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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Universal says "Happy Valentines Day" to classic monster movie fans with remake of The Wolfman.

The Wolfman
review by Brent Sweeting

3 out of 4 stars

The Wolfman is not a terrifying, "scared to walk to your car after the movie", fright fest. What it is, is an unabashed love letter to the classic Universal horror films. With that goal, it succeeds splendidly.

The plot begins echoing the classic 1941 "The Wolf Man". Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns home to his father's estate after many years abroad in America. Shortly after he arrives, a werewolf attacks him, and he begins to change. He eventually comes to grips with what is happening, but of course everyone thinks he is delusional and in need of psychiatric help. Anthony Hopkins plays his father Sir John Talbot, and Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) plays the fiancée of Lawrence's recently murdered brother. Lawrence hunts down the creature that has killed his brother for most of the movie, and slowly begins unraveling more than he planned. Hugo Weaving (Lord of the Rings,) rounds out the cast as Detective Abberline who doesn't believe in werewolves, but does believe Lawrence is guilty of the recent murders occurring in the town.

The carnage in this film certainly pulls no punches. It is gory and bloody, and at times happens at a frequent rate. What it isn't, however, is scary. This is not a particularly frightening movie at all. It has its moments sure, but for the most part we never really feel any empathy for the victims, and at times even find our selves cheering for the monster. If this movie is short in frights though, it definitely makes up for it in atmosphere.

The people who made this movie obviously have a deep respect and love of classic Universal horror films. The scenery is dark and Gothic, and the woods filled with fog and shadows. There are tons of little Easter eggs in this movie for the fans of the original movie, such as the silver headed wolf cane, the telescope, and the antique museum looks almost identical to the one from the original. There are even some obvious visual references from both the original Dracula and Frankenstein films. What is best about these moments is that the director never takes you out of the story to point them out. Recent movies have handled this in such a sloppy manner. Take the last Indiana Jones film, where you almost feel like Spielberg is saying "wink wink, nod nod, did ya see it? That's the ark!" Joe Johnston the director of The Wolfman never once calls attention to these moments. They are there for those who notice them, and never distracting to those who don't.

The acting is also solid, but subtle. There are no hammy over the top performances, and there are no egocentric actors chewing up the scenery in their best "villain impersonation". The acting is solid all across the cast, and consistent throughout the movie. Best of all, everyone sincerely commits to their characters. You never get the feeling that the cast isn't taking the part seriously just because it's a monster movie.

Monster movies need visual effects, and there is not one werewolf movie to date, that holds up to the kind of creature effects introduced by films like 'Lord of the Rings". The transformations from man to wolf in this film are fantastic. Once the change has occurred however, there is still no denying that you are either looking at an animated character, or what amounts to a man in a wolf suit. The rest of the costumes, sets, and locations are rich and authentic though, so it is easy to let some of the makeup effects slide. Especially since to date no one has done a better job of it. You might think they have in previous werewolf films, but I urge you to give those movies another look today and see if you think they still hold up compared to modern effects movies.

Rounding out the film is another great score by Danny Elfman. Apparently he was part of the production originally, then replaced, and then finally hired back again. The film is definitely better for it. In addition to Elfman, the original director was also replaced shortly before filming. Such a chaotic environment often leads to a poor final product, so it is even more impressive that The Wolfman pulls it all off.

Bottom line, The Wolfman is a definite must see for any fan of classic silver screen horror.

(I'd also highly recommend the classics below that started everything.....)

The Wolf Man - The Legacy Collection (The Wolf Man / Werewolf of London / Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man / She-Wolf of London)Dracula - The Legacy Collection (Dracula / Dracula (1931 Spanish Version) / Dracula's Daughter / Son of Dracula / House of Dracula)Frankenstein - The Legacy Collection (Frankenstein / The Bride of / Son of / The Ghost of / House of)The Mummy - The Legacy Collection (The Mummy/Mummy's Hand/Mummy's Tomb/Mummy's Ghost/Mummy's Curse)The Invisible Man - The Legacy Collection (The Invisible Man/Invisible Man Returns/Invisible Agent/Invisible Woman/Invisible Man's Revenge)Creature from the Black Lagoon - The Legacy Collection (Creature from the Black Lagoon / Revenge of the Creature / The Creature Walks Among Us)

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