A slick update of the monster movie classic, The Wolfman features strong imagery and performances, yet is lacking in animal instinct.
Although a good horror movie, it is not a particularly frightening one, director Joe Johnston not injecting enough chills in this visually and thematically dark supernatural tale, that is rich in gothic imagery courtesy of photographer Shelly Johnson, who skilfully captures fog and shadow in what has to be one of the most lavishly shot horror films in some time.
If a comparison were to be made, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Sleepy Hollow would be similar in style, even though The Wolfman does not have the eccentricity of the latter and the stirring sexuality of the former, both qualities sorely needed here.
What is does have is a more than game leading man in Benicio Del Toro. He broods as the tragic and dark Lawrence Talbot, the estranged son who returns from abroad after his brother is slayed by an unknown creature.
An attack on Lawrence by the same beast brings with it unwanted consenquences, namely lycanthropy and the attentions of Scotland Yard investigator Abberline (Hugo Weaving, scene stealer).
And when that moon comes out, The Wolfman surprises with some howlingly good werewolf sequences, which is buoyed by its uncompromising gory violence (with limbs severed and blood shed at a ferocious intensity worthy of its reputation), and Rick Baker’s stellar make up effects which meshes well with a not so overbearing use of CGI.
What is lacking is any semblance of emotion in its love story between Del Toro and Emily Blunt, the usually electric Brit beauty rather dour in her role as the berieved fiancé caught in the clutches of a family plagued by evil.
Thankfully, dramatic pay dirt is found in the relationship between Del Toro’s doomed prodigal son and Anthony Hopkins grizzled, grey, and squinty eyed patriarch of a family cursed, the veteran actor lending a touch of the wild to a film which needed to cut loose from its ultra serious tone and get a little feral.