Friday, February 12, 2010

Movie Review: The Wolfman

At Universal Studios Hollywood is the House of Horrors, a place where you walk through many scary scenes from classic horror movies like The Mummy, Psycho, Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolfman.

As I was walking through I managed to get by the wolfma's area unscathed but after I rounded the corner and was exploring the world of Frankenstein, the Wolfman came up behind me and gave me a good startle. Some of those same startles got me as I watched the new updated version of The Wolfman.

In this version of Benicio del Toro gets the lead as Lawrence Talbot who will eventually end up as "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright." Lawrence has come home to at the behest of his brother's fiance Gwen (Emily Blunt) as his brother Ben has gone missing. Anthony Hopkins plays his father Sir John Talbot who greets him as he enters the dark, large and brooding Talbot Manor in the English countryside.

After the funeral Lawrence wants to find his brother's killer for himself and for Gwen.

Inspector Abbeline (Hugo Weaving) comes in from London to officially investigate the murder. His father recommends that since the moon was full he stay at the manor but does Lawrence listen, no. Gypsies are in town so he goes to their encampment to talk to them about a medallion that was found among his brother's personal effects. He's told to stay in the encampment by the gypsy Maleva; does he listen No. The encampment is attacked by something big, fast, strong and brutal and when Lawrence chases whatever it is, he gets attacked and wounded. So by not listening to people Lawrence ends up in deep kimchi as the saying goes.

Most people watching knows what is coming. At the next full moon Lawrence turns into the wolfman bringing hysteria, death and destruction to the local populace. The movie has an R rating due to the violence and the gore of primal violence displayed by the beast. Between his bite and several turnings Lawrence develops feelings for Gwen who tries to rescue him from his curse. Like all good monster movies the monster is sacrificed for the love of the women. Lawrence does it for Gwen like King Kong did for Fay Wray. "It was beauty killed the beast."

The makeup for the monster was done by Rick Baker. He's the same guy who did the make up for Michael Jackson's transformation in Thriller and David Naughton in An American Werewolf in London. Del Toro's Wolfman is not as animal like as Naughton but not quiet as human as Jackson but somewhere in between. Baker makes a cameo in the movie as one of the gypsies. The transformations are relatively short and it takes a while to see the monster's face but when you do, it's a good homage to Lon Chaney's look in the 1941 original.

Del Toro doesn't fully emote a man conflicted between the man who says his prayers by night and one who has knowledge that he shreds people just as a beast has sliced his brother. A sense of urgency doesn't seem to be there. Hopkins comes across as the man who knows more than he is telling since he lived in the countryside for so many decades.

The plot moves along. I didn't look at my watch because I was bored. While watching I had a couple of questions that did lead to a section of plot that I wasn't expecting within the familiar wolfman story. There were a few points where I got startled and jumped in my seat which is what I hope will happen when the movie genre is horror. Being a remake one hopes that it will be much better than the original. This didn't reach that level, but it was good enough to keep me engrossed for the two hour and five minute movie worthy of the matinee admission that I paid.