I just saw the movie ‘The Wolfman’, with Benicio del Toro, and on the whole I liked it. It has a few problems, like most werewolf movies, but it was fun to watch.
The atmosphere of the film is very dark and moody, with muted tones and ominous music. The music reminded me a bit of Coppola’s Dracula score but as a movie, the Wolfman takes itself a lot more seriously. The acting is good and makes it easier to go along with the story.
What I like most about it is that it has an ‘old movie’ feel to it. There’s a lot about it that’s new – the way the creature moves and most of the gore are things you wouldn’t see in old movies – but there’s a feeling of homage to the classics in a lot of the shots.
I have seen a lot of horror movies in late childhood and early teens, before VCR and cable tv, when you had to see what was on at the time (that makes me sound really old, doesn’t it?). I remember staying up late with my mom watching horror movies on weekends. I’m sure at first she was concerned about me watching some of these at such an early age, but most of them were so fake they were more funny than scary, and since I never showed signs of being scared or having nightmares, she never stopped me. My father and brother were never fans of the horror genre, so it would be just the two of us. My mom would fold laundry and answer any questions I had and I remember these moments fondly.
The worst part about the film, as with all werewolf movies, is the creature itself. I don’t think there has ever been a werewolf that was actually scary. As long as the creature keeps to the shadows and you only see some details, it flows fine (there’s a good scene in the mist when you don’t really know who is hunting who – the wolf or the man with the gun), but when you bring it out into the light, the wolf always looks one of two things: fake or funny – never scary. The thing I liked most about the movie ‘Signs’, for example, is that you never see the alien very clearly. Even at the end there’s the whole camouflage thing that makes it kinda blurry. I’ve always felt that’s the best solution to any creature movie – no matter how good you think the visual effects are it always seems fake if you try to make it too clear. And the more realistic they try to make it, the creepier it gets.
There were two things about the plot of The Wolfman that I liked. There will be spoilers now so if you plan to watch it, stop reading.
The first is the scene at the lunatic asylum. The doctor tells everyone he’s going to cure his patient by proving in front of witnesses that he cannot in fact change into a wolf. And then he’s proven wrong. In werewolf movies, the existence of a werewolf is always in question. It’s a myth, a superstition and nothing is ever proven. At the end of the original 1941 movie, the father is the only one who knows the true identity of the werewolf. The others just assume the creature got away. The fun thing about this one is that everyone turns out to be right – the ones who believe in werewolves and the ones who think the deaths are caused by a lunatic. After all, the original werewolf turns out to be a bit mad as well, aside from cursed.
The second thing I liked is the twist on the father son relationship. Unlike the original film, where they have a strained relationship but the father still tries to defend his son (even if he does end up killing him in the end anyway), here the father actually tries to frame his son for all the killings, to divert attention from himself. When he tries to attack his son it is not an accident – after all, he already killed the rest of his family, so what’s one more. This plays on the insanity angle for the werewolf curse and makes the movie a bit creepier than it would be otherwise.