‘The Wolfman’ Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated May 3rd, 2011 at 6:23 pm,

If you’re going to remake a classic movie, The Wolfman is an excellent example of how to do it right.

the wolfman reviews The Wolfman Review
Screen Rant reviews The Wolfman

The Wolfman is a remake of the classic 1941 film. It’s not a sequel, prequel, reboot or re-imagining that takes place present day – it is a remake in the purest sense of the word. Now here at Screen Rant we tend to rail against remakes on a weekly basis, but I’m here to tell you that if you’re going to do it, this is the way to go about it.

The film takes place in Blackmoor, England, in 1891 and Benicio del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot – the fellow in the original film who was cursed to become a werewolf by being bitten by one himself. He’s a well-known actor in London but was raised in the U.S., sent to live with his aunt by his father (played by Anthony Hopkins). His brother’s fiancee Gwen (Emily Blunt) contacts Lawrence to let him know that his brother has been missing for two weeks. His brother is of course, dead (killed before the opening credits, so that’s not a spoiler) and his body turns up just before Lawrence (estranged from his father) returns to Blackmoor.

Although his brother is dead, Lawrence is determined to figure out who, or what, killed him. The townsfolk are feeding the rumor mill, not knowing who would so completely mutilate bodies (there have been other murders), and the speculation runs from crazed lunatic to some recently arrived gypsies to the dancing bear they brought with them.

Eventually his search leads him to the gypsies to find out what business his brother had with them, and the inevitable attack soon follows. Like in the original, he comes to a slow realization of what has happened to him and is torn between his will to live and wanting to destroy himself so he cannot kill.

The townsfolk are suspicious of him but his father manages to keep them at bay when they come out to his estate to try and take Lawrence away. Gwen has tended to his injuries (which heal at an accelerated rate) and while they have grown close, the fact that she was his brother’s fiancee keeps them both at arms’ length from each other despite their growing attraction.

Soon on the scene is a detective from Scotland Yard (Hugo Weaving, who I’m always happy to see in a film) there to investigate the recent deaths. He has his eye on Lawrence as a possible suspect (Lawrence’s father sent him to a mental hospital for a year before sending him to America – the reason why becomes clear by the end of the film). He is of course a rational man and the townsfolk speaking of silver bullets to kill monsters is poppycock to a man like him.

emily blunt the wolfman The Wolfman Review

Emily Blunt in a scene from 'The Wolfman'

Now there have been concerns about this film due to re-shoots and production delays, but I’m here to tell you not to worry. Director Joe Johnston (who is set to direct Captain America movie) has done an excellent job on all fronts with this film. His goal seemed to be to make this a gothic period piece and a horror film that pays homage to the original – and he nails it. Watching this you’ll just get the weird feeling that you’re watching a classic 1940s horror film, but made with modern technology.

Rick Baker (who’s previous special effects makeup credit includes the modern classic An American Werewolf in London) is the lead on the werewolf and transformation scenes here, and thankfully due to his skills there are many more practical effects than CGI. The transformation sequences looked particularly painful for Lawrence and the final design of the werewolf was wicked-cool (I was particularly fond of the hands with the long, razor-sharp claws).

Music by Danny Elfman was great and appropriate (seems like it’s been a while…). Always a fan of Anthony Hopkins on screen and Benicio has a screen gravitas that’s undeniable. The one weak link for me was Emily Blunt – maybe having seen her recently in Sunshine Cleaning, I just couldn’t quite buy her as the refined, delicate, British fiancee and it distracted me perhaps more than it should have.

While a bit choppy, the action scenes were very well done and quite effective. There was a bit too much reliance on “jump scares” but it was done in a way that didn’t seem as cheesy as we usually see in other films. And the film is rated R for good reason: PLENTY of gore and blood here folks and all I can say to that is thank you Joe Johnston! It just added a whole ‘nother level to the attacks and ferocity of the werewolf that just wouldn’t be there with all the blood and gore scrubbed from the movie to give it a bloodless PG-13 (teens might find the film a bit slow, anyway – it’s really more for grown ups).

Don’t take my last statement to mean that there’s nothing to keep you entertained here when it comes to action – there’s certainly enough and the ending is more satisfying than I thought it could be. Now if you’re looking for some hip update of the classic film, then move along, nothing to see here. Some may complain that this doesn’t bring anything new to the genre – but that’s not the point of this film. This version is a big time homage to the original, recreating it with modern day visual effects.

I think that eventually this version of The Wolfman will be considered a modern classic – and if you’re a fan of the old black & white classic horror films and can take the updated gore, I highly recommend it.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. Good news for Cpt. America then perhaps??

    Maybe I'll go catch this sometime…

  2. I have been hearing some rather good stuff relating to this film, looks like my initial skepticism may have been misplaced after-all. Though, its not often that a film involving Benicio del Toro is a flop.

  3. This definitely has me curious about this film. Might have to make sure I see this one in the theater. Thanks, Vic!

  4. hopkins is an awesome actor, same as del torro.
    im watching this tomorrow for sure, and your review just made it more of an anticipation.

    what do you mean by 'choppy' fight scenes, are you talking about the action in general or the camera etc ?

