The Wolfman (2010)

0

Remakes and sequels and adaptations are all the rage now, because Hollywood is quickly running out of ideas. However, when a company like Universal, a company known for their classic horror films decides to remake one of the most loved films in its catalogue, chances are it will work, right?

Inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, The Wolf Man brings the myth of a cursed man back to its iconic origins. Oscar winner Benicio del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, a haunted nobleman lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father (Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins), Talbot sets out to find his brother… and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself.

It’s obvious Universal tried to recapture the lightning in the bottle after the success of its Mummy franchise re-ignited by Van Helsing director Stephen Sommers. However, The Wolfman unfortunately is a victim of too much meddling from high up in the food chain at Universal. The stories you can find on the internet about such things like an electronic score and company editing don’t paint a pretty picture about the film.

It’s not actually a bad film, but the original, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. still remains top dog. Benecio del Toro plays Larry Talbot with such pain that it’s almost hard to sympathise with him, he’s a bit in a world of his own, detached from everyone else. Emily Blunt is a beautiful woman and fantastic actor but she seemed to be weepy all the time, with eyes constantly watery or full-on crying, and Anthony Hopkins gives what is quite possibly the worst performance he’s ever given. From the trailers I could tell that he was hiding a big secret, and I knew what that was and I was correct when I view this film – but if you have interest in watching this I won’t ruin it for you. The inclusion of Hugo Weaving’s Aberline makes the whole thing a bit crowded, and I didn’t find his character necessary at all.

Rick Baker’s make-up is top form, as usual, but it still seems to be missing something, and I can’t quite put my finger on what that is. It’s a gory film, and a modern version of the original film despite being set in Victorian England – think Sherlock Holmes with Saw-like bloodbaths.

The extended cut feels a bit slow while the theatrical cut gives no real introduction the characters to get us, the audience, involved. The extended cut should be for those who want to try to get involved with the characters while the theatrical cut should please those who just want to see blood splash across the screen.

If there’s any major problems with this, it’s that the film-makers tried to make The Wolfman more psychological and have more depth than the original 1941 film, but how is it that the original film, while cheesy by today’s standards, remains much more effective? Because less is more. Three skulls.

Audio:
All spoken languages are in Dolby Digital 5.1. A Descriptive Video Service is provided for the visually impaired. A loud track, it gives the film a pumping audio experience. The front side speakers and rear speakers give a good sense of place, providing a good epic, horror soundscape to put the audience in. Quite possibly the best audio I’ve heard on Blu-Ray. Five skulls.

Video:
It’s a bit difficult to judge the video on this disc. It’s a very recent film, and therefore looks good, but it also has a bit of softness to it, especially in close-up shots. I don’t know if this is intentional or not, but more often than not, the video it pretty nice to look at. Four skulls.

Features:
A handful of features accompany The Wolfman on Blu-Ray, and most feel like EPK material. Two-and-a-half skulls.

  • Alternate Endings Two alternate endings are provided, and both are slight variations of one another. The ending is pretty much the same as in the finished film, but what happens to Gwen and Lawrence are the slight changes.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Lawrence Talks With Gwen, Singh’s Story, Extended Mausoleum Transformation, Extended London Chase, Extended Final Fight To cut a long story short, should these have been integrated back into the film, it would have made it much more convoluted and much more crowded in content.
  • Return of The Wolfman is a twelve minute puff piece with everyone involved speaking in very Freudian terms about the story and pulling it off as if the film has much more meaning that it actually has.
  • The Beast Maker is about Rick Baker and his make-up, along with his love for the Universal Monster Movies that got him into make-up design
  • Transformation Secrets is a featurette about the visual effects. Another piece claiming “we wanted the effects to not overtake the story, but here’s this featurette about how awesome our effects are”.
  • The Wolfman Unleashed is a featurette about the stunts and action scenes in the film.
  • U-Control (on theatrical cut only) is most facts about the Wolfman and its legacy, with a few cut-away videos with people such as Rick Baker talking us through select scenes. I’m not a fan of U-Control, but the cut away videos interrupt the viewing of the film and when the video is finished, you’ve skipped ahead a few minutes in the film.
  • Steelbook casing

Overall:
The Wolfman is disappointing remake, but after the tonne of remakes and adaptations Hollywood has thrown at us, it’s not exactly surprising. It’s a shame the whole father/son relationship bogs down a tragic and romantic story. It’s a decent film, but it’s also a relative non-event. Go buy the original film instead. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar

0

It’s interesting what you find when you aren’t looking for anything in particular. I’m the kind of person that researches almost everything I buy; I want to make sure I’m not copped out. However, I saw this book sitting on the shelf in Big W and thought: “Hey, this looks interesting.” I continued to read the blurb and thought: “I’m interested.” There was no excitement over reading it, no feelings of having to trudge through it; I went into it with an open mind. Luckily, this chain of events has proven to be quite fruitful: thanks to author Martin Millar, his crazy cast of werewolves, supernatural creatures and humans just trying to live from paycheque to paycheque provide a fascinating template for a story bubbling with taking the familial throne, hurt lovers, violent battles and enraged fashion clients.

