Wednesday, March 2, 2016

In short: Werewolf: The Beast Among Us (2012)

Some time in the 19th (I think) Century in backlot Europe (quite fittingly embodied by Romania, still the Mecca of direct to video films) with the typical mix of confusing accents and dubious historicity, with the Universal logo at the beginning of the film sort of making it a canonical of Universal Horror Backlot Europe (or the UHBE, as we call it). It’s a place where people can say sentences like “this is no common werewolf” and make sense, because werewolves and wurdulaks are real there.

As real as, fortunately, a merry band of monster hunting mercenaries - among them Ed Quinn, Ana Ularu and Florin Piersic Jr., or the cowboy, the woman with the crossbow and a flame thrower for burning monster corpses, and the guy who puts in silver fangs to fight werewolves, respectively.

A small village needs their help quite particularly, for an especially nasty example of werewolf kind is eating its way through the population. Why, it doesn’t even need the full moon to kill! The local doctor (Stephen Rea) and his young assistant - and our viewpoint character - Daniel (Guy Wilson) can’t do more than get rid of the corpses and shoot everybody in the head who was bitten, so more professional help is badly needed. However, things will get much more complicated.

For a Louis Morneau film, Werewolf is nearly glacially paced, with about forty minutes going by before the plot starts to get interesting. That’s the nature of the beast with the 2010s’ type of direct to video fodder, of course, but it’s a bit of a shame when the problems of the form infect directors who can do much better.

This isn’t to say this is not at least a somewhat worthwhile movie: its worldbuilding of backlot Europe is actually pretty great (or at least, the effort put into thinking about it as a place with its own rules the script makes is), as is the cornucopia of silly details like the flame thrower, the fact the world contains monster hunting mercenaries, as well as the increasingly baroque additions to that world the film continues to make (some of which are too spoilerish to mention here). Plus, once the film does get going, its plot becomes actually interesting, the film adding stray bits of gothic romance, mystery, and some not half-bad ideas of its own, making the film more complicated, more interesting and even a bit original. At least I haven’t seen its elements together in this form before, and that counts for much in my eyes.

Once the sudden acceleration starts, it becomes more of a Morneau film too, with the by now expected (and in this case rather sudden) fast pacing, the sure hand in directing action and suspense, and a sense of concentration that still works in a film like this that likes to just pile on the silly details and let god – or the audience – sort things out. It’s entertaining enough, and while I’m sure Morneau could have done more with a mildly (that guy’s never been a blockbuster director) higher budget, what he did with this one is entertaining enough.

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