Gender Bashing: What it Means to Be a Man in DOG SOLDIERS

Dog Soldiers is feminist.

Hear me out.

In his 2002 horror film, writer-director Neil Marshall (who is currently helming the Hellboy reboot) has men dealing with their identities in the most masculine of realms, the primitive woods. Over the course of the movie’s 105-minute runtime, a ho-hum military exercise turns into a balls-to-the-wall fight wherein multiple elements of male identity are exposed to the moonlight. In that exposure, some of those gendered elements become monstrous on-screen and ruminate on what it means to be a man.

dog soldiers

The film opens on a sprawl of the Scottish Highlands, both natural and foreboding. A couple falls victim to an attack on their campground, and they aren’t seen again. Meanwhile, Pvt. Cooper (Kevin McKidd) fails to pass the field tests of an elite military unit for his unwillingness to commit acts of violence without reason; his refusal to shoot an unassuming dog prompts the unit’s leader, Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham), to declare, “I don’t need a man of conscience. I need men of action, not deeds.” Naturally, he shoots the poor dog as he says this. Cooper’s refusal to give in to the sadistic streak that Ryan displays sets him apart from the story’s beginning as an outcast, but one who retains his own brand of masculinity till the very end.

As the plot goes on, Ryan continues to be a very manly piece of garbage who thinks of no one but himself and his objective; his masculinity is made up of indifference to collateral damage and of superiority to those unwilling to unleash the inner beast as he does. He returns a dejected Cooper back to his own unit and four weeks later, Cooper’s unit finds themselves back in the vast Scottish Highlands for a training mission. There’s a scene or two of character-revealing downtime before the group discovers the bloody remains of their opposing team’s campground. The sole survivor is good ol’ Captain Ryan, who won’t divulge the full details on what caused the attack. Something big and hairy and mean attacks the soldiers, who retreat until they comes across zoologist Megan (Emma Cleasby) who transports them to a nearby little farmhouse. Now without a radio and with dwindling ammunition, the remaining soldiers are Sergeant Wells (Sean Pertwee), Cooper, “Spoon” Witherspoon (Darren Morfitt), Pvt. Joe Kirkley (Chris Robson), and Pvt. Terry Milburn (Leslie Simpson), with a wounded and belligerent Cpt. Ryan in tow. Night falls, the moon shows itself, and the attackers return, revealed as werewolves. Their new mission is to survive the night.

Read More – Gender Bashing: What it Means to Be a Man in DOG SOLDIERS – Dread Central