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|Index||89 reviews in total|
*** 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Adapted from a novel of the same name, yet after a bit of reading the
movie is quite different from the book. With a title like this you'd
think this film was about werewolves, but you'd be wrong. In fact it
kinda depends on what source you go by, the book is sort of about
werewolves, a species of creature that are descended from wolves,
intelligent and probably more like werewolves than in this film. In the
movie there are no werewolves and no creatures descended from the wolf
And there lies the problem with this movie, no werewolves. The plot is all about these mysterious murders in New York, bodies are turning up badly mutilated or half eaten and everyone knows there aren't any alligators in the sewers doing this so...what gives?! Fear not, along comes the most unlikely monster hunter in the form of Albert Finney to try and crack the case, with the help of his female partner and the plucky coroner played by Gregory Hines. Now this isn't a jokey action packed supernatural thriller, oh no, its actually a reasonably slow paced detective story as we follow Finney and co snooping around in the Bronx.
For the most part its quite intriguing I can't deny, I had no clue who or what was actually killing these people. You're not so sure if its actually a supernatural beastie or just some looney tune, someone close to Finney perhaps. Without trying to give the game away it is disappointing how they go about this movie, the alterations they make. Like I said in the book there are actually genuine creatures on the prowl, here in the movie they substitute monsters for wolf spirits, or more accurately, Native American wolf spirits. I'm still not sure if these wolves were actually the Native American descendants Finney's character follows up on, these guys claim they are shapeshifters in the movie. Seeing as in the book the creatures are descendants of wolves, it makes sense in this movie that the wolf spirits on the loose are Native American descendants. It never really confirms this concept (I don't think) but I'm guessing the local Natives were the wolves, or they were able to summon them maybe.
What really disappointed me was the fact the wolves actually did look like proper wolves, they actually used real wolves in the movie. This of course ties in with the new Native American angle they use, but I found it an anti-climax because I wanted to see something more terrifying, more of a monster, pack of monsters. The whole movie has this pretty decent eerie atmosphere going on showing us wolf POV, how they stalk their prey, their vision, how they attract prey by making ghostly baby noises etc...Then they merely turn out to be actual wolves that you can see in the zoo or where ever. I didn't find that scary, after all the great buildup, dark moody moments and horrific deaths...they just turn out to be actual wolves.
Speaking of the wolf POV shots, well blow me down if John McTiernan didn't swipe ideas from this movie for 'Predator'. I kid you not! I have read this movie is notable for its early use of thermography/thermal imaging with the wolf vision sequences. You see these sequences and right away you know McTiernan probably pinched the idea for his Arnie vehicle, but jazzed it up a bit with bolder colours. Its these sequences that really add some spice to the wolf antics in the movie, mainly because for the most part you believe its a monster or werewolf and these sequences are darn effective conveying that. What's more I do firmly believe Alan Silvestri also pinched the musical score from this film for that particular Arnie vehicle! You listen to it throughout this film and its pretty obvious if you ask me, its nearly identical! All this time I thought McTiernan and co had spearheaded such an original franchise and material.
Its certainly dated these days but the gore effects hold up well, very well actually. There's something a bit off about it all though, I guess the sight of these Native American fellas and their own little bar in downtown NY doesn't quite seem to fit in with the surroundings. I can't help but think the whole thing would have worked better in the wilderness or a smallish town out west, the sight of these wolves running around the city looks more out of place than scary really. Again the choice of Finney in the lead was an odd one if you ask me, he also doesn't quite fit into the NY surroundings. Its definitely an off-kilter movie and slightly misleading at the same time, the book does sound much better and more of what you'd expect.
Albert Finney makes a great drunken cop up to his eyeballs in something strange, who manages to piece together the obvious and realizes why apparently unconnected events have meaning. His delivery is entirely appropriate to the subject matter.
I notice that the lady playing Pauline Vanderveer was Miss Universe from 1975, Anne Marie Photamo. Now was that really Anne Marie's naked body on the table or just a body double? Pretty heavy scenes, realistic I must say about the morgue. Somebody please answer.
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