  5. Good. I was hoping this would be a good'n :D

  6. I watched scenes of this being filmed at the Old Royal Naval College (Greenwich, UK). Its quite amazing how they edit things. Although I can say that I was quite disappointed that the huge stunt jump they rehearsed for week was partially edited out. But nonetheless a classic werewolf movie, with the love interest, silver bullets and all. Not as good as I thought it was going to be but definately worth going to see.

  7. Awesome review. It has reawakened my interest in this film.

  8. Awesome review. It has reawakened my interest in this film.

  9. Dang. Double post. Sorry.

  10. Great review.

    I was going to watch it even if you said it sucked because I can make up my own mind, apparently unlike some of the folks hear who only want to see it now that you said it was good.

  11. here

  12. Let's hope so. I probably will wait to see this until dvd but was hoping for good reviews so Cap has some hope.

  13. Same here. The biggest interest for me in this film is its connection to Captain America. I know Johnston has done a lot of bad ass things, but I'm glad he's not losing his touch. This gets me even more excited for Cap.

  14. Brilliant review. Can not wait to see this. :D So excited. I love the original and don't usually like remakes of such classics but this one looks brilliant.

  15. Oh, you know – the thing they do in movies over the last few years to make the action seem more frantic… quick cuts that last for a second or less.

  16. First of all, so for a movie you were going to see anyway, you decide to click on a review of said movie. Hmmmm.'
    As far as us mind-numbed screenrant-a-bots, maybe we value Vic's opinion because his tastes in movies usually fall in line with our own.
    Nice try though. Keep it up and a jab at Vic may eventually stick.

  17. I will definitely have to give this a look. I thought the original very good on atmosphere and it sounds as though they've recreated that here.
    Some changes I note, as a werewolf nerd. It's very little known that the convention of the werewolf changing on the full moon is largely a Hollywood-created myth. In the original the wolf changed when the Wolfsbane was in bloom. The rhyme went 'Every man who is pure of heart and says his prayers at night, may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.' I understand they've changed that to 'fulll moon' instead of 'wolfsbane is in bloom.' It's actually quite difficult to find out when the full moon motif first appears in horror films.
    Anyway, on that anorak note, thanks for the review. I had feared the worst but I'll definitely see this.

  18. Now I have to see it in theaters as I love “classic” movies. Darn you screen rant!:P

  19. Guys, other critics are really dumping all over this movie – but I think they're missing the point. If you go in looking for something new or edgy you're going to be disappointed. I love the old classic horror films and that's why I really liked this so much.

    I don't know what those other guys' problem is…

  20. but are the cuts annoying or just not needed ?
    i trust your opinion man most the time we get the same results from a movie :D

  21. Wolfman has always been my favorite monster since I was a kid, “abbot and costello meet Wolfman” was great and the Original Wolfman and many other werewolf films to follow were great (some bad). Silver Bullet was one of my favs and I intend to see this one soon as possible.

  22. THANK YOU VIC!!!! One of my top 5 to see in 2009- now the same for 2010! The Cast and Director were enough to know this film would not fail. Paying homage to the orginal and the classic style you describe is perfect example to me of fine film making. SO estatic about this. ” IN Screenrant We Trust” alas my schedule is too cramped with shows and work, and I will never talk my Wife into this for a view on VD night….however Monday is wide open! Good job to MD as well for the prose!

  23. Great review, Vic. I'll have to go see it – I was hoping to anyway, and now there seems to be even more good reason.

  24. I am glad for this review as I have been anticipating this film.
    I really like Joe Johnson as a director, Hidalgo is an underrated film.
    Thank you Vic for this review…out of all the monsters, the Wolfman is my favorite and I enjoy the original. I even just recently bough the special edition of The Wolfman to rewatch again.
    This has my ticket tomorrow.

  25. Awesome!!

    So happy you liked it Vic. I hate so much of the Gen dummy, short attention span, overly CGi'd, politically correct, bland ass crap that hollywood churns out like candy bars to feed the dummy generation's riddlin adled, video game ethos, sugar fix. I have had high hopes for this project since it's inception. A true homage to the classic universal noir films I love so much. (the Wolfman and Lon Chaney Jr's everyman pathos has always been my favorite) From the stills I have seen it almost appears to be filmed with a black and white sensability (if that makes sence) with the use of ominous shadows and grays and sepias. Looks beautifully ghastly.

  26. That was very interesting. I never knew that. Thank you for sharing it. :)

  27. The answer's fairly simple — the original Wolfman was much closer to a PG-rated movie, and when the new version of The Wolfman came out, a lot of folks expected it to be a vaguely bloody PG-13, in keeping with the trend of PG-13 rated horror movies which have been popping up at the multiplex with regularity.

    So, it's not so much that critics were necessarily looking for something new or edgy, but they were expecting a PG-13 rated Wolfman (after all, this film was directed by the guy who did The Rocketeer), and were shocked to get an R-rated one, instead.

    Of course, I could be wrong …

  28. i didnt like it that much, good movie with good actors but i just didnt enjoy it like i did with other movies.
    @ vic – at i didnt know what you meant by quick cuts until i saw the werewolf fight.
    overall a decent movie but a bit long (transformation happened what 1 hour into the movie)

  29. I don't think that's it, Sophie, sorry. :)