Starring Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt
Directed by Joe Johnston
With pop culture still saturated by the ridiculous proliferation of Twilight's glittery abstinence vampires versus juiced-up, muscled teens-cum-werewolves, the idea of an old fashioned, grown-up, Gothic horror flick tackling lycanthropy mythology seemed promising. Instead, we're offered Wolfman, a limp retread of every tired werewolf cliché, relying on only a spindle-thin father-son conflict as its central source of tension.
After a lengthy absence, Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro, struggling with an American accent) is summoned home by his brother's fiancée, Gwen (Emily Blunt), who confesses that his brother, Ben, has been missing for weeks. When Ben’s body is found, Lawrence promises the grieving Gwen he'll stay until he discovers what happened. To do so, he must confront his father, Sir John (Anthony Hopkins), an eccentric who speaks in vague threats and pseudo-loving warnings, and with whom he shares a mysterious past. As the townsfolk's whispers grow louder about "a curse" and "the gypsies" and "stocking up on silver bullets," the film unfolds as one would expect: Lawrence ends up bearing the mark of the beast and repeatedly, viciously morphs into a snarling, hairy monster under the glow of the full moon. The mystery (scarcely a mystery at all) is who cursed Lawrence and how can it be stopped?
During production, the film was hampered by numerous difficulties (two directors, studio rewrites, different endings) and multiple, disconnected visions abound. Straight-up horror? Cheesy gore with taut, self-aware humour? A bodice-busting, romantic mystery with a hint of terror? A psychological thriller about redemption? Any one of these directions could have worked, but Wolfman instead offers a disorienting and diluted blend of all four — with some truly terrible acting from established Oscar winners thrown in for good measure.
All that aside, the film's biggest disappointment comes in flatly refusing to build up the all-important suspense. Unforgivably, the film reveals what the werewolf looks like before the opening credits, making Wolfman the cinematic equivalent of premature ejaculation. ★—Andrea Warner