American horror has really fallen by the wayside, of late. While Hollywood studios have been pumping out remake after remake, the really good stuff has been coming from around the globe. Japan has given us the whole "creepy blue children" subgenre, and Britain has proved to be really good for zombie movies, of both the scary and comedic variety. They also gave us Dog Soldiers, the best werewolf movie since... well, there haven't been a lot of good werewolf movies, have there?
A squad of British soldiers is sent out on maneuvers
into the wilds of Scotland. They thought the worst they had to worry about was missing the biggest soccer match of the decade, but what should have been a routine military exercise turns into a nightmare. The shocked men are led by a local girl to a deserted farmhouse deep in the forest for refuge. With no radio contact, no live ammunition and only each other to count on, the soldiers must rely on brute force and cunning if they are to fight the werewolves battering down the doors and smashing through the windows.
Unlike 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead, Dog Soldiers is still fairly obscure, which is a shame: it's not just a good werewolf movie, it's a good movie, period. Dog Soldiers is to werewolves what From Dusk Til Dawn was to vampires. Namely, an Assault on Precinct 13 riff. But not a bad one.
The filmmakers put a lot of work into their wolves, and it's all captured well by this sculpt. Because they didn't want to distract the audience with CGI effects, they went for prosthetics and rubber suits - oddly enough, it works.
They didn't go the American Werewolf in London route of just making a giant dog, nor The Howling's tendency to hide in the dark. Dog Soldiers is a full-frontal werewolf movie.
The werewolf is 8½" tall, despite being hunched over. They went for a bipedal monster, and he towers over the other Movie Maniac-style figures. The musculature is exaggerated, but still subtle - it's not natural, but it's not a cartoon either, and that's why the look suits him. The skin looks like cracked leather, and the fur falls naturally.
The wolf has two interchangeable heads -
one merely snarling, the other with the mouth open wide to bite. The heads pop on and off easily enough, and the paint is good on both them them. Hell, the paint is good all over, but the body's mostly brown with a few shadows around the muscles. The furry bits are lighter, but they have a dark wash to bring out the details, too. And that's all very nice, but the head has black lips around a dark red mouth, off-white teeth and bright yellow eyes.
The back of the package advertises an exclusive Gray & Bloody werewolf, supposedly available at Tower Records. Of course, Tower Records has gone out of business now, so who knows where the gray wolf will show up. Remember, Now Playing Series 3 was first shown at Toy Fair 2005, with release scheduled for Halloween of that year.
I guess a lot can change when your toys are delayed more than a year.
Articulation is about average for the Now Playing line: a balljointed head and shoulders, then swivel joints at the wrists, ankles and waist. He's got one accessory, a severed human arm. Tasty! Like all the Now Playing figures, he also has a detailed display base. This is a nice generic piece: it's a section of floor and wall in the house where the movie takes place. The floorboards are individualized, and so are the boards in the wall behind the plaster. There are shellcasings on the floor, next to a puddle of blood and intestines. Bullet holes riddle the wall, and the window's been hastily boarded over. Bet it won't help.
There was quite the blowup when production samples of Now Playing Series 3 finally showed up. The pictures were horrible, and made the toys look like crap. Well, having seen the figures in person, I can tell you they look a lot better than those pictures, but still not as good as the prototypes. Fortunately, the Dog Soldier turned out all right. No gaps in the sculpt, no undue loss of quality in the paint or accessories... this is a good puppy. Yes he is! Yes he is! In fact, this might be the best werewolf action figure around.
What's your favorite werewolf movie? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.