Tuesday, March 2, 2010

'The Wolfman' remake

I remember hearing that there was a remake of 'The Wolfman' in the works some time back and shrugged it off as inevitable.
The remake of 'The Mummy' hardly resembled the original Universal Monster, or Boris Karloff for that matter.
'Dracula' has been continually reborn with every vampire phase of the year.
Coppola's version also barely resembled Universals Lagosi blood sucker, but that refreshing change of history and look worked.
I am not professing that the old Universal Monsters, or even Hammer horrors are sacred, every generation has freely interpreted the various ghouls.
'The Wolfman,' another classic, has gone through as many faces. It's bent well with generations, with some grand great horrors springing out of the night. Not all though.
'American Werewolf in London' is a howl, and is Mike Nichols' 'Wolf'.
My dread was a remake would either
a.) Take it modern or some what hybrid Gothic modern (The recent Sherlock Holmes), gory, and have only minor nods to the original source, as so many horrors like to be.
b.) Try and be an homage to the original, but end up ham-handed and gimmicky, like 'The Mummy' remake.
The first version would have to be decently fresh to work, and the second would have to be a pitch perfect romp to work.

This one for me had a surprising very gray middle.

It was neither broadly macabre tongue in cheek nor compulsively dreary. For sure, Dark and dreary, but not the dreariest. But when the gore let loose, it went flying. It felt like a director who had only done light movies before got a chance to let out some deep-hidden gore lust. (Lo and behold, the replacement director has only done family fair and graduated to pg-13 action fantasies. )The heads flew and people are shredded, but the non violent bits could pass well in PG-13 material.There wasn't nudity (brief back short of Blunt, but that's it), implied sex, heaving corseted bosoms, or anything of that nature which surprised me the most. Over endowed females in slashed Victorian dresses, looking disheveled, blood splattered, and orgasmically hot seem to be the standard for this fare. Heck, you don't even get a naked werewolf in this film.
I would have liked it a little grimmer and toned for the violence that it did contain, but then again, it would have been a copy-cut of many recent historical horrors.

And the story almost felt, gasp, straightforward and traditional.
Sure, a twist of two you can probably see coming, but it doesn't try to out twist it's self before the end.

The beginning was somewhat slow, but if the cast were anything less it would feel slower.
Benecio Del Toro is a terrific actor. It sort of came a surprise that he was the choice for this film.
Now , I am a huge 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' fan, and he's admittedly 10 times scarier in that.
And also throws out such an incredible performance it's a shocking shame he's virtually forgotten for that movie, even be called unwatchable by some critics.
(Do not watch FaLiLV unless you are familiar with the source material, or have a wide open mind and about drug humor. Inki is not a drug user, but is wholly versed in Thompson's writing, drug humor, and is a Gilliam junkie. )
So , after all the Gonzo intensity, he's pretty subdued to watch for the first half of the film, which pleasant.
But too subdued, there should have given him more for his frustration to be physically reacting too.
He handles the pathos gracefully, but his strongest points are what makes his acting great; when the character reaches a snapping point of a mental break down. And uh, I know his mother is suppose to be Spanish in the movie, but he still looked rather like he's from Puerto Rico. Yeah, somewhat out of place in a top hat. But well, at least he can ride a horse.
Emily Blunt handled the role rather nice, stuck in a world of loss and fear, but courage to do what she must.
She had the hardest role to do without being totally ignored by the rest of the film. Her character is a true English beauty, smart but cornered out of her element and still trying to find a way to saw Lawrence.
Anthony Hopkins is like a vintage wine, he just gets better with age.
Looking and sounding great, and so many subtle shades to his character
Hugo Weaving, gah, I love him. He's so versatile, and injects wise-assey-ness and focus well.
He can walk on a green screen and steal the show.
Nice character transition for him during the course of the film.
The various supporting cast was fine too, the obligatory villagers and gypsys were not over the top, and the actor playing Singh the servant was a nice small respectable role.

The make up effects were another surprise, I was totally expecting more CGI. That is there, but boy it's alot of prosthetic, which is a godsend. It's almost too much like the Chaney Jr. original, it does have a stiff masky look at times.
But you know what? I love that. It's really classic old Universal werewolf, and that was a joy. I do love some of these cool hyper werewolves nowadays, but the film worked better sticking old school.
Great job Rick Baker, and cute cameo too.

Gotta work on that Howl though.s.

The sanatorium really got me; I have personal nightmares of being subjected to cold cell rooms, needle nose surgeons and doctors talking to me like I was a goldfish, and getting injected in the neck with needles. Totaaallly creeped me out, but in a good way, I appreciate someone hitting a nerve for me.
Gotta love the the doctors payback though.

And it did have those jump out moments that made the audience jump, which was fun.

And I was digging the score, also so Hammer-esq and almost campy. Lo and behold, I didn't know Danny Elfman did it! Nice touch dude. ;)

Lovely locations, lore, histories, costumes were actually nicer too. Nice to see some more draft and stock horses being used. The posse didn't ride a bunch of quarter horses, at least.
Was Blunt's character riding Asfaloth from 'Fellowship of the Ring', though? that damn frisky horse she's riding looked like him, LOL.

Biggest quibbles were the sporadic locomotion, the uneven is-this-a-REALLY-spooky movie or not? feeling, and honestly Del Toro as the human could have been given more to do with his character. And also as the Wolfman, I would have liked some more body language and interaction there.I am most disappointed because I know what trouble the film went through, and it clearly messed the film up. This could have been one of the best werewolf films in ages, a dynamite love horror too.

But honestly?
I loved it. I deserves somewhat better treatment than it receieved, and i hope a DVD release has more footage to fill in the blanks.

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