A hairy and bloddy tale awaits in ‘The Wolfman’

Horror remakes have been getting a bad reputation from the pointless (John Moore’s 2006 The Omen) to being a complete waste of film (Rob Zombie’s Halloween II). However, The Wolfman manages to be an entertaining and bloody tale that pays tribute to the original 1941 Lon Chaney Jr. film and other classic werewolf films.
In 1891, several villagers of Blackmoor, England have been found beheaded, dismembered and disemboweled by what the surviving villagers say was caused by the arrival of gypsies in their town. Law and order come in the form of Scotland Yard Inspector Francis Aberline (Hugo Weaving), who believes that is a crazed lunatic that are causing the deaths. Meanwhile, Lawrence Talbot (Oscar-winner Benicio Del Toro) is an theatrical actor who travels back to his homeland in Blackmoor, England after receiving news from his brother’s fiancée (Emily Blunt) of his brother’s disappearance. When he arrives at his family estate, he is reunited by his estranged father, Sir John Talbot (Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins), who tells Lawrence that his brothers’ ghastly and grim remains were found. In search of who or what killed his brother, Lawrence has a very close encounter with a wolf-like beast and becomes a tragic victim of an incurable curse.
The casting for The Wolfman is great, but the performance by Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins really brings some class to this gothic horror movie. Del Toro reinventing a role played 70 years earlier by Lon Chaney Jr. by bringing portraying Lawrence as the brooding and tragic man, whose childhood is laced with tragedy. It also helps that Del Toro is able to work through the tons of makeup and prosthetics he wears in the film to create an expressive werewolf that pays tribute to his predecessor. Hopkins’s role offers some intentional laughs with lines delivered with quick wit, but his role as the father of the doomed and cursed man is radically different from the original by the time the film reaches its climax. However, the change is welcoming as it is fresh breath of originality from any remakes become a literal modernized copies of the original movies.
Not to be outshined by the two Oscar winners, Hugo Weaving does a descent job the inspector as his character has an incredible arc throughout the film that leads to an unexpected ending. It also gives the film a conflict where Lawrence is basically “on the lam” after things become a little hairy and bloody. There is a lacking in the acting ensemble with Emily Blunt, whose character is becomes a object for romanticism in the film Blunt’s character becomes useless in the story and shares ineffective chemistry with Del Toro that feels unsettling, However, as the story reaches its climax, her character becomes more important because she is becomes destined as the only person who can end the curse.
Director Joe Johnston makes several winks and nods to the original film and other werewolf films. The silver wolf-head cane that Lon Chaney Jr. used to kill the beast in the original becomes an integral part of the story as it first introduced when Lawrence carries it with him when he first arrives to his family estate. There is also a poem introduced before the credits begin was a warning given by the gypsy Maleva in the original: “Even a man that is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane bloom and the autumn moon is bright”. There is a specific scene that pays homage to An American Werewolf in London where the Wolf Man is running amok and causing chaos in London when he causes a bus accident that results in several fatalities.
Legendary make-up artist Rick Baker’s (who won the first Best Make-Up Oscar for his work on John Landis’ 1981 horror masterpiece An American Werewolf in London ) work on The Wolfman is tremendous as his make-up design pays tribute the original film without making it look corny and fake such as past werewolf incarnations in films such as craptacular fest known as Van Helsing and The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Whenever the Wolf Man is in full sprint mode, it gets on all four legs to pick incredible speed and gets on two legs when it prepares to stalk its prey. Baker also does a great job in creating the gory kills in the film whether is severed heads or enough blood and guts that would make Eli Roth blush and decorate an entire bedroom. The only problem with the deaths is that they happen so fast before a blink of the eye.
Unlike London’s transformation scene, the transformations scenes in The Wolfman was completely computer-generated. The CGI works great with the scenes that involve the Wolf Man, but there some spotty CGI work when it comes to composing other animals such as bears and deer. It makes me wonder how come the filmmakers use real animals for those scenes because they could have save some money.
The Wolfman is entertaining 108 minute ride that is also a fitting tribute to the original 1941 film with strong performances from Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins bring a certain acting class to this horror film. The one weak link in the acting ensemble is Emily Blunt, whose character does not become essential until the climax of the film. Rick Baker does an incredible job with the makeup effects for the Wolf Man and the gory death scenes. There are certain CGI scenes that are rough around the edges and looks like some imitations of animals.

THE WOLFMAN: 3 stars out of 5

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