In 1941, a movie came out that terrified the world and was another building block in establishing Universal Studios as THE home of horror. This remake of the classic Wolfman movie is the first of many more remakes of the Universal Studios oldies but goodies to come...and THAT'S something to be scared of. This gloomy, period piece stays fairly true to the original story and does a better-than-expected job at duplicating the atmosphere and tone that the original had. There are barren woods filled with mysterious fog and crumbling mansions that are being devoured by dead ivy. The Production Designer and Set Decorator did an incredible job with making the look of the film just as scary as the wolfman himself. It's dark and dank on every square inch of the film, symbolic animals are littered everywhere from obvious stuffed heads on walls to patterns on decorative vases, and even the simplicity of some scenes are aiding to the mood in the way they even have gathered muck in the corners of hospital rooms. The Director is Joe Johnston, who doesn't have much to be proud of attached to his credits...that is unless you actually liked Jurassic Park III or Hildalgo. But he was a rush job on this project getting signed as a replacement director only weeks before shooting began. Keeping that in mind, he did a pretty good job. The movie looked great; I just wish he was paying attention to the acting and script just as much as the visuals. Benicio Del Toro stars in this as the Lawrence Talbot character who turns into the titular character later. This was a passion project for him. He was the Producer as well and fought for years to get this movie made. Quite ironic considering he's the key reason to its sinking. Del Toro is a good, Oscar-winning actor, but he looks like he filmed this movie while under heavy sedation. He lacks every bit of the performance that Lon Chaney Jr. gave the wolfman in the original film. And his drowsy, lazy performance must have rubbed off on the cast which includes the usually impressive Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Sunshine Cleaning) and Hugo Weaving (V for Vendetta, The Matrix). The whole cast sucks! It's like Del Toro was so exhausted from trying to get the movie made that he didn't have the energy to film the movie and that made everyone else think it was okay to also take naps after "Action!" was called. The one good thing about The Wolfman is seeing real-deal monster make-up again. After the horribly pitiful-looking werewolves in New Moon, this stands as a reminder of why werewolves are scary. Oscar-winning legend Rick Baker did the wolfman make-up on Del Toro and even though he did it before with An American Werewolf in London, he still managed to make it look different and new. Even though they utilized CG effects for some of the faster action sequences, much to my chagrin, it still sent a chill up my spine to see the wolfman prowling the woods in the fog looking for his next victim and then letting out the infamous howl at the full moon after the kill. Oh and speaking of "kill," this movie is rated "R" for a reason. The violence in this is fun but very, very graphic...leave the kids at home. Plus, it actually has some great scares in it too, so even if there weren't disemboweling and decapitations it would be too intense for them. But if you're looking for a good scare that's filled with perfect mythology, quality performances and chilling ambiance that has inspired generations of filmmakers and storytellers, rent the original 1941 The Wolfman and watch it at night during a full moon.
The Wolfman (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C-