Oct 9, 2010

The Wolfman Review AKA Why We Love Werewolves

image from Amazon
Premise:
Benicio del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot, who is reuniting with his father Sir John, played by Anthony Hopkins. Sir John's town has been under frequent attacks from a werewolf, which the town is completely bewildered about how to defend themselves against. Naturally, Lawrence Talbot gets bitten and now the town has two werewolves! The "top dog" on the case (pardon the pun) is Inspector Aberline, played by Hugo Weaving, but he's a pretty heavy skeptic on this whole "werewolf" fooey.


Standouts:
The werewolf at the beginning of the film was painfully CGI, to the point I thought the entire movie would be awful. For a remake of the 1941 film by the same name, I wanted to see some heavy cosmetic makeup and fur, darn it! I don't care if actors today aren't as dedicated as they used to be to sit under a chair for hours on end while they get made-up, I'm the market! Thankfully when del Toro changes (which is always an awesome staple to transformation films - the transformation scene), he's full-out pretty in cosmetic, latex and fur, and the majority of all werewolf scenes in the film follow suit. But the beginning was so tiresome. There was so much family drama, mourning the dead, dark and foggy locations with nothing but talk that I felt like I was watching Sleepy Hollow starring Johnny Depp. It was far too convoluted than I wanted, even if the actors were great.


My Highlights:
Every werewolf killing spree was done immaculately, and there are quite a few of them so you really get your money's worth. Also, the big werewolf vs. werewolf fight scene is incredible! Really utilized the full arsenal of the situation.


Overall Rating:
Because the story was so lagging, I have to knock quite a few points off from this film. The actions scenes were spectacular but I can only award the film 3 ¼ *'s out of 5, or 6 ½ *'s out of 10, which many would feel is very generous.


When You Should See It:
I think this film has just the right amount of SHOCK-HORROR! scenes to make for a good, scary, Halloween horror movie night flick. It's gory, it's brutal, and at times it's even mentally chilling without the FLASH-SCARY! scenes. So give this a rent close to Halloween, if not on the night.




POST-REVIEW EXAMNINATION OF WEREWOLF CULTURE!

After watching the film The Wolfman, I was motivated to write what I was looking for in a werewolf film so every Hollywood film maker has a format. I did a similar blog for Zombies.

1) Immorality! The appeal to turning into a mindless beast who loses all humanity is exactly that! Freud broke up the brain into three parts - "The Super-Ego" served as conscious and morality, the angel on your shoulder, and the constant whiner. "The ID" served as the animal urges, the devil on your shoulder, satisfaction is the only thing important be it sex, food, violence or sleep, just do it! "The Ego" served as the sense of self, the mediator, the head between the shoulders who decides who to listen to and when. Werewolves have one part of the brain! The ID! Rape! Pillage! Plunder! Murder! Feast! That's it. That's all werewolves should do. What a werewolf would want to pillage or plunder for, I don't know, but it certainly makes sense in the "just do it, who's going to stop you?" mindset. Everyone would love to drop out of reality and become the guilty pleasures they only commit on the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Animal urges seem to get ignored in a lot of werewolf movies because they're only plug-in monsters to massacre. Well why is it massacring? If it's eating helpless villagers, great! If it's going into town just to massacre... why? Something has to be a motive to transition you to "just do it". And what makes this uncontrollable ID so important to werewolves is that if someone does find a manner to control it, it makes it all that much more important.

2) Immortality! Thankfully The Wolfman got this right. Two things kill werewolves. Everyone knows the first one - silver. Silver bullets, silver daggers, silver shanks, whatever. The second thing that kills them is the same thing that kills everything - absolute destruction. Set a living creature on fire, and it may survive for a while if it's really numb/tough/stupid, but fire burns things up and eventually you're going to die. But if not for these two things - silver and utter destruction of the body, then they're essentially Wolverine from the X-Men. Super healing abilities and slow aging to prolong how dangerous they are.

3) Super strength! That doesn't just mean arms. Yeah, the werewolf swiped at someone and sent him flying, great start, but strength should be distributed. Jowls to crush bones, legs to outrun ANY Olympic track runner. They've got four legs! The front two which I've noticed are often interchangeable with arms, but I'm okay with that. The Wolfman nailed this aspect. If a werewolf didn't want to be seen, he bolted. He'd tear limbs off before you knew you were even in his grasp!

4) Lone Wolves! When you think of Vampire films, the main thing you're looking for is to see who they convert. When you think of Zombie films, you could argue there's more or less importance than in Vampire films about conversion versus utter tear apart and devour. But in werewolf films, I'm not interested in who gets turned into a werewolf! The main werewolf is the big dog in the yard, he should be territorial, aggressive, and a force to be reckoned with on his own! Add another wolf and you get a rivalry! Another, and you've got a pack, but with a pack, the individual becomes less interesting. The leader of the pack might still hold quite a bit of importance, but the other two can only serve as lackeys, even if a mutiny is afoot. Werewolves shouldn't be interested in turning others, or gathering a pack, they should be interested in eating people and not leaving enough of their remains to turn into the better half of a wolf. And if you have more than one werewolf, it's an obligation to have a werewolf fight! But then again that goes for any monster movie - more than one, they better fight eventually. The only exception I've found to this rule was in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, but that was a different feel to it because some of those werewolves were just born super giant wolves with turning powers, while others were people turned into werewolves. But at least that followed monster vs. monster format when they fought the vampires.

5) Interesting humans? Monsters are great in movies, but if the people in the film (who are there to keep the setting grounded in reality so we don't think this is some mystical fantasy world where a cyclops might come out of nowhere and save the day) aren't interesting, then there's no reason to care about the movie at all. Gore is easy these days, Tom Savini doesn't have the monopoly. One of, if not THE most important human in the film should be the werewolf when he's not a werewolf. Guilt? Fear? Regret? Pride? Sacrifice? What's his take on the matter? What would his momma say? Did he eat his momma in some sort of mistaken identity when trying to get to little Red Riding Hood? And who does he associate with when he's human? A love interest? Does he have a human enemy hunting him? Does he really long to be Balto? Who apparently was only half-wolf in the cartoon and not in real life? Or is he not following traditional London-fog werewolf mindframes? The Native Americans, Scandinavians, and pretty much the rest of the world have their own folklore about humans transforming into animals on occasion. But if you're going to market shape-shifting as a horror film, which most do, then you need my five format principles.

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