Monday, 15 February 2010

Wolfman's got nards!

I saw The Wolfman last night.

Now, being the major werewolf geek that I am I was really looking forward to this and hoping that, despite the delays and reshoots and dodgy reviews, it wasn’t going to suck.

Guess what? It doesn’t suck.

Despite what some sniffy reviewers will tell you The Wolfman is a fine slice of gothic monster movie mayhem. I enjoyed it a fair bit. Okay, so it's far from a perfect film - you can see the joins where scripts have been cut and pasted together and chunks sliced out - but I did have a howling good time with its camp, gory goofiness. I loved the look of the film with the design and photography being wonderfully gothic and moody and the Rick Baker make-up as excellent as expected. The acting ranged from okay with Del Toro a bit dull when human but great when hairy, to very entertaining in Hugo Weaving to the 'I don't care cuz she's lovely' Emily Blunt. Hopkins is okay as daddy Talbot but seems to be a teensy bit bored by it all. But at least he isn’t overacting. A special shout out to Hugo Weaving as Inspector Abberline who once again reminds us just why he’s such a cool actor. His scene in the pub where he orders a beer and patiently explains to the landlady why he isn’t out hunting the killer is hilarious. Definitely channelling Agent Smith there. Apart from Agent Smith and its overall look, the best stuff in the film are the wolfman rampages - especially the first one in the gypsy camp. That was a truly great sequence where the beast is so fast and mostly in shadow and yet causes so much bloody mayhem.

So what about the actual story?

The Wolfman (2010) bares minimal resemblance to the original 1941 Universal classic with only character names and the basic set-up of estranged son returning home being the same. The new story is fine and adds a bit more depth than the original even if the resulting plot twists are fairly predictable. The pacing is good and nicely swift. Following a very obvious three-act structure, the film whips along at quite a pace with dialogue and character building being sparse so as to quickly get to the…er…guts of the story. Tonally The Wolfman takes itself seriously while also enjoying piling on the lurid bloodletting, flesh rending and limb lopping - all of which is very cool and just how a proper monster movie should be.

Now I gotta say that watching The Wolfman I wasn’t so much reminded of an old Universal horror as I was of a Hammer horror. For despite its serious tone there is also a rather camp feel to the film with its hirsute beasty climbing walls and buildings, leaping around and menacing English yokels who hang out in old taverns and race carriages through dark woods. That combined with the gleeful goofy bloodiness and Del Toro’s admitted homage to the late great Oliver Reed by sporting his haircut from Curse of the Werewolf, The Wolfman, to me, works better as a modern ode to the best of British Hammer. If only there was some heaving lady cleavage then the effect would be complete. Another good point to note is Danny Elfman’s score. It’s probably the best thing he’s done in ages. It is big and dramatic with some nice themes, the main one sounding a lot like the great main theme from Coppola’s Dracula, which helps sell the films grand gothic feel.

Anything I didn’t like? Yep, the use of CGI. The CGI transformation looks exactly how you’d expect a CGI one to look – it looks fake and cartoony. Some people will defend this. I won’t. I just don’t like it. Period. It looks exactly like what it is – computer graphics. However it could have been worse, it could have been Van Helsing. Ugh! And once Del Toro is in full on wolf mode then the CGI (mostly) goes and you get great Baker make-up and some nicely savage gore.

So, in summary, I enjoyed The Wolfman a great deal. It’s a fun ride with a few nice jump scares and a great gloomy gothic look. It zips along while revelling in its gory monster mayhem. It’s not perfect and is not the classic that the original is or comes anywhere near challenging the best werewolf movies for genre supremacy. But for a fun, bloody, gothic romp you could do a whole lot worse.

"Wolfman's got nards" quote courtesy The Monster Squad (1987) AROOOOOOOOO!

1 comment:

  1. 1/ I felt the acting was pretty good. I was relieved Hopkins wasn't hamming it up and equally happy that everybody else was playing it restrained and seriously. Also Joe Johnson helped by not making it boring (as he usually does)

    2/ Not being that familar with either the classic Univerasl monster movies or Hammer Horror (too camp for me to get past, I suspect) I felt the tone of this was spot on.

    3/ The CGI I felt was pretty good. Only the effect of 'dead eye' in the facial transfomations didn't work. Oh and of the close ups of Mr Wolf bounding around (but no ones pulled that shot off recently, from King Kong, Spider-man 3 to Narnia).