Werewolf The Beast Among Us
The supernatural has been standard of story tellers since people first sat around the nighttime camp fire trying to scare each other. The major difference is in the method of presentation rather than the intrinsic elements. In the modern world the current type of horror story that has garnered immense popularity is the creature feature; the venerable monster movie. Somewhere along the line these deadly creatures of the night have been ‘re-imagined’, redesigned as sex symbols and objects of teenage romantic fantasies. The brutal creatures intent on death, destruction and human suffering are now whiny, angst ridden teen heart throbs with a perchance for ripping off their shirts. The flick reviewed here, ‘Werewolf the Beast among Us’ may not be the finest example of this type of horror movie but I have to give credit to the filmmaker and authors for pushing the monster movie back on its traditional track. This film is a return to the Saturday afternoon matinee faire that many of us grew up watching and introduced us to this venerable genre. Perhaps it is because these ‘B-flicks’ were so instrumental to the start of lifelong enjoyment of movies that we can overlook the imperfections with the special effects or gaping plot holes, the flicks we grew up enjoying were far less sophisticated. This does not excuse a poorly constructed film but it does afford us a less jaded view of movies that are not quite up to the contemporary standards in story or presentation. A movie like the one under consideration here is fun. It is not great and possesses its share of shortcomings but it does seem to represent an honest attempt to provide a touch of escapism. Like the movie we watched so long ago it is best to approach one like this expecting what it has to offer, a couple of hours diversion. Say what you will about this film; the werewolf is scary, hungry and keeps away from tangled relationships. One thing that does give a touch of credibility here is this movie is part of Universal Studio’s incentive to revisit its stable of classic monsters. Back in the thirties and forties Universal defined the genre with tropes that have persisted over seven decades.
This film starts to pull away from the modern tropes by setting the action in the 19th century. In a small village, this is consistent with the mood of the original horror movies. There is something attractive about a period piece in a horror flick; it provides a gothic horror environment which is one of the most enduring and successful ways of relating this kind of tale. Once an environment is establish the actors can begin their play. In a small European village a terrible beast has been attacking under the full moon. The creature that that has instilled terror into the core of the village folk and the dwindling livestock could not be a natural predator. It was something much more dangerous and difficult to kill; a werewolf. The film is slowly paced to the point of dragging through the first act. There is I difference between building suspense gradually and dragging an at this point the filmmaker has to get some more experience under his belt to achieve it The young male lead, Daniel (Guy Wilson), is apprenticed to the local physician (Stephen Rea). You might noticed that several of the character remain nameless, an old technique that places more emphasis on the broad strokes rather than details. This does has the effect of foregoing the developmental arch of the characters for the broad strokes. . In a scene that could have been taken from any number of Civil War movies the young man attends rounds with the weary doctor. The victims of the beast lie dead or dying limbs ripped off and slashed. The small community is devastated by the carnage with word of the monster traveled to neighboring locations. This drew a multitude of thrill seekers and bounty hunters. Each one is blinded to the danger by an overwhelming need for recognition. This led to a very familiar scene not quite up to the bar set elsewhere. The town folk are discussing what to do when the doctor chimes in speaking about the task being more costly they imagined it. All that was needed was Rea scratching his fingernails across a chalkboard with a crude drawing of a werewolf on it. This is not going to be the last section of ‘Jaws’ that was lifted into the screenplay but there is still sufficient room remaining to sandwich in ‘Pure at Heart’ quote from the Lon Chaney Jr. original classic.
Although this movie nicely avoids the contrived sexual components of the current batch of such supernatural flicks it does include a plot line involving young romance. The young man is attracted to a maiden in the village, Eva, portrayed by Rachel DiPillo. Despite boasting a status unrated by the MPAA there is no gratuitous nudity to be found although the gore content does reach suitable contemporary expectations. It might be best to keep in mind that all that is required to slap an Unrated’ banner on a disk is not submitted it to the MPAA for rating. That organization is primarily concerned with their original mandate of theatrical releases. The difference between rated and unrated versions can be a matter of seconds. In this instance the violence was amped up some but nothing was added as far as the storyline.
The director, Louis Morneau, will be familiar to anyone that reads the credits on the so called ‘Saturday Night Specials’ compose the original movie quota for the SyFy network with flims such as ‘Carnosaur 2’ and direct to video movies including ‘Joy Ride 2’and ‘The Hitcher 2’. DTR is now a legitimate venue for filmmakers to release their projects and receive the feedback necessary to grow in their skill set. While this film plodded through an overly complicated set of plot threads it demonstrated an noteworthy amount of potential. The film is a welcomed return to the tradition creature feature but requires better control over pacing and tighter exposition. Overall it is a beer and pizza flick that will give a bit of fun for an evening.