Written by Robin Bell
I hope that if you had a half term, it was filled with movie goodness!
I was lucky enough to get to see the two films I previewed last week, Ponyo and The Wolf Man. Ponyo was a return to form after the disappointing Howl's moving Castle, and had more imagination in its opening scene than most films contain in their running time.
Shame this wasn't the case with The Wolf Man.
The film has admirable qualities, harking back to the gothic horrors made to perfection by Hammer studios from the late fifties through the sixties. The Hammer horror films started out by remaking thirties horrors made by Universal, such as Dracula and Frankenstien. Then in 1941, Universal made a film called The Wolf Man, which was ripe for a remake. With horror turning more and more to the shock tactics of torture films such as Saw and Hostel, what better than to refresh horror by bringing back an old favourite, the gothic horror.
Maybe it was the pre production nightmares of losing a director, reshoots and rumours that some of the film was shot without a director that have affected it, but The Wolf Man is a missed opportunity in bringing back the gothic horror. Originally to be directed by Mark Romanek, who was responsible excellent and stylish One Hour Photo, he left due to creative differences and was replaced by Joe Johnston, whose most famous films would be Jumanji and Jurassic Park three. But these things can't be used as excuses.
The problem does not lie with the cinematography or look of the piece, as the gothic setting is evoked perfectly, where the film fails is when it has to deliver the horror. The actual Wolf Man, when the transformation is complete, looks ridiculous. The tone is all over the place, one moment gore galore the next a cheesy ill-delivered line. One moment the tension is building, the next moment it is undermined by the film-makers sticking too faithfully to a forties' template. Did they want to modernise The Wolf Man or make an old style gothic horror? This is the main question the film makers never answer. Add to this a strange below par performance from Anthony Hopkins (never thought I'd type that sentence) and you have a depressing missed opportunity.
Someone needs to bring back the gothic horror, and offer audiences something different in the horror genre, unfortunately the film to do this isn't The wolf Man.