The Wolfman - Cinema Review

'the atmosphere created is one of threatening nostalgia and near-medieval dread - just the ticket for this sort of offering'

The mainstream media has made much of the fact that The Wolfman had a change of director just before shooting began. As such, many of the publications I look at on a regular basis have pointed out various problems related to the style and tonal continuity of the film, linking this back to the differences that obviously occurred during its pre-production period. 'The problem is tone', one declares, cutting straight to the point, whilst another points out that the film 'bounds along in disjointed scenes'. It's not often that I disagree with the UK film magazines but I must say in this case I'm not sure I fully follow them. For all The Wolfman's flaws (and there are quite a few) I thought its tone was pitch-perfect - right between a modern take on a Gothic horror and a 'classic' Hammer monster movie - creating a satisfying and rather bloody trip to England in the 1800s.

It's a trip that starts with no pretensions about what we are about to witness. The very first scene is a man dressed in standard 1800's clothing (pointy hat, long socks) waving a lamp towards a fog covered swamp. His end is as sticky as the mud he squelches through and, tone duly set, we move on to the main course as Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns home at pace for the first time in a number of years. There he reunites with his father (Anthony Hopkins) and meets his brother's fiance Gwen (Emily Blunt), both now in mourning for said brother who has turned up viciously murdered in a ditch near to the house. Feeling a sense of absent duty, Lawrence vows to stay on at the house until he can provide Gwen with some answers.

After new director Joe Johnston has sped through the initial setup at lightening pace, I felt the tone remained constant throughout, mirroring the idea bandied around by the cast prior to the premiere that the film is an 'homage' to the original movie and the monster films that were prevalent in the 50s and 60s. The village and surrounding bog where much of the film is set is dank and colourless and the dilapidated Talbot mansion similarly so. Gothic stalwarts such as mysterious stones surrounded by drifting mist and closeted caverns lit by candlelight are all present and correct and the atmosphere created is one of threatening nostalgia and near-medieval dread - just the ticket for this sort of offering.

The majority of the cast do well with Andrew Kevin Walker's script which wisely avoids the back stories of several characters that could bog down a less aware piece; Hopkins' character was obviously an explorer and hunter, Del Toro's an actor, but that is all the information we need and no time is wasted on exploring the whats and why fores. The only element of the story to suffer due to this approach is Emily Blunt's Gwen whose off-screen relationship with Lawrence's brother and father is paid similar lip-service. As a result the dynamic between her and Lawrence never quite rings true and it's own on-screen development never really feels like it gets the time and attention it needs or deserves.

Elsewhere, The Wolfman produces some stellar moments and some that barely register dramatically at all. The early attack on the gypsy camp is both tense and action-packed and crucially doesn't feel like it has been inserted to conjure up some gory interactions with the beast although those are present too. Later though, as the action moves to London, things get slightly clunkier resulting in one of those scenes where a phalanx of armed men fail to register a single shot on target against their enemy and, even later, a one-on-one battle of epically disappointing proportions.

Throughout these scenes (whether they be successes or failures) I did remain convinced of the world I was in and the characters that populated it and I never remember feeling like I was watching a scene that was obviously tonally out of place or one of the rumoured re-shoots that delayed the films release. Occasionally yes, Johnston takes a miss-step and Del Toro's incoherent mumbling can be distracting but The Wolfman was never intended to be perfect fine art. In terms of the success of what it does aim to be, an authentic Gothic horror and a Hammer homage, I still maintain it's basically a success although I am looking forward to giving it's extended cut a view to see how a slower, perhaps more refined, piece might fare.

Look further...

'it’s all your dad’s fault
so “ah-wooo” like shakira
prance about the moors
' - 24 Hours To Midnight


  1. Well I'm glad you dug it, because I felt pretty darned ripped off. I sat down at least wanting to have some fun, sadly so such fun was coming my way!

  2. Yeah, I've just read your review and I think despite all it's failings I did manage to have fun with it. Maybe even enough to file it under 'guilty pleasure'. Adding your quote and link to the review now.