Dom writes in from the FanTasia Festival in Montreal, Canada where he had the chance to feast his eyes on the highly praised Romasanta– but can this werewolf movie survive the ‘transformation’? Read on to find out and to take a look at Dom in mega-sleep mode…
Either I’m getting old, or this festival’s a long one. Either way, after close to three weeks of coverage, I truly feel zombie-like. Late in the afternoon, I could barely function so I decided to take a nap. Mexican’s call it a “Siesta”. I call it “Exhaustion”. So, I wake up early evening and get ready to make the trek back to downtown Montreal. As I walk into the bathroom to go take a long shower, I glance at my reflection in the mirror. I’ve got a wicked pillow print on my right cheek that makes me look like Tom Berenger in “Platoon”! I look at it for a while and smile. “What a bad-ass!” I tell myself. “Now you really look like an action reporter!” Unfortunately, this distinguishing feature didn’t stick around. Imagine my sorrow as I walked out of the shower and noticed its disappearance. Oh well, back to my old handsome self. So, I put on my “Boogie Nights” shirt and got ready to party. Tonight’s feature is one that I had heard great things about: Romasanta. The evening was looking even more rockin’ as my dear wife decided to tag along. Yay! She’ll be there to beat off all of my female fans! Hope she doesn’t give them too much Hell…
(You’ll notice that all this sleep deprivation has made me just a tad delusional…)
Who knew that so many people were, like me, very enthusiastic about seeing this film? The line went on forever. Good thing that my little press pass made me bypass all of these dedicated fans. I could have fallen asleep in the line! I settled into my seat and out came, your pal and mine, Mitch Davis. I asked him if this film was any good, as I trust his judgement implicitly (Even though he liked “Thundercrack!”). He told me that no one had seen it but that they’ve heard nothing but praise for it. Knowing Brian Yuzna’s “Fantastic Factory” outfit, I knew that the film would at least look great. But, after the fabulous “Ginger Snaps Back”, was I really in the mood for another werewolf film set in the 19th Century?
Wolves are rampant in the northern part of 19th Century Spain and an investigation is brought forth to find the source of all the apparent wolf attacks. Meanwhile, a woman, who takes up a romantic relationship with her sister’s companion after she disappears with her daughter, realizes that this man might be responsible for their disappearance and perhaps even their death. We slowly find out that this man might be responsible for many more crimes that render him truly inhuman.
Wow! How interesting! But you’re probably asking yourselves, “That’s fine and dandy, but, where are the freakin’ werewolves, Dom?” Ah… You noticed that I completely avoided the lycanthropy sticker in my description of the plot! Well, this film does this as well. Apart from one scene where you see a wolf transformation, which is an extremely unfortunate thing (more on this later), this film avoids the usual werewolf clichés and rather explores the essence of what can turn a man into a beast. This is the first film that I have ever seen that combines the gothic horror elements of a “werewolf” flick with a classic serial killer plot. This part of the film amazed me.
And now for the bad news. Throughout the film, they talk about lycanthropy in terms of “a man developing the behavioral patterns of a wolf”. This approach is fresh and unique. It had me psyched, ready to scream “Bravo!” Alas, everything was ruined by a (still impressive) scene where we see the character change from wolf to man. Great old school bladder effects, but, it completely ruins everything the film had built from the beginning! It went from an effective metaphor about human, or inhuman, behavior to a cheap rubbery thing with fur! I think that the producers copped out and decided to give fans of the “Howling” series something they were expecting. But this film didn’t deserve that. They had something completely unique going and messed it all up by having the requisite transformation scene. Why? WHY? And since it is the one and only allusion to classic werewolf lore, why have it at all? The film would have been better off without it.
Now, this doesn’t make it a bad film per se. Even though I thought the pacing was all wrong, it was still quite enjoyable. Julian Sands is as creepy as ever (“Warlock” rocks!) and Elsa Pataki shows us that she can play more than just the requisite babe in “Beyond Re-Animator”. The film is also beautifully shot, but I’ll bet it’s damn hard to not have beautiful imagery when shooting in picturesque Galicia. With its dense forests and Gothic architecture, I can’t think of a more ideal place in the world to shoot a werewolf film. Even without werewolves!
This film did a wonderful job at waking me up. Or maybe it was Elsa Pataki’s nude scene that did it, I don’t know… So, my wife and I went out for a few drinks with last week’s “usual suspects”. We had the best time ever! An inebriated blonde woman fell on her ass right in front of us, got back to her feet, and then, flashed us all!
Cut to credits.