28 February 2010

Thoughts On: The Wolfman

Here's an oddity: The Wolf Man.

This picture plays its concept straight--how weird is that? It makes NO effort to update its story. It doesn't change its setting to America, or the twenty first century. It doesn't wallow in ironic dissection of the absurd folklore involved, and it doesn't wink at the silliness of its gothic inspiration.  

(Wait, there's ONE wink in the film: a conspicuous and ridiculous homage to the film, An American Werewolf In London.  The Wolf Man story goes through contortions to get its beast to Picadilly Circus to reenact the memorable spree in the former film.  The sequence is so earnest and witless that one suspects director Joe Johnston might not have been in on the joke.)

There were a lot of good elements in this--great art direction and cinematography, top flight actors--so I guess they were just kind of hoping the old-fashioned thing would work.

It doesn't, naturally. But goddamn, the naïveté involved is just so... ADORABLE.  

A hairy guy in a prosthetic snout in some ripped-up Hulk pants snarling like he could actually frighten someone over the age of six?

Villagers with regional Brit accents intoning about the moon and the moors?

"Gar! Don't be venturin' out onto them simulated moors... they be damned... and relatively low-res..."

Not so classic: there's a ridiculous amount of ultra-gore in the kills.  At numerous points in the film the Wolf Man kills about six thousand people within a radius of about ten feet in a matter of seconds. 

He's also never shown eating anybody.  He's aparently killing for sport, like some sort of hairy douchebag.

Pandering overkill aside, this film belongs in the "earnest about making a classic horror movie but not earnest about actual horror" box with the likes of the 70's Frank Langella Dracula or the nineties Jack Nicholson Wolf Man.

Next up for director Joe Johnston? The First Avenger: Captain America. So naturally this Wolf Man HAS frightened some folks: namely, geeks.

For the record, Johnston's only real gaffe in directing this ham sandwich was when he failed to convinced the producers that if they were going to make a faithful gothic fright fest, they should do it straight all the way. No jump-scares, no ultra-gore, and no laughable climax.

That he didn't, or couldn't, is the worst omen for for Captain America. 

But I doubt the folks at Marvel plan a wolf man-on-wolf man smack down--involving a shirtless Anthony Hopkins, no less--as their climax? Ri-i-i-i-ght?