Well, it’s finally here, the long-delayed Universal Monsters redo, The Wolfman, which stars Benicio del toro as the iconic Wolf Man. Was it worth the wait? Both David Harley and myself were quite disappointed. “While The Wolfman has some really proud moments, ultimately it feels like a Franken-film. It’s fractured mostly at the core with horrid character development and illogical situations. In short, when the Wolf Man wasn’t ripping off people’s heads — it was unbearably boring.” Click the title for Mr. Disgusting’s full review or read below to see what David Harley had to say. Don’t forget to check back and write your own review to tell all of Bloody Disgusting what YOU thought of the film.
Note: Some Minor Spoilers Follow
The classic Universal monsters are as revered as they come, shaping the way horror would be watched and appreciated forever. Saying that most horror aficionados grew up watching them wouldn’t exactly be taking a stab in the dark, with many of us sharing the same memories of Karloff, Chaney, and Lugosi in their famous roles. The Aurora models, books, DVDs, revival screenings and every other possible advertising tool has kept the films fresh in our minds over the years, which brings us to possibly the worst film of all time, Van Helsing. Universal was planning, at the time, a revival of all the old monster flicks and after VH failed to deliver the monetary return and drum up the public interest they were hoping for, their Creature From The Black Lagoon remake all but disappeared from the release schedule and, to this day, still hasn’t come to fruition. It’s several years later and we’re given The Wolfman, complete with an all-star cast, a fan-favorite composer and a director with high (The Rocketeer) and low (Jurassic Park) points. Unfortunately, all of those combine to make one of the most lifeless, uninspired horror revivals in recent memory.
Benicio del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, a man with a haunted past, who returns to the sleepy village of Blackmoor after his brother is brutally killed. Taking up residence in his old estate with his father (Anthony Hopkins), he decides to stick around and investigate his brother’s death at the behest of his recently widowed fiancé, Gwen (Emily Blunt). One trip to a gypsy camp later and Talbot is bitten by a brutish creature, prompting Detective Abberline (Hugo Weaving) to show up and start poking his nose around.
Up until this point in the film, things are pretty standard, if not a tad drawn out. The script by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self sets up the story pretty efficiently, introduces some interesting characters that have potential and then takes all that goodwill and throws it out the window. Instead of developing Talbot’s internal struggle and what’s going on with the village’s inhabitants, Talbot is thrown into an asylum for a while, all for the purpose of revealing a twist that everyone already assumed during the first act. Sure, there’s a great action sequence or two thrown in there – some great American Werewolf in London nods too – but aside from some visuals, there’s really nothing attention-worthy in the entire film. And the climax? I’d compare it to The Incredible Hulk. “Silly” is the best way to describe it.
The atmosphere, which drove the old Universal horror films forward, is completely absent from Johnston’s effort. Hopkins’ scenery chewing and Weaving’s comedic moments (which are fantastic) feel out of place and the sympathy that del Toro and Blunt are suppose to elicit rates at a two out of ten on my give-a-shit-o-meter. There’s simply not enough time spent with these characters, delving into their psyche; just surface observations without much subtext. And while the film has its fair share of gory delights, most of the scenes feel neutered with cutaways galore. There’s also a glaring plot hole, wherein Talbot’s character supposedly blacks out when he transforms but during the third act, he clearly carries emotions and grudges over from one form to another.
The CGI is probably the biggest curiosity surrounding The Wolfman‘s troubled production history and, quite honestly, if it’s really the reason the film was delayed a year as previously reported, everyone watching should feel personally insulted. Remember when Indy IV was in production and Frank Marshall went on record saying that they’d only use CGI when absolutely necessary, and then we were treated to prairie dogs in the opening shot? There’s a scene in The Wolfman where there’s a CGI bear on a chain being led around like a bloodhound to track the creature. Take a minute and let that soak in. No, seriously, think about that. It’s unforgivably moronic. As far as the transformation scenes go, they are better than the trailer makes them appear to be but nowhere near as majestic as what Rick Baker probably could have – and has in the past – cooked up. The creature in full transformation, however, is quite a nice throwback to the original film and the choice to have him switch between running on two legs and all fours works seamlessly and makes for some great chase scenes.
At the end of the day, The Wolfman is as confused with what it is as Talbot should have been in the film. It plays as if it’s been through reshoots and constant reedits – and even though that’s true, it’s a shame that it actually shows it. But the main thing I have stress having seen it is this: don’t hold your breath for Creature From The Black Lagoon anytime soon.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 Skulls