Monday, October 23, 2017

The Halloween List: Dog Soldiers and Area 51

Area 51 (2015)

This is the part of October where I defend Found Footage movies. This is a niche of Horror that I continue to enjoy. Sometimes one is truly awful (see: The Pyramid), but somewhere amid making the camera part of a character, letting us see the environment in ways we otherwise couldn’t, and the tease of where antagonism will come from, this approach to filmmaking gets past my defenses in ways even excellent traditional film can’t. Googling around, it seems Area 51 is universally reviled. But I had a surprisingly good time.

Yup. It’s another case of John liking an unpopular Found Footage flick!

It starts off with a group of friends who are constantly joking with each other. They’re going on vacation to Las Vegas – a front for their attempt to sneak into the famous Area 51 military base. We know one of them, Reid, is eccentric, experiencing episodes of trauma. He refuses to explain them, and presses the group to help him find what the government is hiding out there, likely covering up the connection. The more they indulge him, the eerier his requests are. The time that he gets them to sneak into a military officer’s house while he’s asleep, in order to steal his key card, is legitimately uncomfortable.

Reviews poked the movie for being slow, and it takes 50 minutes out of the 90-minute runtime for them to get onto the base. But it’s not slow in that 2014 Godzilla way where it’s killing time. They guys are meeting experts, preparing anti-surveillance equipment, and finding loopholes in security that all suggest the strange they might encounter. It’s build up that increases tension before they find… well, different things than I expected.

Without spoiling it, Area 51 put more thought into a story about the conspiracy theory mythology than I’ve ever seen. I loved that there were private airports and ammonia sensors. I loved that the crew had built Freon suits to disrupt heat detection units.

It could’ve moved faster, but I had a good time. This is one of my longest entries on a movie so far this month because I don’t see why people hated it. At worst, it’s no worse than any other standard movie.

Dog Soldiers (2002)

This had been on my list ever since seeing The Descent, which is one of the modern classics of Horror cinema. Neil Marshal has a lot of clout with me after that puppy, and this was his original baby, which he wrote, directed, and edited.

A British military group is engaging in war games, but finds their operation interrupted by a very real attack of werewolves. Despite being about utter life and death, it’s not nearly as intense a film as The Descent. It weaves between campy soldier tropes of badassery and moments of real sacrifice. I’m out of the loop, but just assume the scene where one soldier outright boxes a werewolf is a cult classic at this point. Where The Descent is achingly dire, this is popcorn fun.

Altogether, Dog Soldiers is fun, much better than the average werewolf movie. So far I’ve only seen two werewolf movies I’d classify as great: An American Werewolf in London and Ginger Snaps. But this is a darned fine third film for the list. It makes me hope Stephen Graham-Jones’s Mongrels gets adapted sooner than later.

Up Next: Sadako Vs. Kayako and Hell House, LLC.


  1. I think I've seen part of Dog Soldiers but not the whole film.
    Found footage can make me sick to watch it so I'll have to pass on the first one.

  2. I do love your reviews. And have even been tempted a couple of times. Thank you.

  3. I'd love to see Mongrels get adapted for the screen! I haven't seen either of these. Found footage and I have an on again off again relationship. :p Some are really well done, and some suck. But that's true of all movies.


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