Posts Tagged ‘werewolf

07
Jun
10

Movie Review: The Wolfman

Werewolves of 19th century London, ahhh-oooooo…..

Starring Benecio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, and Hugo Weaving. Directed by Joe Johnston

If I were thirteen years old, this would be the awesomest werewolf movie ever made. But, I’m not and it isn’t.

The time and place: late nineteenth century England. Gwen Conliffe (Blunt) is writing a letter to her brother-in-law, Lawrence Talbot (del Toro). Her husband Ben, Lawrence’s brother, was mauled by something in the forest late one night. The police aren’t sure who or what did it and the speculation (this being post-Jack the Ripper) is that it was some sort of madman. However, giant claw marks and the fact that only half his body were recovered from a ditch suggest a “werewolf.” With no real leads and the fact that you just can’t get a “werewolf” lineup down at the station it’s all just hearsay and rumor, but everyone is pretty sure it was a werewolf.

Lawrence arrives at his boyhood home, a giant castle that he was initially sent away from. He was sent abroad to New York City and studied theater, his last production being “Hamlet.” With the murder of his brother shrouded in mystery, he plans on getting to the bottom of what really happened. He’s greeted by his father Sir John (Hopkins), a man who he doesn’t so much despise as feels detached from. Sir John has a dog as well as a servant named Singh (Art Malik). We find out later that he sent Lawrence to an asylum for a year before sending him abroad to America. If my own father did that to me I would never speak to him again.

Upon meeting Gwen again we realize the two have something between them. Yes, she’s his sister-in-law currently living on his creepy father’s residence but they have feelings for each other, or else why did she bother writing him? Not really sure on that one, but now is not the time to question story or plot.

Lawrence finds that his brother was a liaison between the gypsies and the townspeople. He heads to the camp to find out more info when suddenly it’s attacked by a fierce, malevolent creature (or, a werewolf). Shots are fired, people run around, there’s a lot of bloodletting and amputees… Going into the fog-filled forest Lawrence is attacked but saved by the main gypsy woman who knows that he’ll eventually become a werewolf. Maybe she took the Hippocratic Oath…

He’s sent back home and wakes up days later after having some intense CG-filled dreams (and one that questions how his mother had died). He had some claw marks left on his neck but other than that, he checks out alright. His father has shifty eyes and a smile that seem not to make any sense, or at least gives the idea that there’s more to what’s going on than he’s letting on.

Scotland Yard Investigator Abberline (Weaving) comes to question Lawrence but doesn’t get that much more info. It’s not so much that he suspects Lawrence but seeing as how the rest of the town despises Sir John and consider his family cursed Abberline just wants the facts.

To hit the fast-forward button and save you some cash, Lawrence is in fact a werewolf who was bitten by his father. Lawrence goes to get revenge, a giant melee ensues, the father is killed, and Gwen puts a silver bullet through his heart. The end.

This is the type of movie you show to others and say, “See? This is where Hollywood went wrong.” Having watched so many movies within 10 minutes I know where most movies go off the track. The problem with “The Wolfman,” is that, like “Transformers 2,” you’re not sure that it was on the track to begin with. Hell, after 10 minutes I wanted to go home and pop Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dracula” into my Blu-ray player and watch that. But, I digress.

Where did this movie go wrong? I think part of it lies in the fact that -supposedly- it was staying close to the original source material. Unfortunately movies made in 1941 are not movies made in 2010. Secondly, for a film taking place in England Hopkins, Blunt, and del Toro do NOT have any type of accent. In fact, del Toro -painfully- delivers an accent that sounds so ambiguously straight-forward that NO person talks that way. Third, Hopkins looks as if he’s channeling the spirit of Montgomery Burns (“The Simpsons”) in the way that he’s eyes constantly shift (or maybe that’s him making sure that the producers are signing his paychecks). Last, there’s a love scene so stilted I could almost hear George Lucas say, “See? The scene from ‘Episode 3′ was better than THAT!” Honestly, I can’t remember what point in the movie I stopped caring about what was going on but it just made it THAT much longer…

Blame the horrible writing (was it a direct translation?) Blame del Tor’s accent. Blame Hopkins’ character. Blame the CG effects and plastic prop-looking set design. Hell, just blame Joe Johnston.

