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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An almost forgotten gem. I really liked the eery atmosphere in this
one; great actors, great music - and really outstanding cinematography.
I've never seen New York portrayed as grim and terrifying - and yet as
beautiful - as in this film. I wouldn't call this a werewolf movie and
it's certainly not your usual horror film either; although it does have
many characteristics of a genre movie (even some pre-Predator style
distorted camera effects), it is very much its own beast. There are no
fancy transformations, no groundbreaking visual effects from the likes
of Rick Baker, Rob Bottin or Stan Winston - but there are superb
visuals of another kind. And there's tension, suspense and a
fascinating story that gripped me right from the start. There are also
some very graphic, gory moments, but they are few and far between.
Director Michael Wadleigh has an interesting background: he was the
dude who made history in 1969 by making Woodstock happen. He took
Strieber's werewolf novel and brought something personal to it. Call it
a mythical eco-horror thriller if you will, it's certainly something
special. 7 out of 10 from me.
Favorite films: http://www.IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/
Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/
"They can hear a cloud pass overhead, the rhythm of your blood. They can track you by yesterday's shadow. And they can tear the scream from your throat. There is no defense." I love it when you can tell a movie is gonna be great just from it's tagline. Wolfen is one of the most thoroughly underrated films of the 80's if not film history. From moment one with it's dreamy, monochromatic, animalistic tracking shots Wolfen sets itself up as a different kind of werewolf film. With Wolfen you get three movies in one a Dirty Harry-esquire cop investigation movie with Albert Finney and Gregory Harrison turning in fine performances as the ones investigating. A graphically intense horror film, with a menacingly sadistic, creepily cool performance from Edward James Olmos and of course the barely there "Wolfen" creatures. Lastly you get a statement on environmental issues and the hierarchy of society. Tom Noonan in his pre-Manhunter existence gives the movie a touch of class as an animal lover who wants to study the "Wolfen." If you're expecting a comedic werewolf movie such as "The Howling" or "An American Werewolf in London" this film isn't for you. But if you want a great suspense mystery, with dazzling visuals and one of the greatest endings in history check Wolfen out.
Wolfen is something different to the many monster films floating around.
you watch this film expecting to see the usual mix of no brain slash and
gore then you will perhaps be disappointed or as was in my case pleasantly
surprised. Reading from other comments on this film it is easy to see that
it has been widely misunderstood.
Wolfen is not a Werewolf/Horror film although at times it does attempt to be so, which is where the confusion arises for the viewer. On one side we have the Wolfen portrayed as highly evolved beings merely protecting their environment yet on the other side they shown to be remorseless killers as and where the plot dictates. However do not let this paradox put you off a film that is both scary and genuinely thought provoking.
The scenes set in and around areas of urban decay, particularly that of the church, are chilling and suspenseful. Whilst the Wolfen POV camera work is groundbreaking and still effective by today's standards. Wolfen on the whole is a well made film, excellent use of music (or lack of it)to generate suspense and quality actors and acting help bring you into the story behind the Wolfen.
For those that wish to critisise the beach scene when Edward James Olmos dances naked across the sand as demeaning to Indians, well I think they're rather missing the point. Surely the film is trying to show the prejudices of Albert Finney's character rather than belittle any Indian custom.
In summary a film with a message that chooses to show intelligence and reason in its horrors.
Unusual film that takes a very different path from the traditional werewolf movie. Low budget in feel, which is good, this starts incredibly well with horror, gore and bewilderment. The use of the negative image when we see through the eyes of the wolves is great, its less plastic than ordinary SFX and far more realistic than CGI, its also cheap (I've used it myself!) but the best thing about it is that it is literally an inversion of reality, which is just what you want here. Finney is fine but maybe should have been encouraged to put a little more effort in. As for his co-star, Diane Venora, in her first film, her lack of presence is worrying. I guess first time director (apart from Woodstock work) Michael Wadleigh was not used to getting the best out of his actors and indeed never made another film. Not to take away from this little gem though, not perfect by any means but different enough and occasionally startling enough to make at least one viewing essential.
A New York cop (Albert Finney) investigates a series of brutal deaths
that resemble animal attacks. Tom Noonan and his beard guest star in a
The film is known for its early use of an in-camera effect to portray the subjective point of view of a wolf. Similar to thermography, the technique was later adopted by other horror films such as the "Predator" film series.
Although considered a modern werewolf classic, Roger Ebert asserted Wolfen "is not about werewolves but is about the possibility that Indians and wolves can exchange souls." Well, yeah, that is true... but it is still werewolves, even if not in the traditional sense.
Where is the proper release? This is what people want to know. Apparently the director has a preferred cut, but instead all we get is a bare bones Blu-ray with nothing more than a trailer. Surely there is much more that could be done.
