Nobleman Lawrence Talbot returns from America to his ancestral home in Blackmoor upon hearing of his brother’s disappearence. Either a maniac or a creature is stalking the residents at night. He starts to bond with his father and forms a friendship with his brother’s fiancee, but one night whilst investigating at a gypsy camp, Lawrence is bitten by the creature, and it’s not long before he becomes a monster himself on the night of the full moon…..
With a seemingly endlessly protracted release date [wasn’t it going to be sometime in 2007 first of all?!] and a very troubled production with lots of reshoots, directors and composers leaving and sometimes coming back etc, you’d be forgiven for thinking that The Wolfman is a real dog of a film. Predictably the critics have jumped on it. The film does have it’s problems, but it’s actually very enjoyable if you like really old-school horror with all the cliches you expect-for example there’s a pub where the locals talk of the strange goings-ons. It’s very much like a Universal horror movie of the 30s or 40s though with the colour, gore and a few other things you may find it also resembles a late Hammer film of a Tyburn or Amicus production.
Of course it’s basically a remake of the film of the same name starring Lon Chaney, though I detected influences of the earlier Werewolf Of London and the later Curse Of The Werewolf and An American Werewolf In London. The plot does follow the Chaney film quire closely and is very predictable even if you haven’t seen it, but there are a few changes including a very effective sequence set in an asylum where a silly professor decides to prove his theory, in front of a large audience, that lycanthropy is all in the mind, with Lawrence chained to a chair and the full moon shining in. Big mistake!
There is a fair amount of gore in the werewolf scenes-this wolf man is truly vicious, tearing off heads and ripping out entrails. Some have said this jars with the low-key, old-fashioned feel of the rest of the film, but I’m sure some of the old-time horror movie directors would have shown this stuff if they could, and anyway these sequeces are very suspenseful and exciting with great use made of the effective horror cliche of a potential victim shrouded in fog or darkness and then something suddenly looming in the background. The werewolf looks like a bulky cross between Chaney’s and Oliver Reed’s, and thankfully only seems to be CG when he is [unconvincingly] running. The transformations effectively use CG with prosthetics and have some interesting detail such as seeing the bones change, but still fall short of the horrifying changes in American Werewolf In London despite having been masterminded by Rick Baker.
The film is stunningly photographed by Shirley Johnson with brilliant use of shadows, candles, silhouettes etc., it looks like a Gothic picture book and is the most beautiful looking film of it’s kind since Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Danny Elfman’s score though is a touch uninspired [though it may not be all him] and the acting is a mixed bag. Benicio Del Toro and Emily Blunt seem ill at ease but Hugo Weaving is effectively authoritarian playing the same character that Johnny Depp played in From Hell, and Antony Hopkins looks like he’s having the most fun he’s had in ages. The Wolfman seem to be aiming to be a really powerful and moving Gothic tragedy but it falls rather a little short of that, it’s a bit cold and distant. There is evidence of heavy cutting in the first half which doesn’t help though there are rumours that the missing footage may turn up in a DVD. Still, being totally honest, I thoroughly enjoyed The Wolfman. If, like me, you have fond memories of yourself as a child, being interested in monsters and begging your parents to let you stay up and watch the latest Universal or Hammer double bill on TV [or maybe even sneaking downstairs disobediently to watch it], you may get a real kick out of this film.
Since I wrote this review I have viewed the director’s cut, which is, as I suspected, better. Going against the norm, I give it