Lawrence Talbot is a haunted nobleman lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father, Talbot sets out to find his brother...and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself.
The Wolfman reminds me of the sequels to the original Universal monster movies of the 30’s and 40’s. You like them. You watch them because you want more of your favorite monster characters. But you know that they’re not completely up to par or as complex as their originals.
Before I move forward, I want to give credit where credit is due. When I make reference to Hammer Films in this review, it’s because Gary Murray from BigFanBoy.com pointed out to me after the screening the similarities between this remake and those classic British films. I just didn’t want to “steal” anything away from what he ends up writing.
As far as the setting of the film, it is most definitely a period piece. This hearkens back to the Hammer films more than the Universal ones, which had modern day settings. It also has a very heavy gothic overtone. From foggy countrysides to the dark and dank hallways of the Talbot homestead. This really does a great job of capturing atmosphere.
Storywise, it’s really nothing new. It’s at times comfortably familiar and at others a little thin. It feels like maybe something’s missing throughout. Through the entire climax of the film, I couldn’t help but keep thinking of the Jack Nicholson movie, Wolf.
Effects-wise, this is a big treat for horror fans. The transformation scenes and wolf makeup are very realistic and convincing, thanks to the legendary Rick Baker working his FX magic. The CGI city and background scenery is very well put together and looks beautiful. Furthermore bringing on the Hammer comparisons, keeping the blood and gore in this film were definitely one of director Joe Johnston’s main priorities. There are Technicolor red splashes of blood everywhere. Body parts fly in the air and flop on the ground almost nonstop during any scenes of action with the werewolf. Stomachs are slashed, intestines spilling out all over the ground. Heads are lopped off. This is the real deal!
Another thing I found very interesting was Danny Elfman’s soundtrack. He really reared it in with this one. There’s no signature kooky Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands vibe here. This is pretty much Elfman paying homage to the classic horror films and soundtracks of the past.
The actors all do relatively well in their parts. Benecio Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot as a brooding and pained individual. Anthony Hopkins plays Talbot’s father with a delicious and vindictive air that shows how much fun he must have had playing the part. Hugo Weaving is commanding in his role of the Scotland Yard agent assigned to find out who’s committing the vicious murders in the countryside. Emily Blunt does a great job playing the heartbroken fiancé of Talbot’s brother, who becomes sympathetic and emotionally drawn to the helplessly cursed Lawrence.
Overall, what you’ve got with The Wolfman is an interesting mix of 10% Universal Classic Monsters, 10% of An American Werewolf in London, and 80% Hammer Horror Film. I find it strange that Universal somehow ended up mimicking and taking so many elements from the Hammer films, seeing that back in the day they would have or did keep the British studio from using any of their monster designs or images. It’s ironic how the tables have turned – the influenced became the influencers. (Review by Eric Shirey)