Friday, March 5, 2010

The Wolfman (2010)

With the poor performance at the box office, not to mention its delayed release, one might think The Wolfman isn’t worth checking out. On the contrary, however, it is a stunning film that even makes you forget it’s a remake. Its gorgeous gothic visuals (stark trees against a full moon, a decaying estate holding onto its stately yet tragic past, fog shrouded moors, dank dungeons) perfectly set the mood of the dark, tragic tale set in 1891 in England.

Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro), renowned actor, is called back to his childhood home by his brother’s wife Gwen (Emily Blunt), whom he has never met, after his brother goes mysteriously missing. When he arrives and is greeted indifferently by his father (Anthony Hopkins), he learns that his brother’s ravaged body has been found – and looks to have been attacked by wild mad man or ferocious beast. He vows to discover who or what killed his brother, even if it means dredging up painful childhood memories and putting himself in harm’s way.

In a tense and whirlwind attack of a gypsy encampment Talbot is bitten by the beast. He almost dies, but is nursed back to health by Gwen, whom he forms a special bond with. Yet, when he heals completely the townsfolk come around and tell him that on the next full moon he too will become a beast and murder people. He is also paid a visit by Det. Abberline (Hugo Weaving), who suspects that he is responsible for the killings.

To be truthful, I really wasn’t expecting much. I hadn’t heard that much of a buzz behind the film and I saw it in a near empty theater. This is really a pity, because the film is a wonderful homage to the original as well as making the storyline different enough so that it feels like its own movie.

Also, while I wasn’t too keen on Benicio Del Toro as the lead, I was surprised at how quickly I embraced him in his role. Same goes for Anthony Hopkins. Del Toro really made me sympathize with Talbot and his tortured, puppy dog eyes just sold the act even more. I also enjoyed seeing Hopkins in the role of the distant elder Talbot, and though he isn’t given that much to do, he still did a very believable job playing a father with a few skeletons in his closet.

Really, though, we don’t see a werewolf movie solely for the performances – we see it for the action and for the creature effects! And I’m happy and surprised to report that all of these things were fantastic. The film opened with a jarring scene and I felt that the rest of the action sequences (the werewolf’s grisly attack on a gypsy village, a rampage through London, the final hunt and so on) were appropriately paced throughout the film so there wasn’t a dull moment! The creature makeup and special FX looked great (another great job by Rick Baker) and shots of shoddy CGI were so few and far-between they aren’t even worth mentioning. There were also some choice cuts of bloody gore, far more than I was expecting, which should please all you gorehounds out there.

The Wolfman heralds the return of classic horror with its elegance, gothic atmosphere and exciting action. I really cannot comprehend the negative reviews it has been getting – it’s not a rip off of the original (have these people even seen the original?), it’s not boring and it certainly doesn’t “lack bite” (I wonder if they wrote that just cuz they wanted a cute headline), but it’s one of the few good (if not downright great) horror films I’ve seen in a theater for quite some time! I hope people will come to their senses and sniff out The Wolfman, because it is definitely a howling good time!

Available from Amazon!

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