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The Wolfman (2010)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

he film opens with the original rhyme as told by the gypsy Maleva:

Even a man who is pure of heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.

In 1891 in the Blackmoor woods, Ben Talbot is confronted by a superhumanly wolf-like creature. He tries to escape, but is followed and subsequently mauled and killed by the creature.

Renowned Shakespearean actor Lawrence Talbot is touring London in a stage production of Hamlet when he receives word of his brother’s disappearance from Gwen Conliffe, Ben’s fiancé. Lawrence races to the family estate in Blackmoor and reunites with his estranged father, Sir John. It is revealed that when Lawrence was young, his mother Solana committed suicide. It was afterwards that Sir John sent Lawrence to an insane asylum in London. Lawrence then learns that Ben’s mauled body had been found the day before.

Lawrence goes into town to see the body, which is kept at the local slaughterhouse. He recoils from the sight of his brother; who has been viciously mauled to death by something that cannot be human. The butcher gives Ben’s personal effects to Lawrence. Later, in the local tavern, Lawrence overhears the locals debate about who was responsible. Many blame a band of gypsies who are camped outside of town. Another claims that several decades earlier a similar murder had happened and that his father suspected a werewolf. Among Ben’s belongings was a medallion that had been purchased from the gypsies. The medallion shows a monk in a position of prayer with two wolves, one on either side of the monk, apparently chasing him.

When Gwen leaves for London after the funeral, Lawrence goes to the gypsy camp on the night of a full moon. Maleva tells him that something evil had befallen his brother. The local townspeople descend on the camp to force them to turn over a bear that might have been the killer. But the wolf-like creature descends on the camp, slaughtering most people. Lawrence sees a young boy run into the woods. Intending to rescue him, Lawrence follows but is attacked by the wolf, who bites him on the shoulder before being chased off by the armed townspeople. Maleva sutures his large neck wounds. Her daughter says Lawrence should be killed, but Maleva refuses, saying he is still a man. Only a loved one can kill him.

Gwen returns to Talbot Hall to nurse Lawrence back to health. He has several fearful dreams but after a few weeks appears to have completely healed. Sir John’s faithful Sikh manservant, Singh, shows Lawrence the silver bullets he has and implies that something monstrous is on the loose in Blackmoor. Inspector Aberline arrives from London to investigate the recent murders. He suspects Lawrence because of his past mental issues and masterful portrayals of mentally ill protagonists like Hamlet and Macbeth. Worried about what might happen, Lawrence sends Gwen away. He then follows Sir John to Solana’s crypt. He finds his father in the catacombs beneath the crypt, in a shrine to his dead mother, a shrine that includes a chair specially fitted with restraints. Sir John tells Lawrence that he has been “dead” for years, and then locks himself in the room alone. As Lawrence tries to leave, he turns into the Wolfman. Rampaging through the woods, he kills several townspeople who had created a trap in hopes of catching the monster. The next day, Sir John leads Aberline and the local police to where a dazed, bloody human Lawrence is hiding.

Having been taken to the same asylum in London where he was incarcerated as a child, Lawrence is subjected to ice-water and electrotherapy treatments overseen by the sadistic Dr. Hoenneger. Sir John visits Lawrence to explain the curse hanging over the family. Many years before, Sir John had been hunting in India. Intrigued by reports of an unusual predator living in a remote cave, Sir John traveled to a remote area. In the cave, he was bitten by a feral boy and infected with lycanthropy. Lawrence realizes that he had seen his father as a werewolf kill their mother. Sir John had relied on Singh to imprison him during full moons. Yet one night, Sir John got drunk and into a heated argument with Ben. Having knocked Singh out and unable to lock himself in, Sir John killed Ben and attacked the gypsy camp. Now invigorated by the power of being a werewolf, Sir John has no intention of restraining his power anymore.

Dr. Hoenneger takes Lawrence to an observation room to present him to his colleagues as an interesting test case. Inspector Aberline is also in attendance. As the full moon streams through the window, Lawrence transforms into the Wolfman in front of the doctors. He kills Hoenneger and escapes into the night, pursued by Aberline. The Wolfman kills several people before disappearing into the night. The next day, a human Lawrence visits Gwen at her antiques shop. They realize they have fallen in love. Aberline arrives and searches the shop. But Lawrence has already escaped and begun the long walk back to Blackmoor.

Gwen studies lycanthropy and tracks down Maleva to ask her help. Maleva confirms that Lawrence cannot be cured and asks God to help Gwen to do what she must. Aberline tracks Lawrence to Blackmoor, this time armed with silver bullets. Gwen also makes her way to Blackmoor.

