Movie #15: The Wolfman

By watching The Wolfman right after Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I unwittingly treated myself to a double-bill of gothic horror remakes. In this case, it was the remake of a 1941 black and white movie called “The Wolf Man” (Apparently, after 70 years we’ve learned to live without the space). Though I never saw the original, my understanding is that they share the same basic story: main character Lawrence Talbot (played by Benicio Del Toro) returns to the UK from the States to look into the mysterious and vicious death of his brother, but when his investigations lead to a group of gypsies, he has a first-hand encounter with the werewolf responsible and gets bitten in the process. As a result, he suffers from the same curse and faces angry townspeople, local police as well as his own inner beast. The music is very film-retro: the sound of loud, melodramatic strings coming out frequently in the action scenes. Despite the power of CGI that can make the metamorphosis scenes a lot more gnarly, the werewolf had a classic look, with a shorter human-sized nose rather than a lupine muzzle. Frankly, with werewolf costumes less is more. A grown man leaping around on screen with a furry face and remnants of a Victorian suit, makes me feel like I’m watching a particularly nasty segment from the musical Cats. Del Toro was an odd choice for the lead, but he does well enough. Anthony Hopkins (as Talbot’s father Sir John) has really mastered the restrained-over-the-top style that he began with Hannibal Lecter. Rounding out the cast is the porcelain-faced Emily Blunt, and the always-excellent Hugo Weaving as the Scotland Yard inspector who gets too close. While it’s nice that they tried to be true to the original, I wish they had done more to update the movie. With all the varying takes on werewolves in pop culture these days (see Twilight, True Blood, Underworld, etc.)  I think a modern wolf-man story would have been more psychological and subtle. Frankly, director Joe Johnston seemed to revel in the modern horror film’s taste for gore because there were limbs, entrails, and decapitations galore (though that excess may have been a result of my viewing the unrated, director’s-cut version). (3.5 out of 5)

15 down, 35 to go!

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