Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving
When The Wolfman came out in 2010, it was to the widespread dismay of horror buffs and critics everywhere. Unfortunately, this homage/remake to the Universal Wolfman monster movies is less lycanthrope, more lycanth-nope. Set in 1891 in the village of Blackmoor (the blackest of the moors), young nobleman Ben Talbot gets ripped from limb from limb on the night of a full moon. His bereaved, go-getting fiancé Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) sends for Ben’s brother, one Lawrence Talbot, a renowned London actor, to aid in the investigation. Playing the illustrious Shakespeare buff is a blunderingly miscast Benicio Del Toro (What is this, A South-American Werewolf in London!?) A craggy Anthony Hopkins features as Sir John Talbot, a man so manly that he wears tigers instead of clothes. Hugo Weaving also pops up as real life Scotland Yard detective and Jack the Ripper investigator, Frank Abbaline. He’s nuts, but boy he can order a pint.
The narrative revelations of The Wolfman are easier to predict than the phases of the moon, and the flimsy, exposition heavy script is over-acted to boot. When the werewolf first strikes, he does so with gusto; the beast’s shrouded, gut-slicing rampage through a gypsy camp is as viscerally gory as it is merciless, but they’ve blown their furry load far too early and it’s the only scary scene. The malevolently veiled threat of the werewolf is tantamount to its terror, and more is less when it comes to the big reveal. Multiple extended full (moon) frontals of the beast have a de-clawing effect on the suspense. Following the first proper transformation scene (shoddily computer generated due to time constraints), the horror soon devolves into slapstick mess.
It’s actually through the music that The Wolfman really bares it’s teeth. Old-school sound effects and *howling* winds lend the film a creaking, ominous tone as the camera hurtles through the bleak, barren acres of Blackmoor estate. Danny Elfman’s mournful score is the real winner of the show, though. Inspired by Ford Coppola’s Dracula (1992), it soars with bloody expectation and abounds with gothic pomp – the overture is delightfully iconic, evoking the canine dread of this very finest of monster myths.
Now onto the An American Werewolf in London comparisons, of which there are many. The Wolfman clearly has a deep respect for Landis’ 1981 landmark, often to a fault. AWIL’s Oscar winning makeup artist Rick Baker is back for a start; he apparently got the job by personal request, and he bagged another Academy Award for his troubles – admittedly, the practical effects are excellent, but they’re spoiled later on by a tsunami of CGI. David Schofield, famous for his ‘You made me miss!’ accusation as Dart Player Number 1 in AWIL, gets a brief cameo, but this time round he’s less a Slaughtered Lamb patron more like a lamb to the slaughter. Director Joe Jonhnston even copied AWIL’s infamous double-nightmare sequence…TWICE! If this ode to AWIL is anything to go by, then the potential re-make that John Landis recently approved doesn’t even bear (or wolf) thinking about.
Joe Johnston’s The Wolfman is a poorly handled, terribly edited rehash of a Universal classic, which falls just short of Van Helsing in terms of the ‘how- did- this- get- made?’- ness. Soundtrack is great though – this cannot be emphasised enough, and it almost makes up for having to watch the film.