Harry scratches THE WOLF MAN's Belly till his leg does that involuntary kick thing!!!
Published at: Feb. 11, 2010, 3:17 a.m. CST by headgeek
I set about writing a review of THE WOLF MAN shortly after getting home, Monday night, after our screening. I had stopped about halfway through the piece, and when I got a note from Universal saying that the Embargo was lifted, I went back to reread what a wrote and I've decided to begin again.
It is easy with projects like this one, films where the original is held impossibly dear to one's heart, that you get so wrapped up in the nostalgia of the thing, that I found myself losing the film I actually saw - versus the various drafts of the screenplay I read, the late night discussions with Mark Romanek regarding his vision for the film... which frankly are mute - the second he left the film. Many online writers are going to get wrapped up in the preciousness of Andrew Kevin Walker's script... or the David Self drafts... or they'll allow their love of the original WOLF MAN to color their review. Then there's the biggest monkey on the back of the film, which is Rick Baker - and why he wasn't allowed to handle the transformations. Well... The reason is quite simple. Joe Johnston wanted to make HIS version of THE WOLFMAN and he wanted to use CG.
So what did I think of this version of THE WOLFMAN?
I kinda loved it. And that was absolutely not what I was expecting. For the past 6 months or so I've been trying to see this movie. At one point, we very nearly had it as the Closing Night film of last year's FANTASTIC FEST. Then there was BNAT. Each time though I was thwarted. Two nights before our Monday screening, in a wildly insane screening in Los Angeles - Mr. Beaks & Moriarty saw the film and both kinda hated it. I talked with them at length, hearing their disappointments that the film was cut so short that it lost the weight of the script, characters and what not. But they said Devin liked it.
OH NO! I AGREE WITH DEVIN ON SOMETHING!?!?!
So why do I like it?
It is a gothic Wolf Man movie. Point blank, that's what I love. I love that it isn't modern day, that it isn't a retread of the mordern werewolf movies. I love the sheer amount of practical gore. The sets, the woods, the moon, the look of the film is exquisite. I love the sanitarium, the fevered nightmares and freakish bad trip moments. I love Rick's make-up, and dammit - I even appreciate the CG transformation stuff. I like Benicio, Hopkins and Blunt... but I fucking LOVE Hugo Weaving's Scotland Yard detective. LOVE HIM! Wish to god I could see the sequel.
I love that it is this period, I love that in no way does it remind me of Branagh's FRANKENSTEIN, but of Coppola's DRACULA. I love that my nephew watched the film through his fingers, but came out smiling. I like that it didn't outstay its welcome. And my favorite thing... the thing that just would not stop making me smile... it is absolutely a horror film. This isn't a video game, it isn't anything resembling a video game. They didn't co-opt the brand and turn it into a light-hearted adventure tale.
Is it all wolfsbane and silver?
No, the film has its flaws, but I don't feel they sabotage the whole. Coming into this... a film that was trying to take care of script problems during a writer's strike. A film that lost its director just a couple weeks prior to shooting. On a set, where everyone voiced misgivings and problems and politics. With a director that was pretty unproven in this genre. Massive reshoots. I was truly fearing the end results.
Honestly, about 25 minutes in, I was so relieved. Massawyrm was to my right, exclaiming under his breath, "This is badass!" and I was smiling in agreement. To my left, Father Geek was smiling, which to me... is just about the most perfect thing I could see while watching a WOLFMAN movie. I remember on Branagh's FRANKENSTEIN, we were both appalled. And my initial reaction to THE MUMMY was pretty similar. Mainly because atmospherically, I wanted a bit of a creaky flick... and it wasn't there. Here, I came out genuinely pleased.
Sure I wanted more Benicio as Talbot, a little more sympathy for the creature moments. I would have liked had they kept the Bela/Werewolf device. And there's a part of me that would have liked Old Man Talbot to be a bit more Claude Rain-ish. And my biggest disappointment was Geraldine Chaplin's Maleva the Gypsy.
I miss her relationship with the Wolf Man. Finding him on the moors in a trap, wounded and baying at the moon. And my last complaint involved the utterly bizarre CG Deer and Bear. What the fuck? Are there really No magnificent Stags - and no trained circus bears in England? Really? CG? For that? Shaking my head man. Why?
I'm looking forward to taking Yoko to seeing this film, hopefully on Valentine's Day. After all, I've always had a thing for Beauty & the Beast storylines. It's probably some sort of complex that more days at the gym would help with.
Out of all the UNIVERSAL HORROR remakes... this one feels right for me. I can see it. It's more violent, every bit as bizarre and odd. And that wolfboy in India just fucking gave me the willies! But I can feel it.
As for Joe Johnston. I have to applaud the man. I love the style of the film, the flashes of time passage to keep the next full moon always moving quickly to terrorize Larry again. There's way more right about this than wrong, and frankly that was not a given with this film. I'm genuinely pleased.
This is a Blu Ray I can't wait to get - and a film that I can't wait to share with my wife.