The British writer/director of horror Neil Marshall struck gold when his low-budget 2002 gorefest Dog Soldiers revitalized the werewolf genre. Born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England, on May 25, 1970, Marshall developed an affinity for the bloodcurdling at a tender age. At five or six years old, his folks let him stay up past his bedtime and watch Frankenstein on TV; the kid was hooked, not only by the pic's ability to scare him but by its ability to help him empathize with the monster. He subsequently dove headfirst into the genre, soaking up as many frightfests as he could (The Shining, The Omen, John Carpenter's The Thing, and others) and made Super 8 mm films as an adolescent with his best friend, "shooting, editing, special effects, the lot. And along the way we learned so much from making so many mistakes."
Film school in Newcastle and a thesis effort, the short Brain Death, followed. Not long after graduation, Marshall temporarily took the reins of an editing career, cutting the features Driven (1994) and Killing Time (1998). He envisioned his debut feature, Dog Soldiers, as "a soldiers versus werewolves movie," and made it simply because he wanted to see a supernatural horror-battleground hybrid, a genre blend no one else had produced or was producing. Shot in the early 2000s, the picture achieved international release in 2002. It watches a British army platoon traipse across the Scottish highlands and become penned in by a pack of ravenous lycanthropes. Marshall insisted on editing the picture himself, and thus shot "for the edit," à la Bogdanovich, often cutting in mid-take. The picture became a cult hit with a ravenous following; Marshall later commented on it: "I'm amazed by its cult status and very chuffed. It's a quirky horror film with lashings of gore and plenty of laughs, perfect for a post-pub session with a few cans. To me, Dog is part horror movie, siege movie, war movie, and Western all rolled into one. There are so many homages to Westerns like The Wild Bunch and Rio Bravo, but nobody ever seems to pick up on those!"
Another horror piece, The Descent, appeared in the States in 2006. It began with Marshall's notion of a spelunking expedition that descends into carnality and madness when the explorers are confronted with an otherworldly terror (beings known as "the Crawlers"), and Marshall's associate's concept of enlisting an all-female cast as his protagonists and victims topped it off. Marshall assembled a multiethnic ensemble, including Saskia Mulder, Shauna MacDonald, Natalie Mendoza, and others, as his central cast. He shot the picture at the infamous Pinewood Studios in London, England, on a budget of three and a half million pounds, and it was released in the U.K. in the summer of 2005, hitting the U.S. a year later.
Marshall followed up The Descent with plans to do several projects, notably the action thriller Doomsday, a post-apocalyptic tale in the vein of Escape From New York and Mad Max. Variety listed Marshall in its "Ten Directors to Watch," and wrote: "There are some directors, such as Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino, whose genius lies in their ability to shoot their movies in a big but intimate way. It's a bit early to mention Marshall in the same breath, but that same quality of complete identification with the audience has established him, with Dog Soldiers and The Descent, as the most exciting genre filmmaker to arrive on the British scene for many years."