I read in an interview that Lonely Werewolf Girl came about because Buffy The Vampire Slayer (a show I must admit I weened and teenaged through) ended on that fateful night in 2003 as Sunnydale ker-ploded into oblivion. However, like that theory that The Big Bang was a destruction of a previous universe,leading to the creation of this universe, Buffy’s end brought about another tough, though flawed girl surrounded by the supernatural: Kalix MacRinnalch. However, there are no vampires (yet) and our hero (or is it anti-hero?) is, in fact, a werewolf.

Just like the Joss Whedon-created supernatural show, Lonely Werewolf Girl is not without its drama or comedy. It’s a well-written prose about, well, people, at its core, and the relationships, positive or negative, that those people have between each other.

What works so well about this, and it’s usual in books written in the third-person, is that Millar gets into his character’s heads: he tells the reader what the characters are thinking, whether whatever they’re thinking about his characters agree or disagree with.

The book is a rip-roaring tale set in London (prior to reading the novel, I believed it was set somewhere in America…perhaps I just completely glossed over the fact that it even says London in the blurb? Oh, the ignorance…) It’s a refreshing tale set in London in a market populated by either bloodthirsty, monstrous vampires (Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain, the recent Daybreakers), sexually driven mysteries (True Blood) or teenage sparkly “vampires” (do I really need to say what I’m referencing here?), Millar’s Lonely Werewolf Girl breathes air into my favourite supernatural creature by providing a fine landscape for his characters to inhabit, and has also developed an almighty mythology the MacRinnalch clan adheres by, giving a true sense of history to the family and the universe he’s built up.

The inclusion of humans may not be surprising in this day and age of interweaving vampires and werewolves with humans (again, True Blood, Twilight, Underworld, and Buffy, of course), but what Millar does with these characters, unlike that author who wrote stories about a superhuman vampiric sparkler, is that he gives his characters dimensions, flaws, addictions, jealousy and other feelings no character should really be without, because that’s what we relate to as humans. We all have flaws, addictions and jealousy, no matter how much we try to pretend we don’t. Millar makes his characters real, and makes you care about them no matter how wooden they try to make themselves (one particular werewolf named Dominil is cold, and seemingly uncaring of events around her, but of course we get into her head to see why she is in fact this way). It truly makes for great reading.

However, not all is well. The edition I read, a recent Australian release, has a few errors in it, but do not fret – Martin Millar knows all about this. It seems that the house that published it didn’t get the memo though…no matter, you still understand what’s going on and absolutely none of the errors are major. Calling the errors ambitious to be minor errors would in itself be an overstatement. You notice them, and then proceed reading the book.

I can’t get over how much I liked this book. At the beginning I cringed at how many times Millar introduced a new character that it felt as if every single chapter would be introducing new characters (and there are 236 chapters, sure they’re only one to two pages, but still), but once the plot actually kicks in and the clockwork begins to tick away, the story is riveting and the characters’ reactions to what is going on is intriguing, and at times, surprising that you can’t do anything but forgive him as every character has a purpose and a place in this story that the effort Millar went to does actually pay off in the grand finale.

The book deserves a purchase for all fans of werewolves, all fans of the supernatural, all self-respecting fans of literature and anyone who wants to figuratively travel to London to escape this incessant vampire phase. I can’t wait for the sequel, Curse of the Wolf Girl in September this year; four out of five.

An American Werewolf In London (1981)

0

792803Beauty and the beast.

Two Americans are hitch-hiking through England and end up at a pub called “The Slaughtered Lamb”. They notice that a pentagram is carved into the wall and the folk in that pub aren’t the nicest of people.

After leaving the pub, both guys are attacked by something unseen. Perhaps a wolf? Three weeks later, one wakes up in hospital to hear that his friend has died. Only, he hasn’t…Jack appears to David telling him to kill himself to let all those David has killed while he is a werewolf rest in peace.