Wolfen is absolutely a classic of the horror genre. Released in succession after the likes of Altered States, The Howling and An American Werewolf in London it actually provides more tension than the rest because it doesn't overdo the creature effects. The Howling is probably the most famous of the three films yet after purchasing and watching the blu-ray I realized something 33 years later... It's just not scary. The transformations are graphic but feel too long and drawn out now. As an adult I find that werewolves just are no longer scary. Neither is Dracula. At least American Werewolf was funny and had a charismatic lead. Where Wolfen exceeds it's genre roots is in it's attention to plot details and character development. Albert Finney is believable as a burned out cop and Gregory Hines is a treat as his co- star/sidekick the coroner. There are scenes in this film that work on a suspense level that few others can muster and the abandoned tenements provide a creepy location for their two man reconnaissance. As far as 80's horror goes this is essential viewing.
After years of reading and watching all the werewolf stuff I can get my hands on, I finally got around to reading and then watching Wolfen, and I was blown away by the gorgeous, chilling cinematography. You may take me at my word that I have seldom seen a film that was able to build the tension of what you don't see, and reward you when you finally do see it: I have never seen real wolves used so well, or shot so beautifully. As in the book, the Wolfen are both terrifying and yet somehow noble, and you respect the antagonism between them and the human characters (played very well by Albert Finney and co.), and while the ending is somewhat anticlimactic as opposed to its book counterpart, I was still quite pleased with the film as a whole. The introduction of the Native American element into the movie's version of the story made sense and was enjoyable (though E.J. Olmos's nudity was a little much), and I should also mention that the shots of New York were atmospheric and gorgeous as well, and when combined with the werewolf element, make a truly one-of-a-kind horror film. A must for werewolf fans, though they're not werewolves in the strictest sense, but a creatures as unique as their film: The Wolfen.
When a famous tycoon, his wife, and his bodyguard are brutally murdered
in Battery Park, a cynical detective (Albert Finney) is assigned to the
case. With help from a police psychologist (Diane Venora), a colorful
coroner (Gregory Hines), and a weirdo zoologist (Tom Noonan), his
investigation leads him to suspect a Native American connection to the
A great thriller with horror overtones that's a different kind of werewolf film than any other (certainly at the time of release). Many argue it isn't really a werewolf film at all. I can see why they'd say that but I think it obviously counts as one. The film is directed by Michael Wadleigh, whose only other directorial effort was the Woodstock documentary. It's a shame he didn't do more because he does show a good deal of talent here. Predator fans will notice this movie uses a similar visual technique for the wolves' point of view, including similar sound effects, years before the first Predator movie. The cast is excellent and the script is pretty good, if a little packed. Nice cinematography from Gerry Fisher and use of actual Bronx locations helps in creating a fine atmosphere. It's a very interesting film that tackles a number of subjects (probably too many). Monster movie fans might balk at the lack of any "wolf men," but the strength of the movie is not in its special effects or gore, but in its story and how it's presented. Keep an open mind and give it a shot and I'm sure you'll find something to like about Wolfen. I've seen it a few times now and each time it gets better.
Certainly Different than the Average Werewolf Movie...Wait...This Isn't
a Werewolf Movie, So Let's Start Again. Certainly Different than Your
Average Horror Movie, Michael Wadleigh's Only Other Film Other than
Woodstock (1969), is a Treat of Offbeat Gore and POV Madness.
It's Ambitions Fall Short on the Environmental and Mystical Stuff at Times but the Way it Gets There is Nonetheless Chillingly Captured. The Movie May Try Too Hard to Incorporate a Number of Different Angles on the Horror of the Story...Native American Shapeshifting, The Encroachment of Civilization on the Natural World, and Human and Urban Decay.
A Fine Film that is a Different Entry in the Genre and Until the Rushed and Confusing Ending it Captivates and Entertains as a Sharp and Artsy Thriller. Albert Finney is Fine and the Rest of the Cast are All Good, Especially Gregory Hines and Tommy Noonan.
Overall Recommend for Horror and Non-Horror Fans and Those Seeking Something Out of the Ordinary. But, Be Advised, Remember its Not a Werewolf Movie (there are plenty of those to be found elsewhere) and that's Only Part of What Makes it Something Special.
I can understand why horror fans would be disappointed in this film? But who cares? There are enough stupid horror movies around to satisfy those who need gore and screams. Wolfen tackles some very heavy concepts all within the context of a police procedural, and I never really felt the movie was stereotyping Indians. There is just a lot of material to cover and I thought the scenes with the Indians were amazingly focused and powerful. The acting is absolutely phenomenal--I wish Finney and Hines worked together in other movies...the atmosphere in this film really conveys the desolation of the burned out slums, and there is a feeling of like, "Wow, what the hell ARE we doing with the earth." But it never got preachy and I think Finney portrayed the more subtle realizations brought forth by this great film. Scott in Boca Raton, FL
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