I cannot recommend this movie. While not horrible, I wouldn’t bother watching it on cable or even as an in-flight movie. I wouldn’t even recommend downloading it illegally.

My grade: D

07
Oct
08

Where’d HE come from? The Wolf Man

It’s nighttime. A full moon is on the rise. Your hands are itching, so you begin to scratch. Dark hairs start to grow on the back of your palm. Your ears, eyes, and nose begin shifting around on your head. Dropping down to all fours, you have but one thought on your mind: human flesh. A radio in the background is playing “Werewolves of London,” by Warren Zevon. In irrepressible urge to howl at the moon floods over you. But, how did we get here?

 

Werewolf legends are almost as time immemorial as vampire lore. Both stem from the idea of shapeshifting, albeit into bats, wolves, or whatever. One of the earliest examples is the Greek story of Lycaon, the mythic king of Arcadia. After resorting to eating human flesh, Zeus turned him into a wolf. And according to Herodotus, there was a tribe that turned into wolves once every nine years.

 

And these legends, again like vampires, twist and turn through the ages, mainly becoming more elaborative and exaggerative in Europe, where the wolves were thought to be evil men who were commanded to terrorize by the Devil. Some werewolves were thought to be fighters who disguised themselves in wolf clothing. Whatever the cases or the causes, one thing remained simplistic: werewolves brought murder and carnage with them.

 

Enter Peter Stumpp. For twenty-five years he had a track record that would make Dracula envious: he sucked the blood from goats, sheep, lambs, men, women, and children, as well as having consumed their flesh. Upon torture, he claimed to be in league with the Devil and to have had incestuous relations. Some theorize that this was socio-politically motivated, but either way the guy had a gruesome death. He was put on a wheel and had his flesh torn from his body using hot pincers, his limbs were broke and he was beheaded, all to keep him from returning from the grave. As a warning to others the torture wheel was set on top of a pole with a figure of a whole on it as well as his severed head.

 

But how did one become a werewolf? Two distinct ways: one, make a pact with the Devil. Two, be bitten by another werewolf. The upside to number one is that it’s less painful, but there’s the whole “selling you soul to Satan” thing. Number two is more painful, but if you kill the werewolf that bit you the “curse” is lifted. Or so Hollywood says.

 

And that’s where the real mythology of werewolves comes from: Hollywood. Traditionally speaking, werewolves are less romanticized than vampires and were often the excuse behind killings more appropriately attributed to serial killers and the like. Wolves in general rarely, if ever, attack a human being, but we find ourselves mortally afraid of the possibility. But once cannibalism, mutilation, and wolves are mixed with ideologies and myths reaching back to ancient times, the rest is sheer fiction.

 

That Hollywood history begins with “The Werewolf,” a 1913 movie about a woman taught how to change into a wolf, seeking revenge on white settlers. Also a silent film, “Wolf Blood,” was released in 1925. It’s about a logger who, after an altercation, needs a blood transfusion. He gets the blood of a wolf and imagines himself as one. Meanwhile, the rival logging company is being picked off one-by-one by wolves. Coincidence? And “Werewolf of London” (1935) was the first to show werewolves on two legs.

 

1941’s “The Wolf Man,” was the cornerstone to the collective werewolf mythos. Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) returns to his ancestral home, falls for a girl, and buys her a silver-headed walking stick with a wolf on it. When he saves her friend from an attack, he’s bitten and now cursed to be a werewolf. After roaming the countryside for a bit, he’s finally returned to normal (read: killed) by his father with his silver walking stick. Silver, changing during moonlight and the pentagram tie all came from this movie. Of note, the “changing under a full moon” idea came from the sequel, “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.”

 

From that point the “Wolf Man” has met Abbott and Costello, been a teenager (“I Was a Teenage Werewolf”), and even had its own TV series (“Werewolf”). Also, watch for Benecio del Toro as “The Wolf Man” next year!

 

“Stick to the roads, and stay clear of the moors.”