THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
The Wolfman (2010)
Directed by Joe Johnston
“It’s bloody, it’s mean, it’s gothic, it’s haunting: everything a horror fan needs.”
I think we can all agree that we love movies stuck in development hell. There’s something fascinating tracking the shit storm some poor project has to endure as it takes years to progress and encounters more setbacks than Lindsey Lohan’s sobriety. Sometimes shit ain’t easy. Partly I think it’s the act of watching an unavoidable disaster as a project continually goes through directors, writers and cast members faster than Sheen goes through hookers. It usually ends up as an elaborate and very public exercise in wasting massive amounts of money. And usually, these movies tank as predicted (Heaven’s Gate, Battlefield Earth). However, sometimes things work for the best (Titanic did ok).
Enter the sordid tale of 2010’s The Wolfman, a damn effective exercise in gore and old-school atmosphere. Plus, it’s got …a werewolf. What’s not to like?
First, however, let’s get the bad out of the way. The Wolfman is kinda like a meeting a good looking chick who smells like chicken noodle soup. Sure, she’s hot, but at some point that situation must be addressed. The Wolfman has a lousy script. It’s embarrassingly bad at times with that piss poor dialogue, most of it painfully obvious. It's amazing that high profile writers like Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self can create something so…unimaginative. I understand this was supposed to be a tent-pole flick for masses, but still, there’s no reason to dumb it so far down. Then, there’s the pacing where things just kinda hump along until the wolfman slashes up some stiff Brits again. If director Joe Johnston had sped things up a bit, it might’ve satisfied more folks.
With all that said, I don't care what the masses say. The Wolfman, for its flaws, recaptures that unmistakable old school horror. It’s bloody, it’s mean, it’s gothic, it’s haunting: everything a horror fan needs (minus the list above). No one could have put together a better cast. Benicino Del Toro was born to play the wolf, a gig he really wanted as he stuck with the production through the many years and many directors. He’s the perfect brooding man, but at times dude tries a bit too hard. Don’t force it so much. And once he becomes the wolf, Rick Baker’s effects look fantastic even if the CGI gets in the way, which is more often than it should be.
On the other hand, Anthony Hopkins is the ultimate pro. Few old school dudes (him, Freeman, Hackman) can elevate whatever they were in. And though he doesn’t get the press, I love Hugo Weaving. The man can carry a scene; I’d love to see him in some gritty detective-kinda roles. Oh, and Emily Blunt is hot. She isn’t given much to do, but she does look good at least.
I get that audiences have an issue with the movie, especially in comparison to the original, which might be over 70 years old, but it still works. Maybe it’s just a thing with remakes. We're all guilty of comparing new versions to the old. It's impossible not to do, especially when a classic is involved. In the case of the Wolfman, well, that's about as classic as you get. However, it's not like we haven't seen man-turn-into-wolf tales since the original. There's been countless, however, none attempted to recreate the classic. Maybe Del Toro and company should have done more to create their own version, but so what. I love mood of the modern gothic film. It evokes that monster-lurking-and-gonna-gut-you feeling that’s specific to only one genre.
Oh, and speaking of which, let’s end on the violence. When I saw this originally in theaters, I didn’t remember the blood and guts. I knew it was there, but on the unrated cut DVD, the red stuff flows like the Thames. The Wolfman guts, cut, and splits open folks in some truly gruesome ways. It’s nasty good. So if you decide to give the movie another shot, remember two things. 1) Watch the unrated version. 2) Watch it under a half-moon…just in case.