Saturday, 31 July 2010

No.48 : The Wolfman

The classic 1940s Universal horror movie gets a modern makeover in this faithful and enjoyable remake.

We open with the familiar sight of a man stumbling through a smoky forest at night. The credits have still to roll so we know it isn’t looking good. Our wolfy hero does a bit of quick slashing and soon we’re in London watching a ropey actor playing an even ropier actor. After the show the actor thinks the groupies have arrived but sadly no, it’s the fiancĂ©e of the forest guy who’s our man’s brother and she worried about his going missing.

Although dismissive at first he’s soon compelled by the script to head home to the gothic family pile. On the way he’s given a wolf head cane by Max Von Sydow in a scene that looks more important than it later turns out to be. At the crumbling family home our actor hero (Benicio Del Toro) meets his family’s imaginatively named Indian servant , Singh, and his gun totting Pop Anthony Hopkins. The search for his brother proves a short one as he’s already turned up in a ditch.

Our man decides to hang around and do some sleuthing. He tries out the gypsy camp as there are stories that their dancing bear is the culprit but after consulting with the wise woman and seeing a fragging great wolf eat about 20 people he decides that the legends are true after all. He gets further evidence when he gets chomped too.

As you’d expect he’s soon banging on about feeling fitter and stronger and everyone is most impressed when the wound heals in a couple of days - no MRSA to worry about then. Of course he has the wolf curse flowing through his veins and on the next full moon (which seem to occur at least twice a week) he takes several bites out of the local community. These guys are on the ball however and soon with the help of Jack the Ripper sleuth Abberline (Agent Smith off ‘The Matrix’) he’s captured and shipped off to a London loony bin. Here he’s in the care of a nut job who looks like David Gest who thinks the best curse is to sit him in front of a full moon in front of a large audience - HUGE mistake.

After an extended bite fest through the streets of ye Olde London our man heads back to the family home to try and end the curse once and for all. Can the identity of the main wolf been ascertained - surely it’s not going to be the obvious candidate Tony Hopkins? Might be!

At two hours this film is a bit long for the plot it covers. That said it was enjoyable and the kill rate kept my interest up. The casting of Del Toro seemed a bit strange given that he was meant to be an English society man but that was explained away by his gypsy mother. They don’t manage to explain why he looks nothing like his dad, Tony Hopkins or why he talks like a Mexican doing an English accent but that’s the olden days for you.

Del Toro is good in the lead and seemed to invest a lot in some of the nastier killing and torture scenes. Less good was the normally reliable Hopkins who seemed off his game somewhat umming and ahhing through several lines.

Obviously a wolf man picture hangs on its special effects and the ones employed here were largely good. There was quite a bit of overt CGI but the transformations, killings and evocations of Olde London were all well done. I liked that the film was more or less a straight remake and although that defuses many of the surprises there were a few turns that kept me interested. The Abberline character although largely ineffectual was a good add and it was nice to see a few Victorian cases, real and imagined being married together.

The whole production reeked of class with the grotty Victorian streets and the visceral murders all excellently realised. There may not have been too much to worry the academy but for a remake of a classic horror movie this had a lot to like.

THE Tag Line - Full Moon - Full (ish) Marks 75%

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