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The Wolfman

Hungry Like the Wolf

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

After numerous delays and production issues, the reboot of the gothic horror classic The Wolfman has at long last hit the multiplex. This long-awaited remake starts in an appropriately ferocious fashion as a young man goes wandering in a dark and mist covered woods in search of something. What he finds is death at the hands of some unearthly beast.

As it turns out, the man who was eviscerated in the woods was the brother of Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro). A famous stage actor in New York, Lawrence is called back to the Talbot Estate in Blackmoor, England, by his brother’s grieving fiancée, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt).

Lawrence returns to the Talbot estate vowing to figure out whom or what killed his brother. Lawrence’s search for his brother’s killer will result in dark revelations beyond anything he could have possibly conceived.

Benicio Del Toro brings a somber and haunted quality to virtually all of his performances and his turn as Lawrence is no different. Without saying a word, Del Toro has a menacing visage and presence that more than suggests something primal and feral.

Anthony Hopkins complements Del Toro’s solid performance with his turn as Sir John Talbot, the patriarch of the Talbot Estate. Hopkins injects John with an odd, misanthropic, and animalistic air. His estate is littered with big game, antlers, and hunting accoutrements. His estate feels more like a den with leaves and cobwebs littering the grounds.

Director Joe Johnston permeates The Wolfman with an air of darkness and menace from the opening frame of the film. Thick mist, clouds, and darkness swirl about Blackmoor as Lawrence and Scotland Yard fervently attempt to find the smoking gun. The film certainly doesn’t lack creepy and atmospheric moments, but what is markedly lacking, however, are any real genuine scares.

The original is updated with some vicious and horrific decapitations, eviscerations, and maimings at the hands of The Wolfman, but there is no consistent, effective heightening of tension. Each bloodfilled rampage that occurs during a full moon feels the same as the other and it’s never really clear that the stakes have been raised after each ensuing bloodletting. Granted, each rampage is entertaining.

Equally entertaining is the transformation of Del Toro into the wolfman. Unlike recent werewolf films, in which the transformation results in a beast resembling a freakish, mutant wolf, makeup guru Rick Baker goes back to the basics. The result is ferocious and terrifying, yet it still maintains some vague semblance of humanity. There are a couple of transformation scenes that are simply stunning to watch.

Despite the lack of scares and pacing that is a bit erratic, The Wolfman is generally an entertaining — if somewhat confused — film. Its reach exceeds its grasp somewhat, but it’s a serviceable remake of a gothic horror classic that largely entertains for the majority of its runtime.