Published on February 14th, 2010 | by simeon0
During the golden age of cinematic horror, Lon Chaney terrified audiences with his portrayal of the Wolfman which launched the character as a cultural mainstay.
Over the years there have been countless updates to the tale which ranged from Michael Landon in “I Was a Teenage Werewolf, to the more contemporary “An American Werewolf in London” and “Dog Soldiers”.
With remakes being all the rage in Hollywood, Universal has returned to the original source material to offer an updated version of the original classic.
Set in England near the start of the twentieth century, the film stars Benicio Del Toro as an actor named Lawrence who is summoned home when his brother goes missing. Upon returning to the lavish familial estate, he is greeted by his estranged father, (Sir Anthony Hopkins), who informs him that his brother mutilated body was discovered earlier.
Dismayed by the condition of his brother’s remains, Lawrence decides to stay and get to the bottom of the mystery. When a clue provided by his brother’s fiancé leads him to a Gypsy encampment, Lawrence learns of a curse, but before he can obtain the information he desires, the camp is attacked by a mysterious creature that leaves a horrific path of carnage in its wake and leaves Lawrence badly wounded from a bite.
Lawrence makes an amazing recovery from his wounds and in doing so raises the suspicions of the locals who now see Lawrence as cursed and a threat to their society.
Lawrence has also raised the suspicions of Scotland Yard Inspector, (Hugo Weaving) who is convinced that Lawrence may be a key player in the local horror, as he was confined to an asylum in his childhood following the death of his mother.
At first Lawrence is outraged at the accusations, but when he transforms into a deadly creature and embarks on a deadly killing spree during a full moon, he soon learns a dangerous secret that places not only his life in danger, but endangers all those around him.
In a desperate race against time, Lawrence attempts to get to the root of his troubles and set things right before the next full moon, when his animal side will take over once again.
The film is a stylish update of the original and the cast is strong. Sadly they are given little to do with the by the numbers plot, and spend much of the time looking like they are simply going through the motions which makes it difficult for the audience to develop a deep sympathy or attachment to the characters.
Oscar winner Rick Baker has done some amazing makeup work and the effects of the film are solid. It was reported that the film was delayed so Universal could punch the film up by adding some new fx and sequences.
The final result is a mixed bag as while the film is a nice update on the original, audiences have seen more so many variations of the story over the years it is hard to be surprised by anything in the picture. Despite the best efforts of the creative talent, there is little tension or drama in the film and by the time the finale plays out, many may think they have seen it all before.
Universal has released the 1941 original Lon Cheney version of the film on DVD and for those who like film history; they may gain a new insight into the film by watching the original version prior.
In the end, “The Wolfman” works as a matinee or a DVD rental, but I would not suggest it as a full priced theatrical experience for anyone other than those looking for a piece of nostalgia.
2.5 stars out of 5.