neil Marshall delivers this archival commentary track that’s full of great tidbits, including his initial development of this idea, how Jason Statham almost starred in this one, tributes to other films, his work with the performers, how he focused on emotion and authenticity over technical precision, the inaccuracies in Wikipedia entries, the atmosphere on set, what he learned while making his first feature film, And much more.
  • Audio Commentary #3: Producers David Allen and Brian O’Toole deliver the latest archival commentary track in which they fill in details that Marshall may not have gone into as much detail, including deleted nude scenes, ADR needed in some scenes, title disagreements, some bloopers they missed leading up to the movie’s release, storyline changes, and much more.

Disc Two (Blu-Ray)

  • Audio Commentary #1: Screenwriter and Associate Professor of Film Alison Peirse
  • Audio Commentary #2: Director Neil Marshall
  • Audio Commentary #3: Producers David Allen and Brian O’Toole
  • Werewolves, crawlers, cannibals and more – An interview with Neil Marshall: A nearly 39-minute new interview with director Neil Marshall in which he talks about his father developing his early love of horror movies, the events that inspired him to believe he might actually be a filmmaker, rewriting the scenario of dog soldiers for six years the ideas he had of continuing as a franchise, developing the idea of Loweringher joy in knowing that someone believed in her crazy vision of Judgment Day, what it was like to work on bigger budget projects, the valuable lessons he learned about judgment Dayworking in television, and much more that puts his career in perspective.
  • A History of Lycanthropy – Author Gavin Baddeley on Werewolf Cinema: A great new 33 minute piece in which Baddeley begins to discuss the state of British horror in the 70s and 80s and the impact dog soldiers had on the industry as a whole. The author then begins to take us on a journey through the different types of werewolves, the different appearances of werewolves in various films, the changing tones over the years, the deeper storylines that werewolves serve and how it all relates to Soldier dogs.
  • Werewolves, Folklore and Cinema – A video essay by author Mikel J. Koven: A nearly 24-minute new video essay that analyzes the classic folklore of what cinema has given us over the years, including the place of ritual magic and transformation, the release of horror movies in Hollywood’s Golden Age and their distinct aspects, the deeper thematic resonance of werewolf tales and more.
  • Werewolves vs Soldiers: A substantial 62-minute documentary that features tons of great interviews with the cast and creative team in which they discuss their aspirations to make the film, how they got involved in the project, Neil Marshall’s passion, getting the right look for Werewolves, the experiences they had on set, the filming timeline, finding the tone of the film and more.
  • A Cabin in the Woods: A nearly 14-minute featurette in which production designer Simon Bowles takes a closer look at production design and set construction in the film, including inspirations, hardest to build and more.
  • Theatrical trailers: Five trailers totaling five minutes are provided here.
  • dog soldiers Photo gallery: A collection of stills from the film are provided here.
  • Behind the scenes photo gallery: A collection of behind-the-scenes photos is provided here, mostly focused on the special effects work.
  • fight – A short film by director Neil Marshall: A nearly eight-minute short is provided here which equates a group of men going to a pub trying to pick up women with the war.

Final Thoughts

dog soldiers is a terrific feature debut from director Neil Marshall that uses werewolf lore in interesting and thrilling ways, making this particular subgenre feel fresher. While lesser films would have relied solely on crude digital effects to bring those horrific visions to life, which would have aged this film terribly, this one mostly used practical effects that amp up the level of charm. The performances are solid across the board, and the film maintains a strong sense of pacing without overstaying its welcome. This one became a cult hit for a reason. Scream Factory has provided the film with a 4K UHD Blu-Ray version that offers terrific A/V presentation and an assortment of special features you shouldn’t miss. Even if you already own this one on Blu-Ray, you owe it to yourself to upgrade and see this movie in the best possible presentation. Highly recommended

Soldier dogs (collector’s edition) is actually available for purchase on the 4K UHD + Blu-Ray Combo Pack.

Note: Images shown in this review do not reflect the image quality of 4K UHD Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Scream Factory has provided a free copy of this disc for review purposes. All opinions expressed in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

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