The furry fiend known as The Wolf Man first howled at the silvery moon in 1941 with a suitably hirsute Lon Chaney Jr in the lead role., joined in the golden age of beasty baddies like Frankenstein and Dracula back in the 40s. Almost 70 years later, the eponymous beast runs free again across the blood-spattered English countryside in director Joe Johnston‘s tongue in cheek -and exceedingly bloodthirthy – remake.
The Wolfman is a diverting yarn, so long as you accept the film in the spirit it is intended: as a B-Movie with expensive make-up and visual effects. A hokey gypsy proverb – Even a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright – sets the tone, followed by an exceedingly grisly prologue establishing that some creature in the woods surrounding the late 19th century hamlet of Blackmoor is pretty freakin evil. And a very messy eater.
At the behest of his brother’s fiancee Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), stage actor Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to the sleepy community to help search for his sibling Ben (Simon Merrells), who has vanished without trace. After a fractious reunion with his estranged father (Anthony Hopkins) and manservant Singh (Art Malik), Lawrence discovers that Ben is dead, basically exploded by a creature of the night. Scotland Yard Inspector Aberline (Hugo Weaving) arrives in Blackmoor to investigate the brutal slaying and witnesses the devastation of the beast firsthand after it attacks Lawrence and leaves its mark upon the nobleman. Lawrence grows ever closer to Gwen and as the next full moon looks down upon the village, something ungodly stirs in the Talbot mansion, hungry for human flesh…
It’s Behind you!
With graphic scenes of mutilation, decapitation and dismemberment, The Wolfman certainly isn’t afraid of the fake blood suuply running low as the titular predator slashes through an entire supporting cast and a few of the lead actors too. Director Johnston orchestrates some tense set pieces, with the requisite edge of seat jolts and scares. The lighting design is especially effective, concealing characters and their sins in the shadows, lit by the occasional flash from a gun barrel. Hopkins allows his accent run almost as wild as the creature, grinning and winking through the script’s countless ridiculous cliches, while Del Toro strikes a permanently mournful air, doomed never to claim Blunt’s buxom damsel as his own. Lawrence and Gwen’s romance is too hurried to be credible, undermining the tearful finale. Antony Sher out-camps the lot of them with a ridiculous accent as Dr Hoenneger, the London-based medic who foolishly believes Lawrence’s lycanthropy is all in his tortured mind. He’ll learn. The hard way.
Overall, The Wolfman is good fun if you want a harmless (you know what we mean) bloodthirsty slasher with a camp twist. It’s full of obvious plot twists, over-dramatic facial expressions and you’ll more than likely forget most of it as soon as you walk out of the cinema. But hey, that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun. And frankly, it’s worth a look for Hopkins’ ‘Around The World In 80 Accents’ alone.