Lawrence Talbot returns home to his father's English estate after receiving news of his brother's murder. A fateful bite from the very same creature that killed his brother turns Lawrence into a vicious beast by nightfall, forcing him to kill in the light of the moon. Although THE WOLFMAN makes many of the right moves as far as remakes are concerned, it also suffers from many modern pitfalls that reduce the classic tale to nothing more than an over-budgeted gorefest. To its benefit, alterations have been made to the plot and characters that provide a unique new twist on the 1941 original while keeping the essence of the film the same. Each of the all-star cast members provide good performances, with a solid effort put forth by Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot and Anthony Hopkins in one of his more eccentric roles to date. This is not The Wolf Man of years past, but a ruthless beast that disembowels and beheads its victims. Johnston holds nothing back, putting all of the bloody mayhem and gruesome murders on full display with nothing left to subtle implication.
THE WOLFMAN marks Rick Baker's triumphant return to the werewolf film after a certain misstep in CURSED. He delivers a powerful and unique new monster design that is far more vicious and dark than Jack Pierce's earlier conception. Unfortunately, the computerized transformation sequences pale in comparison to his earlier work in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (a film that will likely haunt the rest of his career). The unnecessary amount of big action sequences also results in a heavy reliance on additional computerized effects in order to allow the quadrupedal creature the speed and dexterity necessary to accomplish many of the feats on screen. In a day and age where technology has advanced to its current state, this substitution is somewhat forgivable, however the excessive use of CGI in place of simple make-up FX for the many wounds that the creature inflicts is cheap and lazy. These issues are just as much the fault of modern audiences that clamor for big-budget extravaganzas as they are the fault of the filmmakers who must make compromises to please both the viewers and their producers.
THE WOLFMAN is a clean, fast-paced, and bloody new take on the classic werewolf lore, but it just isn't inventive enough to make more than a blip on the Horror radar.
If you liked THE WOLFMAN, check out:
SLEEPY HOLLOW, THE WIZARD OF GORE, CURSED.