Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

The latest episode of the Revisited video series looks back at Christophe Gans’ Brotherhood of the Wolf from 2001

Last Updated on July 29, 2023

The episode of Revisited covering Brotherhood of the Wolf was Written by Emilie Black, Narrated by Niki Minter, Edited by Ryan Cultrera, Produced by Tyler Nichols and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

Have you ever seen a film in theaters that made you go “Holy Bird Poop Batman”? I wish I could see that again for the first time. Has there been a film that has made you want to find the biggest possible screen to see it on within a manageable distance? Or a film that has since become one of your “new Blu-ray player test movies”? I have. In fact, there have been a few of these in my lifetime so far, but the one for today is Brotherhood of the Wolf (watch it HERE).

In early 2001, Brotherhood of the Wolf was released in France and its marketing campaign started in Quebec. Soon, there was nowhere you could go without being surrounded by posters for the film. The main metro station in Montreal, the central hub, was plastered in these posters, some as tall as a whole level in the station. The film covered the city from end to end; there was no way to avoid it. It was already a bit more than familiar for a reader of French movie magazines as the marketing there had started months before. Brotherhood of the Wolf was seemingly unavoidable. The trailer was enough to convince this little film nerd that it was not a want but a need kind of film. So a bit before opening weekend, I tried to persuade friends they needed to go with me, but to no avail. Thus, after work, I went by myself on opening weekend and saw this amazing film. I was mesmerized. I was in love. The film was a solid 10 out of 10 right out of the gate, but I knew I would love it before even seeing it. Those trailers, the magazine articles, those giant posters I coveted, I knew this was going to be something else.

Now, real quick, I’ve seen the film so many times since, and I still rate it a solid 10 out of 10, so it has staying power. This is a favorite, and it’s not even cute how much I love it and how much I annoyed people who haven’t seen it yet. It got a release in limited theaters in Spring 2023, but it was limited to places I could not get to on a weeknight, so I had to stay home and just put on my DVD. As you see, I still use my DVD from the 3-disc box set released in Canada back in the day. I also have the Shout Factory release, but something about it doesn’t look right visually; some of the colors feel off to me, so I keep using my old DVD.

Brotherhood of the Wolf Revisited

Recent rewatches have allowed me to notice small details and pay attention to background characters and almost every element here. How would I review it now? How do I still give it 10 out of 10 when the average from professional critics has it at an average of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the public has it at an average of 78%? Why do I love it so much?

First, let’s get things out of the way; it is not a perfect film but a very well-made one. One of the main gripes others have had with the film is how it mixes all kinds of genres, from horror to period pieces to historical details to martial arts scenes to monsters to religious conspiracies; the film has a little of everything and, to many people watching it, it tends to lose its focus. To this viewer, this ADHD person, this is heaven! Something is happening at almost all times without rushing the story; there are characters of all kinds, bits of action here and there, some amazingly well-choreographed fights, costumes to die for, performances that are on point from some of France’s best actors, practical effects that mix with CGI beautifully well still, etc. So let’s look at the details.

First, the writing of Stéphane Cabel and Christophe Gans with Gans’ directing: The film here is clearly a project that was done with tons of love for it. The script is well-written, and the myth of the Beast of Gévaudan gets used in a manner that respects the original tales and is surprising. They use this myth to good effect and turn it on its head in the last third of the film, where the reveal happens, and things go in a brand-new direction. This part is calculated while allowing its story to go where it needs to go. Spoiler alert, the beast is not a werewolf as some thought before it came out; it is not a supernatural being, but an animal raised and trained to kill, do to evil on behalf of a disturbed man and a religious leader just a little off his rocker. The way the film brings in the Chevalier de Fronsac in that sequence where his “brother” fights the local militia is just superb. The table discussions that could have been tenuous are done in a way that they entertain while establishing relationships between characters, their positions in their world, and what the two visitors bring to the table, literally and metaphorically. The film uses its time period and setting to create a world most viewers are not used to while making them comfortable in it. This way, it helps the viewer to really immerse themselves in the film. Of course, there are the many maligned genres supposedly clashing here, but if you watch the film without any genre expectations and with an open mind, it all works together oddly well.

