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The Wolfman

Starring Benecio Del Toro, Emily Blunt and Anthony Hopkins
Screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker aned David Self
Based on the 1941 motion picture screenplay by Curt Siodmak
Directed by Joe Johnstone

IN SHORT: Just an OK dateflick. [Rated R for bloody horror violence and gore. 125 minutes]

For those who don't know film history: the original versions of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and The Wolfman form a great quartet of what the original scareflick was. The general definition changed when the slice 'n' dice school debuted with the original Halloween and, for the most part, we stopped paying attention as the new breed left story behind in exchange for ever evolving makeup and special effects tech. Simply, slice 'n' dice bored us.

This remake of 1941's The Wolfman offers more blood and guts than slice 'n' dice -- emphasis on the guts -- and comes very close to showing what modern special effects tech can do to shock instead of repulse. Actually, it does the job very well at least once, early on in the film. If you sit with the kind of audience that we did, there'll be an audible  "ooo" when it happens. We would have liked a couple of more moments like that. OTT, the hunt for the "wolf-like beast" that stalks the Blackmoor area of England in 1891 has some really good story and one genuine twist that is undermined by an essentially useless and terribly developed romantic subplot. We'll come back to that

The Wolfman begins with the killing of one Ben Talbot (Simon Merrells). As it is, the missing Talbot is searched for by his fiance Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), his father Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) and his "man" -- that means assistant -- of 25 years, Singh (Art Malik). Ben's brother Lawrence (Benecio Del Toro) long ago left the family manor to find fame as an actor in America. A letter imploring his aid is sent from the hand of Miss Conliffe, and brother Larry comes home. Unfortunately he's a day to late. Ben's body has already been found, torn to pieces by what is assumed to be some sort of beast that has already killed two others in the community. And so begins the hunt for the murderous beast, now led by "Larry".

Larry will find the beast. Larry will be bitten by said beast. Larry isn't going to be happy when the next full moon rises. In between there is a visit to a gypsy camp -- heck, there are always gypsies in these things -- and the dispatch and return of the dead brother's fiancee. That bit is a sloppy way to resolve the coming dispatch of the beast. One which involves a silver bullet or stake and a killing blow delivered by a loved one. Excess junk but no matter.

Once Larry takes sick, though, he is dispatched to an asylum in which a Dr. Lloyd (Michael Cronin) runs  "tests" that are more like torture on poor Larry. Diagnosing a psychiatric disorder, said doctor presents his patient to a locked room of doctors, and delivers a lecture to them under the light of a full moon.

Folks, you are going to enjoy what comes next immensely. Then comes the plot twist I mentioned above. If all of The Wolfman were as much fun as the back end of the film, it would easily make the first draft of a best of the year list. It's not. It is lovely to look at and listen to -- the set design and score almost outweigh the rest of the film, rather than complement it. As we said, once you get to the endgame, those gripes won't matter.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Wolfman, he would have paid . . .


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