Unlike most reviews I waited my good time to formally write up my opinion of this remake. Over a year in fact. I’m biased in it’s favor two major reasons. One being that the original is one of my favorite films and the Wolf Man is my favorite “Universal monster.” The second,more emotional reason is that I proposed to my fiance’ at the Austin premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse. I will always have warm fuzzy, feelings for this movie. There’s no way around it.
That side, it’s hard for me to imagine a film more tailor made for my sensibilities. We have Benicio Del Toro giving an performance that’s a tribute to horror stars of the past. The setting is a throw back to the Hammer movies of the 50’s and 60’s. The over the top splatter invokes 1980’s horror very well. And of course the titular anti-hero marks the return of the “Universal Monster.”
Of course this isn’t the first attempt on Universal’s part to get back into the ol’ horror business. They had reasonable success with their action based reboot of the Mummy franchise. Their attempt of dust off Dracula AND Frankenstein was met with mixed results in “Van Helsing.” The Wolf Man is a better update by far, but it’s not perfect. The movie follows the story of the original to a point. Lawrence Talbot returns home after death of his brother. He finds a romantic interest with a local girl named Gwen and tries to reconcile his relationship with his estranged father(Anthony Hopkins).But the similarities between the two end there.
In this version we’ve left the safe, black and white confines of the 1940’s. Here we’re in a tangled fairy tale woods equal parts Freud and Brothers Grimm. In this way, we’re moved beyond the classic werewolf tale of a tortured man. This is a story about fathers, sons, and the complex relationships that sometimes occurs between them. A strange choice for a remake of the film that in many ways, shaped all werewolf films that came after it. But because of this very fact, I believe a straight lift of the originals plot would have seemed tired.
If only some of the cast were fully in the spirit of the genre. Emily Blunt dutifully walks through her role, like she’s in a Jane Austin adaptation. Horror mainstay Hopkins, at times seems like he’s channeling Scrooge McDuck instead of Hannibal Lecter. Only having fun with his role half of the time. Hugo Weaving, Gerladine Chaplin, and Del Toro themselves however play gothic melodrama turned up to nine. Seemingly having a ball doing it. Much of the dialogue is over the top. Moxy is needed to pull it off.
The real star of this lycanthropic reboot however is Rick Baker’s amazing make-up effects. Giving us for the first time in years, classic werewolves that pay homage to the Jack Pierce original. But more than a pale recreation. This Wolf Man is as menacing as he is iconic. Baker keeps the monster familiar enough to please horror fans. While giving him a bulkier,21st century feel. The film makers take their time showing us a full shot of a werewolf. But once on screen,it’s a crowd pleaser to be sure.
The Wolf Man might not be the return to greatness that horror hounds have been waiting for. But it’s a noble effort and certainly a nice break from “Saw” sequels and torture porn. I hope the studio won’t abandon it’s plan to dust off more of it’s monsters. I for one, would love to see fresh takes on “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “the Invisible Man.” In the mean time, I’ll okay simply howling at the moon with the Wolf Man. I think you would too.