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Much to the consternation of my friends, the topic concerning film and TV that always comes up is my dismay at the dilution of the creatures that populated horror films of value. Werewolves and vampires have now become the heartthrob post the boys for love-struck teenage girls. Zombies have become so prevalent in the mainstream that groups of people dress up in full zombie regalia and go off on pub crawls. Monsters that frightened us as kids, especially those that populated the Universal Studio creature feature catalog, have been turned into angst riddled overly emotional fops. Thankfully, there are apparently some upcoming filmmakers who apparently have similar buildings in mine. They have been diligently working on bringing the horror back to the genre. The creatures within their movies not written in the pages of a 12-year-old girl’s notebook, surrounded by hearts. They are designed to do what monsters are supposed to do; give you a bit of a jump while watching their films. The burgeoning filmmaker, William Brent Bell, has only a handful of movies to his credit as director/screenwriter, but each one is a return to the more psychological thriller aspect of this genre. A modicum of special effects makeup is integral to his movies. This dependency has been overshadowing horror movies for too long. Mr. Bell restricts the use of effects in his films to punctuate the story, not drive it. His latest opus, ‘Wer,’ is an examination of lycanthropy focusing on the terror it can generate, not the dating potentials.

In the French countryside on the outskirts of Paris, a horrible tragedy occurs. A vacationing family, camping in the woods was brutally slaughtered, literally torn to pieces, and what initially may have been the attack of a large animal. A local man, Talan Gwynek (Brian Scott O'Connor), has been taken into custody suspected of the carnage. Despite the pleas of his mother (Camelia Maxim), that her son is innocent, the detective of the Parisian police, Klaus Pistor (Sebastian Roché), remains unmoved by the maternal display. Kate Moore (A.J. Cook) is currently living in France and is licensed to practice law in the country. She agrees to take on the case, defending the young man. The American accent of the actress is quickly explaining by being born in France, a father being of a French national. Kate lived most of her life in the United States with her mother, but upon her death, she decided to move back to France. Undoubtedly, many will recognize Ms. Cook from a long-standing role as a principal character in the television crime drama, ‘Criminal Minds.’

Employing a narrow standard plot point, the family had been videoing at the time of the attack. This provided a bit of ‘found footage’ that is used to implicate Talan in the crime. This is another example of the ingenuity of this filmmaker. Ever since the ‘Blair Witch Project,’ found footage has been overused, particularly in the horror film category. Similar to how he utilizes makeup and other special effects, Mr. Bell, is one of the few filmmakers who knows how judiciously use commonplace plot devices. The found footage only serves to rationalize why the young man in question is called into the investigation. The majority of the film is shot in the traditional standard. I can only hope that more filmmakers learn this lesson of ‘less is more’ in dealing with such techniques. The mother and the family manage to survive able to identify Talan as host family’s murderer. A description was that of a tall and exceptionally hirsute man; a description perfectly fits Talan. Kate sees how the client is completely be strained, including a gag. Outraged, Kate sites international guidelines for humane treatment of prisoners and orders the measures removed. Talan once freed lunges at Kate and requires several offices to attempt to restrain him. He easily overcomes the officers tossing them about like rag dolls. Before he escapes to the streets, he scratches. Kate’s friend and coworker, Gavin Flemyng (Simon Quarterman), a small event that true to the tenants of a thriller would have major implications later on in the film. If you are special effects are brought out as they see the accused jumping out of a ten story building only the land easily on the ground. His rampage is responsible for ripping apart a few people who get in his way.

Although the film is impeccably pace, acolytes of a more recent trend in horror exulting gore above a cohesive story may complain that he was too much exposition between the scenes of mayhem. I lament that there is such popularity of late that eschews the quality of patience over the quick fix of the visceral shock. This film is more properly characterized as a psychological thriller, then horror. The filmmaker remains true to the elements of that more difficult type of movie. The various plot points are carefully introduced while the characters are infused into the story efficiently defining their relationships. Only then are they allow to simmer properly, blending to achieve the synergy that you films of this type can achieve. It should be noted, that the term ‘werewolf’ is casually mentioned only twice in the film.

A medical expert is called in hopes of finding some physiological explanation for Talan’s inexplicable violent behavior. The expert offers a medical diagnosis of porphyria, an inherited disease affecting various enzymes in the blood. In an earlier part of my life, I did extensively study hematology, particularly on the enzymatic level. The differential diagnosis presented here, along with mitigating circumstances such as the lunar effect on our bodies, which consists mostly of water, on beyond conjecture and pure science-fiction. Still, the way that Mr. Bell presents this is plausible within the context is established for the story. The disorder resulted in Talan exhibiting erratic, excessively violent behavior. Due to an increase in adrenaline patients with this disorder can exhibit preternatural strength and agility. The lunar aspect would explain why the symptoms are exacerbated during the full moon. The next full moon is approaching quickly, which provides a means to insert the sword of Damocles and to tick clock elements that ran effectively used as in this case-the suspense and attention inherent in the story.

The expert craftsmanship displayed and how these aspects are utilized, but on their own made for the exceptional film. Mr. Bell pushes his work to greater heights with simple special effects shot of Talan’s back rippling with the transmogrification into a beastly form. This touch of the supernatural juxtaposed against a somewhat rational medical explanation allows the characters to display an understandable confusion with what is going on. Until the very end, Kate and the police resist accepting that Talan is actually of the lycanthropic persuasion by holding desperately on to a rational explanation. This is a film that will grab your attention and hold to throughout. Despite the many dark settings, the photography is amazing. Bell, working with his cinematographer, Alejandro Martínez in co-editors, Robert Komatsu and Tim Mirkovich have constructed a movie not a single frame is wasted or out of place. For those who are overly influenced by a synopsis and cover art, please do not be deceived. What may be marketed as another werewolf story is, in fact, a gripping examination of the psychological disruption and emotional turmoil such an affliction causes. By delving into how the people involved would resist with the come to know is true in favor of an acceptable explanation serves to heighten the suspense and provide intense character arcs throughout the movie. After watching this film, I found myself compelled to go back and become familiar with the previous work of Mr. Bell. My conclusion is already considerably above of the filmmakers of the genre and is going to be an artist to be reckoned with in the future.

Posted 10/22/2014                Posted    04/07/2018

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