What is it all about?
Four friends gather at an elegant home during the Summer of Love, 1969. Unbeknownst to them, deadly visitors are waiting outside. What begins as a simple farewell party turns to a night of primal terror as the intruders stalk and torment the four, who struggle for their lives against what appears to be a senseless attack
Wolves At The Door finally arrives in the UK on the back of some horrible reviews, most notably for the way it deals with the subject matter on hand, which to be honest is a bit unfair. Yes, while you may get a horrible taste in the mouth, knowing that what we are watching did happen, this is not the first film to tackle the notorious real life Manson family murders from the 60’s and it won’t be the last, especially with Quentin Tarantino currently planning his version.
What I will say and I have seen a few films based on this shocking incident, is that while at times this horror doesn’t just dip its toes into the slasher pool, but puts both feet in, its well acted, with some creepy moments that will make some of you question the many savage reviews that have came with this film.
For a start, the opening 10 minutes is absolutely terrific. I can not express how impressed I was with a slasher set up that had me sitting up in awe. Creepy, claustrophobic and downright terrifying, a couple are awoken to the sound of someone knocking their front door and the tension that comes from this sequence is one of the best offerings I have seen in 2017. Its that good!
We then switch to the real life case with Arrow’s Kate Cassidy playing the Hollywood Actress Sharon Tate, having dinner with a few friends that include Abigail ( Elizabeth Henstridge), Jay (Miles Fisher) and Wojciech (Adam Campbell). Many of you will know the sad story that follows. They drive off too a place in LA, where members of the Manson Family await in the darkness to shockingly kill them all, especially poor Tate who was heavily pregnant at the time.
The real case itself is more scary and downright awful that no film can ever recapture the true nightmare that unfolded that night, but to be fair to director John R Leonetti, he does manage to grab an air of dread throughout the build up and thanks to the strong acting involved, you do actually care about these people, even though a feeling of despair comes from the knowledge that there will be no happy outcome for all involved.
Its when the events start that the film will either lose or grab you. I can understand why some critics have poured scorn on what happens, because Leonetti more or less plays the film like a proper slasher, in which the killers hide in the shadows, appear walking across hallways like Michael Myers, staying silent but love to tease by flickering on lights, TV’s, the usual cliche blueprint that we have seen for many of years. At times you do wonder if you are watching The Strangers 2, as the film resemblances that 2008 film more than I expected it too, before I sat down and watched.
Is portraying such a horrific case like this in bad taste? Only you can decide that. For me personally, at times it was hard to try and enjoy the film, knowing that someone like Tate suffered this ordeal, so after a while, I tried to just look at this as a Slasher film, because this is what Leonetti clearly wanted it to be and does it work that way?
Well at times, yes! The killers whose faces are obscured throughout are menacing nemesis, more like supernatural malevolent forces than what we have seen of them before. There are respected moments of tension that ticks all the boxes but ultimately, if you are going to make a slasher movie then you need a proper end result to the build up that you’ve created. This is where Leonetti loses his nerve and to be fair to him, thankfully he did.
We can sit back and laugh when Jason and Michael are on their rampage, but when we have a screaming Cassidy in the role of an actress that actually suffered this, then perhaps its best we don’t see the outcome that followed, even though some other characters don’t get given the same onscreen treatment. Even then Leonetti wisely decides to keep the killings low key, which will appease those already dissatisfied at the film, but then disappoint the gore-hounds who wanted the carnage to go with what he created.
Basically Wolves At The Door is a very much mixed bag. The acting is great and like I’ve said, it offers plenty of perfect slasher building tension. But by using a true life case, really hinders your enjoyment. Its not the one star rating that many reviews have given it, but its also not in the same vein as such other great home invasion movies like Funny Games and the recent Hush.
If this was made with a total different set of characters, set in modern times, then perhaps it would find more love, but as it stands, there are much better films out there based on these infamous murders, but at the same time it offers much more than the hundreds of home invasion horrors that have came out since Peter asked to borrow an egg from Ann.
There are three categories that you will fall into for your enjoyment of this film. You either a Newcomer of horror not knowing this tale and will probably sit back and gasp at what is unfolding or you’ve seen so many that you be sickened by the use of such an infamous case. Or you be like myself, not sure if this was a good idea, but admire the attempt at horror and as the credits roll will be wondering what QT will come up with, when he finally tackles this subject matter.
Wolves At The Door is now available to buy on Digital Download from Talk Talk TV and numerous other outlets!