The Wolfman (2010)

The Wolfman! One of the classic Universal monsters alongside Dracula, the Mummy, and a handful of others, forever inscribed upon our collective consciousness through continuous revampings and updates. Does the latest reboot of the horror icon stand up to the quality of the versions that preceded it? Though I’ve never actually seen any other Wolfman movies, I can only hope that that answer is “no” – the latest interpretation, by director Joe Johnston, is a bad movie in absolutely every regard.

With the vampire evolving into tweeny bopping territory, I looked at the apparently dark and violent reboot of the Wolfman as a chance to find a badass monster amidst a contemporary sea of sucky creatures. Unfortunately, this Wolfman film is unintelligible, relentlessly grim, and laughably cheesy. And not cheesy in an intentional campy way. It’s just a bit pathetic.

The Wolfman follows Benicio Del Torro, who returns to his hometown after his brother has been killed by a werewolf. He has an estranged relationship with his father, Anthony Hopkins, and a nascent inappropriate relationship with his dead brother’s widow, Emily Blunt. Hugo Weaving also running around in there as a Scottish inspector.

What makes The Wolfman so bad? Well, for one, the film was plagued by a series of rewrites that resulted in an entirely senseless story. One of the most glaring examples is when Del Torro is arrested because the townspeople suspect him of being a werewolf after suffering a bite at a gypsy camp. That’s all well and good, but after detaining Del Torro in a mental hospital, the tune of his antagonists changes: Now they insist that Del Torro has made the whole werewolf thing up in his mind, and they are going to hold him in a room to prove that his delusions aren’t real.

Wait, what? Yes, they arrest him against his will because he might be a werewolf. Then, as he sits bounded, yelling at his captors to let him go so he won’t kill them, they insist on holding him to prove that he’s NOT a werewolf. Pointless and infuriatingly inconsistent scenes like this tie together werewolf attacks dominated by cheesy deaths and unimpressive CGI gore.

The bad CGI is really disappointing, because one of the few things I can commend the movie on is its werewolf make-up. It’s much more evocative of the original prosthetic make-up that I’ve seen this Wolfman’s ancestors sport and not bogged down by computer graphics. Had they consistently applied this technique, I would have been able to at least laud the film’s visual effects. However, after designing the Wolfman, it appears as though the film’s crew gave up and fell back on CGI blood obfuscated in the shadows of the hardly-lit settings.

Del Torro himself is gruff and joyless in the lead role. I understand that this is supposed to be a horror movie, but there’s a difference between strong and silent and squinty-eyed and uncharismatic, and unfortunately Del Torro never expands beyond the latter pair of abilities. The once-glorious Anthony Hopkins seems tired and bored, well-aware of the low grade of the material he’s been given to work with. The only actor who makes their part enjoyable is Hugo Weaving as the persistent inspector who will probably show up if they ever unwisely decide to make a sequel to this trash.

The Wolfman suffers from a predictable plot with a foreseeable twist, on top of stale acting, a pastiche story, and a tiring devotion to showing a shot of the moon between every scene. Speaking of which, how long does the story in this film go on for? There is a laughably high frequency of full moons that turn various characters into werewolves. It would have been awesome if the writers had found a way to tell a good story across a couple of full moons instead of an incomprehensible one across many.

No matter how interested you are in werewolves, you shouldn’t bother seeing this. Maybe you heard of the werewolf fight, complete with a flaming werewolf – trust me, even that is far more boring than it sounds. This entire film is a dark and muddled mess, and a tragic reboot to a series that obviously has the ability to resonate with multiple generations. Now we just have to wait three years for this film to be erased from our memory, and perhaps someone will get the Wolfman right. But probably not.

Final rating: 2/10

–James A. Janisse


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