Review: The Wolfman
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It seemed a gamble for Universal Pictures to use a director that is relatively inexperienced in the horror genre (Johnston's closest experience of horror is directing Jurassic Park 3 -need I say more). Surprisingly this risk paid off, with Johnston successfully proving himself to be a master in the genre.
The thin plot follows the original and many other werewolf horrors: boy meets girl, boy gets lycanthropic curse, local gypsies get involved, boy turns into werewolf and so on. The characters remain two dimensional, with Emily Blunt's character, grieving Widow Gwen Conliffe, having to alternate between melancholy and sheer terror. Even Hugo Weaving, who plays detective Abberline, is clearly struggling to develop his character into something beyond a cartoon character.
Benicio Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot, "the prodigal son" who returns to his homeland of England after the death of his brother. There is no doubt that Del Toro enjoyed horror films as a child- he shines as the werewolf, capturing the animal's instinct, mimicking every snarl and twitch of the psychotic monster.
This film was produced with the intention of being a spring blockbuster hit. Therefore there is a guarantee that The Wolfman will be action-packed, with numerous high budget stunts. This promise is fulfilled, but comes at a cost. The film is not the faint of heart, or even the slightly squeamish. The film guarantees hectolitres of bloodshed and plenty of limb ripping and neck savaging. This gore is further accentuated by the visual effects of the Wolfman, which are far more realistic than its predecessors. Gone are the days when sausages were used as intestines, and tomato ketchup for blood. This film is a bloodthirsty horror and does not pretend to be otherwise.
Yet the visuals are also to be admired and appreciated. Some of the effects are so advanced that they have made nightmares a reality. This is partly due to Johnston's previous experience as a visual arts director on chartbuster action films such as The Return of The Jedi. The audience is subjected to incredible CGI, ranging from long shots of the Wolfman jumping from buildings, to the Wolfman's point-of-view shots when hunting its terrified prey.
However, the scenes the audience will all remember are transformation scenes. This blood-curdling change from the reserved gentleman Lawrence Talbot, to this creature of such grotesque imagery, is phenomenal. The scene makes the audience squirm; it is uncomfortable and does not neglect any detail when displaying the torture Talbot must endure during a full moon. Simultaneously this scene is heartbreaking, as we see Lawrence lose himself in becoming the monster and despise himself for it.
The tension and adrenaline of the film is mainly due to the musical score, composed by Oscar nominated Danny Elfman. The pieces are incredible. Elfman manages to heighten all of the viewer's senses, making each scene packed with menace, anxiety and impending doom. There is no doubt that the music has proven itself to be a pinnacle character in the film.
There is no denying that The Wolfman is an average, mainstream hit. It will not be winning Oscars or Golden Globes. But the film was not created solely for the purpose of winning awards- it was produced as homage to the classics of the horror genre and thus all it can offer is the entertainment factor, which it delivers by the truckloads. The Wolfman is indeed a typical horror flick, featuring blood, guts, and a kill-hack-slash-maim attitude that all we know and love.