It has been a while since I watched the original, but the basic story only varies slightly in the new version. I’m not sure if the Underworld and Twilight saturated culture was expecting something more cutting edge in the plot department, but while The Wolfman offers nothing new in terms of story or werewolf lore, it’s a damn solid werewolf tale with a feeling of Victorian horror and weight that has been absent from the genre from some time. It also doesn’t hold back as a horror film, building tension slowly in many scenes and offering enough grisly, animal attack gore that you honestly fear this creature and who it will next tear to pieces right in front of you. Can you remember the last werewolf movie that scared you? For me, it was An American Werewolf In London (which shares visual effects master Rick Baker with The Wolfman). Since then, the tone of vampire and werewolf films has been that of action-horror. This film is something much darker and more disturbing and for that, I love it! I also want to add how much Danny Elfman’s score helped with this. I believe much of the classic atmosphere is owed to Elfman. This is something that he nearly achieved with Sleepy Hollow, and you can hear similar influences in the melodies. In this film, it is spot on!
The actors have also received their fair share of bad acting jabs from the critics. I really found this be unfounded. Benicio Del Toro is always an odd actor, and I found his take on Lawrence Talbot to be both unique and a call back to Lon Chaney. Maybe others don’t have the patience for his style, but I find it captivating. Anthony Hopkins seemed to fit the tone of the film perfectly, relishing his ominous role. Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving are excellent, as well.
There are flaws, of course. Del Toro’s final lines in the film are dripping with over-dramatic acting. I’m not sure what the director, Joe Johnston, was thinking choosing that take. Still, it wasn’t enough for me to dislike the film, just something that bugged me. There were also a number of shots where the CG did get cartoony. Now that we’ve seen Avatar, that shit just ain’t gonna cut it! Again, this was something I could easily overlook, given the other plusses of the film.
All in all, I would recommend that you get your butts to this film! Although it pains me to say it, we no longer live in the days where an R-rated horror film without the word “saw” in the title rolls into the theater every Friday. This is a decent return to form for the genre, and any werewolf fanatics out there would be suckers if they missed it. This also makes me supremely excited for the upcoming The First Avenger: Captain America that will also be directed by Johnston. Between The Wolfman, The Rocketeer, and October Sky, Johnston has proved that he can handle both period pieces and elements of fantasy and science fiction. The future looks bright.