Movie Review: The Wolfman
The Wolfman is back, trying to reclaim its spot in a pop culture landscape that has recently been dominated by vampires. The latest retelling of the classic tale stars Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbolt, a famous stage actor who returns home to his estranged father’s mansion after the mysterious murder of his brother. It seems that something has been wreaking havoc on the small village, and no one knows what it could be. Is it a crazy lunatic? A bear? Or the devil himself? Well, if you have seen the trailers (or simply read the title of the movie) it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out.
Things get even worse for Lawrence when he is attacked by his brother’s murderer during the beast’s next rampage on the town. Lawrence is able to survive the attack, though, as he suffers a mere flesh wound compared to the number the beast did on his brother. The bite instead curses Lawrence with the disease of becoming a Wolfman, much to the chagrin of the townsfolk.
Anthony Hopkins, who has become a glorified character actor in recent years, plays the father. He is the source of much of Lawrence’s inner torment, and we see the effects of his neglect through various flashback and dream-like episodes. Emily Blunt, as the girlfriend of the recently deceased brother, finds herself in the middle of the whole mess. She and Lawrence develop a fondness for one another, and she might be his only hope to reverse the curse. She also narrates much of the story. Hugo Weaving rounds out the impressive cast as a certified monster hunter, hell-bent on slaying the beast. All four of the major players are well-cast and do quite fine in their roles.
The Wolfman features enough blood and guts to satisfy even the most gore-thirsty of horror fans. It also does a good job of not overdoing the effects, keeping the film fairly modest instead of turning it into another computer generated disaster. The atmospheres look great and while I’m not entirely sure why it is always so damned foggy there, I suppose it adds to the atmosphere. Maybe it is because the story is all too familiar, but the movie doesn’t create suspense or thrill the way you would expect it to. The film’s frights are heavily reliant on the all too familiar jump scares, which really don’t seem to have a place in this type of gothic horror.
The problem with The Wolfman, and werewolf movies in general, is that the character simply isn’t as interesting as a vampire. Whereas vampires need to feed on humans to survive, the Wolfman kills purely for the sport of it. Lawrence’s father gives him plenty of reasons to be angry, but why does the rest of the community deserve to be slaughtered? The Wolfman is a ruthless killing machine that is completely unaware of the harm he is causing, so the character doesn’t have the emotional depth or complexity to provide the basis for a thoroughly engaging story.
The Wolfman delivers the blood-soaked B-horror fun that makes for a fun diversion, but lacks the weight to heighten the werewolf’s status as a distant second for the mainstream freak of choice.
RIYL: Interview with the Vampire, An American Werewolf in London.