The Wolfman is yet another entry into the werewolf/sci-fi sub-genre that appears to be in vogue right now. But rather than overtly trying to attract a teenage audience in the same manner as the Twilight series, the makers of this film were looking to make a ‘classic’ horror movie. Although its plot and direction owes much to the 1941 movie of the same name, star and producer Benicio Del Toro wanted to update the original rather than simply create a frame-by-frame remake.
The story is relatively straightforward; upon hearing of his brother’s mysterious death, Laurence (Del Toro), returns to the derelict family home inhabited by his estranged father (Hopkins) and his brother’s fiancée (Blunt). Merely adding in the words, ‘werewolf’ and ‘love’ will give you the rest of the plot.
The main downfall here is Del Toro whose woodenness (I think he was trying to portray tension) fails to endear the audience to his character, and leaves you wanting the villagers to lynch him just so he might perhaps show some emotion. He is totally unconvincing as a human, especially his attempt at falling in love; it is only when he transforms that he comes into his own, these scenes, enhanced by the special effects, being one of the highlights of the film.
The supporting cast are commendable – Hopkin’s acting as ever added gravitas to the affair but still failed to add more than a little bit of interest, nonetheless his ability to work convincingly with dubious lines is impressive. Blunt, tackling a more heavyweight role than she is used to (think Devil Wears Prada) played her part well – although she seemed unconcerned about the death of her fiancé and more than happy to fall in love with his brother.
Although this is a horror film there were moments of comedy – the police inspector’s exchange with the barwomen is one of particular note and intentional unlike many of the others. Blunt’s impassioned ‘Laurence, you know me, look at me’ was particularly banal and exemplary of some of the questionable scripting, while Hopkins removing his top as a werewolf to reveal an incredibly hairy chest elicited laughter from much of the cinema.
The sets, scenery, costumes and make up were the highlight of this otherwise predictable piece of drama. Chatsworth House, used so often in films, was given a fresh lease of life through its stages of regeneration throughout the film and the admirable attempt to recreate Victorian London should be lauded. Special credit should go to Rick Baker, the creature effects designer, who managed to pull off an incredibly hard job in making the transformation credible and the attention to detail, such as the intricacy of the feet and hands, was superb.
The problem is that this is a remake of a classic, so it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Although new special effects have been utilized beautifully in the transformation scenes, at the end of the day the Wolfman still looks like an oversized Yeti. It fulfills all the clichés: misty moors, stately homes, ‘backward’ villagers, estranged sons, family secrets, copious amounts of blood and lots of howling. Yet it feels tired and even sparkling performances from Hopkins and Blunt and the remarkable scenery fail to light up an incredibly average film.