The International Writers Magazine: Film Review
The Wolfman (2010)
Directed by Joe Johnston
With problems finding a director and a release date that has seen the film delayed several times things did not bode well for this Universal Pictures horror film remake of ‘The Wolfman’ 1941.
I went to the screening aware of the troubled production but hopeful that with actors like Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt (‘The Devil Wears Prada’, ‘The Young Victoria’) and Hugo Weaving (‘V for Vendetta’, ‘The Matrix trilogy’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’) it might be worth a look after all.
As Lawrence Talbot, Del Toro returns to his ancestral homeland of England after his brother’s fiancée Gwen Conliffe (Blunt) explains to him that his brother has gone missing. Talbot is soon drawn into a darker world as he investigates the disappearance. After surviving an attack by a werewolf Talbot becomes a victim of the ‘Wolfman’s curse.’ He is now destined to turn into a slathering, homicidal lycanthrope every time there is a full moon.
The story is going to be familiar to all horror aficionados and this version of the story is like an old Hammer horror film but with big Hollywood production values and special effects. We have all the usual clichés associated with a film of this kind: gypsies, suspicious and insular villagers, stern doctors, self-righteous clergymen and lynch mobs. Much of the films action takes place in mist shrouded woods or moorland. It all ‘looks’ great. The production design, costume, sets and locations will convince the viewer that they are back in late nineteenth century England. So far, so good.
The transformation scenes, crucial to the plot and success of the film are handled with aplomb thanks to make-up veteran Rick Baker (‘The Howling’ and ‘An American Werewolf in London’). One scene in particular where Talbot is being held in captivity works particularly well. In fact an early werewolf attack on a gypsy camp is excellent. This riveted the audience I was sat with, all I can say is that this film is not for the faint hearted. There is plenty of graphic blood and gore and anyone with a weak stomach should stay away. Limbs and heads are frequently severed and entrails ripped out.
With quick cuts and blasts of loud sound to emphasise the shocks and the frights this has a lot going for it. When the action and shocks come it is a pure adrenalin ride as all good Horror films should be. Sadly, where this film falls down is in the performances. I was disappointed by how flat and pedestrian the actors were. It is clear that this has gone through rewrites and re-edits. There is a distinctly disengaged air to proceedings. I was expecting the story to pack a much greater emotional punch than it did. I found that I did not really care about the central characters, which is unforgivable in a film like this. In the original Lon Chaney Jr managed to elicit great sympathy in his performance as a guilt wracked decent man suffering under the curse. In this version it is the emotional equivalent of watching chess pieces being moved around a board.
I’m also afraid to say that despite great action scenes in Victorian London the film does descend into farce later on. There are some unintentional laughs here, something which every film in this genre should be at great pains to avoid.
That said, it might not be the best horror film I have seen or even the best werewolf film I have seen for that matter, but as pure entertainment it is fine. Go and see this for the pulsating action, excellent special effects and production values.