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.
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.