Sunday, February 14, 2010
Now, that was a Wolfman movie. Went to an early matinee with Christian instead going by myself Friday night, as planned. And that was a good thing. Despite the long lines of cabin-fever suffering Richmonders hitting the road after being snowed-in all month, people who see horror movies during the matinees are people who are there for the movie, not so they can be seen.
The movie itself was a lot of fun. It's a direct remake of the original '40s Lon Chaney Jr. version but adds some (telegraphed) plot twists I won't spoil. Hugo Weaving as Inspector Abberline (yes, that Abberline) and Anthony Hopkins as Lawrence Talbot's father were great, as expected. Emily Blunt played her part well but was really not given much to do. And Benicio Del Toro certainly looked the part and was a great Wolfman but ultimately never came across as very sympathetic. In the original, Lon Chaney Jr. was extremely likable but Del Toro has such an edge to him he may have been miscast. And that's not even taking into account the fact that his accent was constantly slipping. Talbot was supposed to have spent most of his life in the U.S., so it was forgivable that he sounded American most of the time. But every now and then, he sounded Puerto Rican. And that was just weird. Which is a shame because I love Del Toro in just about everything, he bears a passing resemblance to Lon Chaney Jr. and he looked absolutely fantastic in the makeup.
Tthe film does succeed in the most important parts. It looks gorgeous. Like a Frank Frazetta painting come to life. Rick Baker's makeup is the usual feast for the eyes. And the scenes where the Wolfman wreaks havoc are a brutally good time. Even the CG transformations which caused such an internet furor were not that bad. Probably the best I've seen on film. They wisely didn't spend all that much time on them, just using them to accent the change. Talbot's transformations take place fairly quickly (unlike the ten-minute change David Kessler underwent in AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON) so you don't have time to wonder if they looked convincing enough before the blood starts spraying and heads start flying.
The gore is out of control. In torture porn movies like HOSTEL, that's a bad thing because it becomes the whole point. In WOLFMAN, it's a means to an end and it turns Del Toro's Wolfman into a ferocious, fearsome beast to be avoided at all costs. In the original, Chaney Jr. would pounce on his victims and choke them to death with a high-pitched snarl. I remember watching it the first time and thinking, "Aww. Cute! Throw him a ball!" Del Toro's Wolfman is anything but cute. Unfortunately, they do show him running on all fours quite a lot and it looks weird because when humans run on all fours, their butts stick up in the air. Legs are longer than arms and all that. He is called "The Wolfman", and they should have just stuck with the ol' bipedal locomotion. But the way it was shot, in quick cuts and in foggy low-light situations, it was a lot more convincing than Sabertooth in the WOLVERINE movie. That was just ridiculous.
Sadly, there was something not quite right about the movie. I can't put my finger on it (maybe a lack of emotional involvement) but it keeps it from being a great monster film. But it is a very good one. All in all, a fun entry into the Werewolf genre and worth your ten bucks.
Posted by Matt Wieringo at 7:38 AM