Craig J. Clark — Sep. 18th 2013
Ever since I first saw how the scenario played out in 1995’s Project: Metalbeast, I’ve never understood why anybody would think turning soldiers into werewolves (or vice versa) is a good idea. I mean, I get that werewolves are unstoppable killing machines, but they’re also uncontrollable killing machines — and giving one a metal exoskeleton is just plain begging for trouble. Even if the feral creatures in Syfy’s Battledogs aren’t metal-plated, they’re still highly unsuitable for military use, but you just try telling that to lieutenant general Dennis Haysbert, who’s willing to put the entire island of Manhattan at risk if that’s what it takes for him to get hairy super-soldiers.
The directorial debut of Alexander Yellen, cinematographer of such Asylum classics as Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus and Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus, and boasting a teleplay by Shane Van Dyke of Titanic II and Transmorphers: Fall of Man fame, Battledogs opens with an outbreak of lycanthropy at JFK International when an airline passenger, wildlife photographer Ariana Richards (the little girl from Jurassic Park, all grown up), spontaneously turns into a ravenous, four-legged (and unfortunately entirely CGI) beast and starts attacking her fellow travelers. Some of them die, but many more don’t, and the survivors are quick to change themselves, which is how the situation quickly snowballs. Much to the relief of president Bill Duke, the military is on the scene in a jiffy and gets things under control and the infected quarantined, which is when by-the-books Army medical researcher Craig Sheffer and CDC official Kate Vernon get involved, much to the annoyance of Haysbert and, by extension, his right-hand man, Wes Studi.
The only other actor of any note is Ernie Hudson, who plays JFK’s director of security and is keen to show off their state-of-the-art hologram surveillance system when Sheffer comes by in search of any clues that will lead them to the identity of the Lupine Virus’s Patient Zero. When Haysbert seizes the opportunity to test one of his unwilling recruits in the wild, Sheffer reveals himself to be the Werewolf Whisperer — a gift that comes in handy on more than one occasion — but he doesn’t really get a clue until all the major players (with the exception of Duke, who’s off doing something presidential) are gathered together in a cramped operating room and Haysbert lays his cards on the table. Eventually we reach the point where Sheffer and Haysbert have both been infected and start whaling on each other, but the film takes its sweet time getting there. In the meantime, we get to watch the spectacle of a bunch of computer-generated werewolves get mowed down on the streets of Manhattan. That’s nothing, though, compared to the spectacle of a fleet of CGI jets blowing up all of the bridges leading out of the city. Now I can’t wait for Battledogs 2: Escape from New York to be announced.
Next Up: We check in with a werewolf based out of our nation’s capital.