Brotherhood of the Wolf Revisited

Now, the cast. Here, a few faces were familiar to me at first as I had watched many French films and knew Mark Dacascos from some of his previous movies as I had watched every single action film available to me before then. This meant that only a few people were new faces to me. That being said, the cast here is fantastic at what they do. They take this crazy script and the characters within and make it their own while all fitting together. Of course, some came up to the top in their performances. The top performer here is Mark Dacascos as Mani. Yes, he’s a bit of a miscasting if we look at ethnic backgrounds, so you will have to forgive me for my fangirling and forgive the filmmakers for using a man who was born in Hawaii and is of Japanese, Filipino, Spanish, Irish, and Chinese background. His mix helps here in that he’s not clearly of any background if we play along. His character is Mohawk, so using a Mohawk actor would have been great, but finding one with the same fighting skills would have been quite the task. His fighting in that introductory scene for his character is epic, the fight with the two clawed ladies amazing, the one in the hideaway something else. He was clearly hired for his skills, and the fact that he did Crying Freeman with Christophe Gans before this shows that these two knew each other’s ways and each other’s skills, something that added to this here film. Playing the Chevalier De Fronsac is Samuel Le Bihan, who was somewhat known, but it was a bit harder to find his previous films in Quebec; of course, there had been some, so he was somewhat a familiar one. His work here is central to the film, and he does great with the complex part of a man who goes through the wringer on a few fronts here. Playing the lead Bad Guy is Vincent Cassel as Jean-François, and well, he does his usual thing, meaning he is great. Cassel is the kind of actor who can do just about anything, someone I first saw in Dobermann, which also costars Monica Bellucci, who plays Sylvia here, a prostitute with a very big secret. The way she brings her character to life is mesmerizing here. Playing Marianne, the love interest for the De Fronsac and Jean-François’ sister, is Émilie Dequenne, who won prizes for her acting here and for good reasons. Of course, we could go over the whole cast, as this is one massive ensemble cast, but let’s stop here just for practical reasons.

Besides the cast, the wardrobe fascinated me at the time. Those costumes are just stunning. I was a photographer, and new film reviewer stuck in fashion school where the only class I truly enjoyed was History of Fashion, so this was right up my alley at the time. It still is now. In fact, in 2005, I made a copy of the teal dress Marianne wears when De Fronsac comes back for her in the village. One hundred eighty hours of work, a lot of fabric, a few dresses, and one whole suitcase to bring to a horror convention in New Jersey, just to have someone spill their drink on the front of it within one hour of joining the party wearing the dress. I have one photo in it, and unfortunately, I cannot find it to share here.

Following that, the special effects here are something else, especially considering the year this was released. Most of the effects have aged pretty well, which is a testament to the film using a mix of practical effects and CGI where the latter is only used to enhance the practical effects. The beast, in particular, is great. A lot of people did not love it, but the fact that it’s an animal raised and trained to be a beast and not simply a monster from folklore means that it had to have some basis in reality. This beast was created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, which shows that the people behind this film knew who to go to for spectacular puppet work. This beast is not everyone’s favorite, but it’s on point. The work by the Jim Henson staff shows they knew what they were doing, and they had a clear direction for the beast. The beast is kept mostly unseen until the last third of the film or so, something that helps its mystique, something that helps create an aura of mystery around it.

The music by Joseph LoDuca pairs beautifully well with the images created by cinematographer Dan Laustsen. The film is crafted so carefully on all levels, and it shows in these images, so the camera work, the lighting, the framing, the editing, it all needed to come together just right to make the film as good as it is now and to help make it a timeless sort of film. I could go on and on and on about all the aspects of this film, but for me, what makes this film amazing is what some hate about it, all the genres mixed together, the horror and fantasy and action and historical drama. The writing, performances, the way characters are introduced, the way they wait as long as possible to show the beast, how the story develops, and how the film is entertaining from start to finish, and how it was carefully crafted make it a perfect film.

Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!

Source: Arrow in the Head

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