Dog Soldiers

Director Neil Marshall, Producers Christopher Figg & Tom Reeve, Noel Gay / Pathe - 2002

Although "Dog Soldiers" was set in Scotland it was shot in Luxembourg due to the great tax incentives their government offered, the down side was that there were no Scottish cottage locations to use. This gave me an opportunity to design and build our own one that worked perfectly for the Writer/Director Neil Marshall's vision of atmosphere and action. A structure was built from scaffolding, clad with timber, plaster and fake slate tiles on the roof. Windows glazed, smoke from the chimneys, creepers growing up the walls, curtains hung behind windows and dressing on the sills.

Only the front and left side of the house were built after looking at the scripted action. Small pieces of set were built inside the facade so actors could run into the entrance hall and also climb out of upstairs windows. The film was set at night, and that's when the house really came to life complete with smoke pouring from the chimney and lights placed behind the closed curtains.

The interiors of the house were constructed in the studio. I built an amount of the houses exterior around the doors and windows to allow the camera space to view the action inside from the attacking Werewolves view, creeping around the grounds. I increased the scale of the rooms by 10% to allow easier movement, but not so much that the audience would notice.

I tried to use as many authentic elements in the set construction as possible, pictured above are worn wooden stairs, wobbly plastered walls and real stone floor. The sets were dressed with the cluttered belongings of the owners, giving indications to the number of inhabitants, their characters and how long they've lived there. During the action packed shoot almost everything was destroyed or splattered in blood. Ceilings and walls were fixed solidly so that it was shot more like a confined location than a set with movable walls for big lights.

Although a design theme ran throughout the house sets I wanted the rooms easily distinguishable from each other as the action moves between different parts at a very fast pace. This is seen best in these three rooms; the bathroom, the living room and the master bedroom. The Bathroom was a pale chalky blue, which gave it a cold unwelcoming atmosphere dressed with a grubby, chipped old white basin, bath and water heater.

The Living Room was one of the first rooms seen inside the house, a warm traditional space  with open log fire, books and framed photos of the "family" who live there. The Master Bedroom was almost a fairy tale bedroom with warm dusty pink walls and a large welcoming bed with plumped up lace-edged pillows. Some horrific scenes take place in this room and I wanted this to contrast with the coyness. The kitchen was crammed full of dressing indicating this is the main living space in the house and the amount of time the family had lived there. 

The film ends with a massive explosion that destroys the Scottish farmhouse. I felt this best achieved as a scale model. A perfect 3ft (1m) high replica was built in the Luxembourg studios of the house, the surrounding forest and half destroyed yellow Land Rover outside. Five cameras caught the explosion, some over-cranked to show the event in slow-motion. Dynamic angles were chosen to increase the drama to the extent of some debris hitting the camera lens.

Actual house set

Model built for explosion

Final scene in the movie when the one surviving soldier climbs out of the debris. The exterior house on location was cut apart and dressed with real and polystyrene rubble.