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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Wolfman

Title: The Wolfman

Year of Release: 2010

Date Viewed: June 13th, 2010

MPAA Rating: R

There is only one way to kill a werewolf. Shoot it with a silver bullet. There is more than one way to make a werewolf movie. This latest revisitation of the iconic Wolfman character takes a few chances and ultimately serves as a throwback to classic monster movies from a different generation of Hollywood. Your enjoyment of this picture will depend greatly on your personal affection for that generation and the genre.

Benicio del Toro plays Shakespearean actor Lawrence Talbot who receives a letter informing him of the disappearance of his brother. Summoned to the home of his estranged father Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins), Lawrence soon learns that his brother was in fact murdered in mysterious fashion that has the locals baffled. Rumors arise of gypsies or possibly wild bears that may have attacked the victim in the dark woods surrounding the estate. Lawrence confronts the murderer face-to-face or should I say skin-to-fur at a gypsy camp where the residents hoped to confront him/her/it and restore order to the panicked town.

His brother's murderer guessed it.....a werewolf. One that rampages during the night of every full moon and destroys any living thing unfortunate enough to cross its path. Lawrence gets into a scuffle with the creature and lives, but not without receiving a nasty bite on the shoulder.

Following the incident, Lawrence begins to have nightmares of his past, mainly ones about the death of his mother years ago who died under equally disturbing circumstances. He wonders if the two deaths could have been at all connected. But before that mystery can be solved, Lawrence's bite wound seems to have taken control of his soul and he begins to take on the attributes of the creature that put him in that state. All the while, Sir John seems to take on a morbid fascination with Lawrence's condition and acts much less surprised about the events unfolding than anyone else.

The best way to describe the style of The Wolfman is classical. Though the film is shot in color, there are many nods to oldschool black-and-white filming techniques. There are many establishing and wide-angle shots that add mood to the setting. Different shades of shadow is used to add depth to scenes. Danny Elfman's musical score is perfect for the tone. His trademark synth is virtually absent. In its place is a loud orchestra that often reminded me of the classic Dracula and Frankenstein films.

Since the movie is not a full-scale homage, there are also modern techniques used. Jump scares for the nightmare scenes as well as the use of CGI during the action and transformation scenes allow the movie to avoid finding itself strictly in arthouse clubs. The ratio of old-to-new style is approximately 50/50. Some may find this to be distracting. I found it intriguing.

I watched this film with everyone in my immediate family and I was the only one that liked it. Movies like this are not often made anymore. It is not campy but it is outrageous enough to be compared with the other B-movies of Hollywood's past such as The Blob. The lack of depth and predictable nature of the plot may turn off today's hard-to-please crowd. For those that appreciate bold film making or have a soft spot for the classic monster movie, The Wolfman is a worthwhile watch.

Rating: 7

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