Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Wolfman - Review

With all the films classified as 'horror' these days such as [Rec], Let The Right One In, The Hills Have Eyes, Paranormal Activity or even the Saw series, you seldom ever encounter a modern film that takes on the old school horror tales. The only worth noting are possibly Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1992 and the loose follow up - which was produced by Coppola - Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in 1994.

With vampires currently dominating TV and cinema screens as of late, it was time to shift to another old school horror monster in the form of The Wolfman - starring seasoned pros Benico Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins.

Set in the 1880s, the film mostly keeps the same plot of the original 1941 classic, with stage actor Lawrence Talbot returning to his original home in search for his missing brother, while being reunited with his mysterious father. Through a series of events and an encounter with a vicious beast Lawrence begins to see himself transform into probably know how that one turns out.

Purely because it has been years since I have seen a film such as The Wolfman I actually found it quite refreshing on the initial viewing. However, it was hardly the most original you are ever likely to see, you only have to dive into the hundreds of Hammer Horror compilation box-sets to get a similar feel, but that doesn't mean the film did not lack tonnes of atmosphere as well as an enjoyable ensemble of actors.

Benico Del Toro lead the line well as Lawrence, his usually broody self lent to the character's struggle and personal tragedies despite the story telling being a tad clumsy and convoluted. Anthony Hopkins' similarly played on his more famous character traits from his stints in the Hannibal Lecter films. The two main supporting actors were in my opinion the most interesting, Hugo Weaving as the clean cut Inspector Francis Aberlin - a play on the name Fredrick Abberline who was the main investigator into the real life Jack The Ripper murders, as well as, the elegantly beautiful Emily Blunt in the role of Gwen Conliffe, with whom Talbot falls in love.

Just because the film is essentially a remake, it did not need to keep the ridiculously overdramatic score - really couldn't they have got someone else besides Danny Elfman for once - along with such cringe worthy moments such as the werewolf howling at the moon during a tense scene in London. The blood, guts and gore factor was quite pleasingly turned up at 11 during the more violent moments in keeping with the old school merits of the horror genre at its height in the 70s and 80s, while the most uncomfortable scenes of watching the transformation of the werewolf reminded me of such films as An American Werewolf in London.

In terms of style and over all presentation, the Gothic feel of 19th century England created the film's dark atmosphere beautifully, reminiscent of one of my favourite Tim Burton films Sleepy Hollow. You could almost imagine if Guy Ritchie ever opts to do an adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles in his rebooted Sherlock Holmes series that many of the settings and locations seen in The Wolfman would indeed not look out of place.

Final Thoughts
Director Joe Johnston performed duties admirably in creating a stylish and even at times enjoyable, Burton-esque remake of the classic horror tale, though the cast were 'fine' the film itself was largely unremarkable. If it cut out the tired cliches that made this genre dated to begin with then possibly there is indeed a future and a demand for these types of movies, but until that moment where we get a 'Christopher Nolan' or 'Peter Jackson' to tackle such a film, with a genuine passion and new lease of life for the project, then I'm afraid its back to the grave for the 'Universal Monsters' for the time being. Shame.


See This If You Like...
Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Sleepy Hollow

The Wolfman is in cinemas everywhere now.

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