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The Wolfman (2010)

Even a man whose heart is pure
And says his prayers by night
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
And the autumn moon is bright…

Lawrence Talbot is about to have the worst family reunion ever…

The Wolfman is the 2010 remake of the 1941 horror film The Wolf Man. It was directed by Joe Johnston and stars Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving, Emily Blunt, and werewolf makeup by veteran monster maker Rick Baker.

After Ben Talbot is mauled to death by an unknown creature in Wales, his brother Lawrence is summoned from a stage production of Hamlet by Ben’s fiancee Gwen to find out what happened to him. Lawrence has a tense reunion with his father, Sir John Talbot; Lawrence’s mother had committed suicide when he was a boy, and Lawrence himself had been sent to an insane asylum to cure him of the delusions that John had killed her. Many of the locals blame a nearby troupe of gypsies for the killings, but others claim that there was a similar rash of murders decades ago, with the culprit suspected to be a werewolf. When Lawrence visits the gypsy camp, an old fortune teller named Maleva tells him that an evil had befallen his brother – just before a creature attacks the camp, killing many of the gypsies and leaving Lawrence gravely wounded. Little does Lawrence know that he is about to get an up-close look at the terror menacing the countryside, as well as the dark secrets of his own past, as he finds himself on the run from the police, led by the famed Inspector Aberline…

For some reason it seems to be really hard to make convincing-looking werewolves in recent horror movies. Costumes look like people in bear suits, and CGI tends to look like cheap video game graphics. So, it was refreshing to see filmmakers take a step back towards the Universal Studios roots of the modern werewolf movie and do a wolf-man-style makeup for the title beastie. Rick Baker’s work here in effect helps him come full-circle, as he had been inspired to go into effects makeup by watching the original The Wolf Man, and went on to do the effects in An American Werewolf in London. The wolf man makeup looks great here, espcially considering how much like a werewolf Del Toro looks by default (seriously, he is a very hairy man), and enhancing the transformations with CG only strengthens the effect. Many of the stunts were done with live performers rather than CG, another good move, and the whole thing comes together well to breathe new life into an old legend.

The core cast is also brilliant, composed mainly of veteran actors with a fair amount of experience under their collective belts. Even Emily Blunt, a relative newcomer to horror, is well-experienced in doing period pieces and so is not far outside her usual environment here. Del Toro, as the tortured monster with a grim past, is fantastic here, and he speaks with a very convincing American accent… in, uh, Wales. Most of the Welsh characters default to what sounds like a generic British accent, even Anthony Hopkins (Welsh by birth), but this can be excused due to the likelihood that American theatergoers would know what a Welsh accent is supposed to sound like (slim to none). Fortunately there is a lot of chemistry there, particularly the romantic chemistry that develops between Lawrence and Gwen, and the familial tension between Lawrence and Sir John. And that little oh crap scene where Inspector Aberline sees the brutish reality behind the gypsy tales of the wolfman was extremely satisfying. Aberline was fresh off the Ripper case in London, and here he gets to see what real monsters look like.

If you are looking for a contemporary werewolf movie that backtracks to the roots of the Hollywood werewolf, I highly recommend The Wolfman. A well-woven story, a tight cast, and werewolf effects only lightly supplemented by CGI will leave you howling for more.

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