What’s that, you say? You want more book-to-film adaptations? Not this time. Despite sharing the same title as RL LaFevers’ book and being about werewolves, BC Furtney’s Werewolf Rising is otherwise totally unrelated. Sorry to get your hopes up. Instead of a coming-of-age tale involving self-discovery, we get Melissa Carnell, an escaped convict, and Melissa Carnell being chased by a guy in a werewolf costume. Fair trade-off?
Emma (Carnell) is a recovering alcoholic. Feeling that an escape to the country will help her battle, Emma heads out to her childhood home in the Arkansas mountains. Unfortunately for her, rest and relaxation aren’t in the cards. Aside from a well-meaning but alcoholic neighbour (Berry), and a late-night meeting with the neighbour’s nephew (Copko), Emma keeps having nightmares about a mysterious bloodstained man following her in the woods. Emma has a bigger problem, though. Seems that there’s a big hairy problem in the woods, and it’s been chewing on the locals. And now it wants Emma.
You can tell a film’s not going to go well when the credits sequence at the start of the film is accompanied by a blaring knockoff of a John Carpenter piece with a bit of Bernard Herrmann thrown in for that spooky effect. Still, it’s a low-budget film, so I’ll give it some credit. Melissa Carnell does alright as our lead, though her acting range isn’t entirely convincing, and neither is her delivery of some of her lines. Her phone message exposition at the start of the film is a good example. Matt Copko as your mysterious redneck with a heart of gold is pretty much the same as Melissa, though his monotone delivery puts Carnell a step above. The big standout is veteran B-movie actor Bill Oberst Jr. The man not only comes across as genuinely creepy in his acting, but his craggy face makes it all the more disturbing. I wish that he was given more to do in the film. It would’ve made the 76 minutes less painful.
Honestly, It’s hard to be nice with a film like this. It’s a mess, starting with a mess of a script by Furtney. The film seemingly doesn’t know what it’s doing. You have a lame alcoholism plotline that isn’t really used for the main character, family dysfunction, escaped convicts and werewolves thrown in for what seems like an afterthought. Is it a drama or a horror film? Either way, it sucks. As I touched on already, the acting by almost everyone involved is mediocre (save for Oberst Jr.). I literally shouted my thanks when Oberst Jr. showed up to chew the scenery. Despite his effort, Oberst Jr. can’t save this car-crash story mashup. Oh yeah, throwing in Irena Murphy fully nude at the very end for no reason? Reeks of desperation.
As for the werewolf itself, let’s just say that the word ‘underwhelming’ comes to mind. First off, the costume sucks. It really does look like a cross between a gorilla costume and someone’s piss-poor attempt at replicating the werewolf head from The Howling. Only, this werewolf has bat ears. It doesn’t look muscular, it doesn’t look threatening. It looks stupid. What’s even more stupid is the transformation. Or lack thereof. Seems the budget couldn’t be bothered with doing things like transitional makeup or close-ups of clothing ripping with appropriate sound effects. Instead, we get people sweaty and covered in KY jelly, drooling with fake teeth, and obnoxiously loud werewolf roars. The gore effects consist of your typical blood splatters, but done in a chintzy way. What makes it worse is that continuity (read: a lack of it) has blood disappearing and reappearing. It’s not in the fun Evil Dead way, either.
So yeah, this film is a turd. If it’s not the boring-ass drama part with werewolves thrown in as an afterthought, it’s the crappy werewolf effects, the rip-off score, or the crappier acting. I feel bad for Oberst Jr., since the dude was really the only bright spot in the film. The guy’s an Emmy winner, and definitely deserved better than this. Still, as a consolation, the guy’s got a ton of work lined up for the next year, so at least he’ll be busy. If you have a hunger for a werewolf movie, skip this one and go watch one of the many better films out there. Werewolf Rising is an insult that will have you becoming an alcoholic to cope with it.