This film is an odd little gem that may have aged over the years with some ideas being lost over time. John Landis, in one of the features, says he doesn’t classify this as a comedy despite hoping people find it funny, and I think the horror element has been lost in time and it’s more of a comedy than horror. What the horror element has been replaced with is the cool element, as most horror elements are moments showing David either transforming into a werewolf or David as a werewolf, all of which are magnificently awesome, despite not actually being frightening in the least.

The story is a classic story, as Landis says, and in the final scene, with Alex Price running to the werewolf David, I leant over to my brother, who I was watching the film with, and said “King Kong.” It has elements of that, and in this, beauty definitely gets the beast killed.

It’s not unenjoyable, nor is it one you would immediately head towards if you’re after a werewolf movie, but it’s certainly not a horrible film seeing as it has some delicious comedy moments to relish throughout the film, like a scene taking place around a zoo involving bare skin, balloons and a woman’s jacket.

The effects are outstanding for the time, and even I asked myself during the Piccadilly Circus sequence “How the hell did they do that?!” The porno theatre sequence, as well, is fantastic and absolutely hilarious, and ranks in one of my favourite scenes in any movie ever made ever.

Elements of the film are stupid, but elements are also very cool and the entire film ends up being an enjoyable horror-comedy heavily influenced by the original Wolfman in 1940 (setting in England, werewolfism, etc). The scenes in which Jack appears, with each appearance being more decomposed, breathe a great aspect of life into the film and lift those scenes above a lot of other scenes.

The HD DVD disc shows a good, albeit very aged, image with decent sound. The extras, I’ll admit, I haven’t watched all of them. Of the ones I have watched are very generic; the “Interview With john Landis” shows him to be a bit of an eccentric but spritely fellow and providing some insight into how the story was created and stories from behind the scenes. I found “Rick Baker of American Werewolf In London” featurette much more informative and entertaining purely because of the explanations of how the did the effects, and went into deep detail about one of my favourite scenes in the film: the elevator scene. The original featurette provided shows an interesting and bland view of how films were advertised upon their original release and provides an interesting insight into the past.

Commentary with the two Americans of the film, David Naughton and Griffin Dunne (who played David and Jack respectively), with a featurette entitled “Casting of The Hand”, Outtakes, Storyboards and photograph montage are also offered on the disc.

The film is fun and silly and hasn’t really aged well, but is a very enjoyable and silly film to watch with a few horror-fanatic friends of yours to do a Mystery Science Theatre 3000-type screening at your house. It’s silly, funny, and quite self-aware, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Three-and-a-half skulls.

3.5

A new Blu-Ray release entitled the “Full Moon Edition” has recently been released with three new features from Universal.


Skinwalkers (2006)

0

skinwalkersWhere the hell does one begin for this?

I’ll give you a starting point: This sucks. It’s extremely half-arsed attempt at a werewolf movie (if you want to call it that).

You see, two warring factions of werewolves: those who want to stay as werewolves and those who want to go back to humanity, are fighting over a little kid who has the power to end the “curse” of lycanthropy.

What this film never explains, however, is why this child has the power to end the curse. It doesn’t explain why the moon is red over the course of the film. It doesn’t explain why everyone has fifteen various guns (at the least; turning one scene into a modern western with good ol’ grandma weilding a shotgun…or two hand-cannons…I can’t remember which).

Oh, don’t forget the obligatory and unecessary sex scene about twenty minutes in that *really* furthers the story.

This is one of the worst films I’ve seen in quite a while, even by genre standards. I can get into a werewolf movie, honest, but I could not get into this by the slightest, with the exception of the “pretty colours” on screen.

The effects in this seem to have been done by houses that do effects for Sci Fi Channel movies because they were very blatant matte paintings. I’m glad they got Stan Winston’s effects house to do the werewolf make-up. But not all is good in the Land of Stan: the werewolves move like humans.

What?

What is the point in transforming humans into human-looking werewolves when all they will be doing is walking like villains from a poor eighties film?

There’s nothing in this, with the exception of Rhona Mitra (who plays the mother who knows nothing of her “late” husband’s child’s half-arse destiny), that pays off for you watching this. I enjoy watching Rhona act in films but even in this it seems either she re-recorded all her dialogue after the fact as every line she said, the audio seemed to be slightly behind, or they got another actress to record over her lines.

It’s a poorly written, half-heartedly executed film that isn’t even “so bad it’s good”. It’s just bad purely because it takes itself too seriously and one event at the end makes no sense whatsoever.

I can’t recommend this to even the most completist of werewolf movie fans as it’s just not necessary viewing. Go watch Ginger Snaps or something. One star purely for Rhona Mitra, shame her performance was pissed on with poor ADR dubbing and the simple fact she was in a film with a half-baked script.

1