Lawrence arrives at Talbot Hall and finds Singh’s mauled body hanging in the foyer. He loads the gun with Singh’s silver bullets and tracks Sir John through the house. When he finds Sir John he is unable to shoot; Sir John revealing that he removed the powder shells from the silver bullets years ago, but Singh never knew, and Sir John beats Lawrence. When the full moon rises, they both transform into werewolves and fight, setting Talbot Hall on fire in the process. In their struggle, Sir John seems to have the upper hand until the Wolfman kicks Sir John into the fire, burning him alive, and then decapitates him. Gwen arrives hoping to save Lawrence. When the Wolfman attacks her, Aberline bursts in and shoots at him but Gwen interrupts. As Gwen flees with Aberline’s revolver, the Wolfman bites Aberline but chases Gwen rather than finish him off.

The Wolfman traps Gwen above a waterfall. She lays down the gun and pleads with Lawrence still inside the beast. Lawrence’s consciousness faintly returns where the Wolfman recognizes her and hesitates. When he is distracted by the sounds of a mob coming to kill him, Gwen retrieves the revolver and shoots him with a silver bullet just before he can bite her. As he lays dying, Lawrence reverts to human form and thanks Gwen for doing what needed to be done. The wounded Aberline with the silver wolf’s head cane and the mob arrive as Lawrence dies.

Gwen’s parting words are heard as the fires continue to burn Talbot Hall:

“It is said there is no sin in killing a beast
Only in killing a man
But where does one begin and the other end?”

Then, a howl is suddenly heard – possibly from Aberline who was bitten by the Wolfman.

REVIEW:

This remake of the immortal 1941 classic The Wolf Man does nothing but spit on the legacy. Before I go any further, I should state that it is no secret that I hate remakes, but I keep an open mind about new films. You never know what you can get.

The Wolfman suffers from the similar fate as the Psycho remake. In an effort to not insult the fan base of the original (as if the sheer thought of remaking this wasn’t enough to do that), they just “update” the story for modern audiences. In other words, they took the original, added some special effects, swearing, and gore and came up with this…this….THING!

Speaking of the effects, one of the most anticipated scenes in any werewolf film is the when the transformation takes place. I have to say that, to an extent, this is one of the best parts about this flick. Don’t go thinking I liked this film, though, or that I believed that was one of the best transformation scenes in cinema, because it wasn’t, but considering how bad the last werewolf transformation scene I saw was in The Twilight Saga: New Moon, anything would have looked better than it actually was.

The plot, as I said, is pretty much the same as in the REAL The Wolf Man, but they decided to add some unnecessary drama and twists to make it more “interesting”. What I mean by that is there is this whole thing where Larry falls in love with his now deceased brother’s fiancée. There is animosity between Larry and Sir Talbot, in contrast to the original where they loved each other immensely. If that wasn’t bad enough, there is the angle that Sir Talbot is a wolf himself, and responsible for the death of his wife and son. WTF?!? What crackhead thought up this crap?

As far as action and gore go, this is okay for what they were trying to do.

Benecio del Toro is actually inspired casting as a werewolf, in that he resembles one naturally. That’s really about all I have to say about his wooden performance.

Breathtakingly beautiful Emily Blunt left Iron Man 2 to make this. In hindsight, I have to wonder if she thinks that was a good decision. Blunt actually may be the one bright spot here. Speaking as a guy, though, I have to question why they didn’t have her in more cleavage bearing corsets from this era.

Anthony Hopkins does what you expect from him. No more…no less. Same goes for Hugo Weaving. My guess is that these extremely talented actors are fans of the original and thought they were getting into something more worthwhile, rather than this drivel.

Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of Charlie Chaplin, plays the gypsy Maleva. In the original, Maleva is a major character, but here, she is reduced to a cameo. Ugh!

I really want something bad to happen to whoever thought this was going to be good. While there are a few redeeming qualities tht keep it this from being totally horrible, they are few and far between and not enough to say that this is worth seeing. My recommendation is to not waste your time with this, but rather check out the superior original, as opposed to this inferior remake. All this movie is is further proof that remakes do not work!!!! 

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

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The Monster Squad

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The Monster Squad is a society of young pre-teens who idolize classic monsters and monster movies. In addition to a clubhouse in a tree, they actually have their own business cards. Club leader Sean (Andre Gower), whose five-year-old sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank) desperately wants to join the club, is given the diary of legendary vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim) – but his excitement is somewhat toned down when he finds it’s written in German. Sean, his best friend Patrick (Robby Kiger), and the rest of the Monster Squad get their local “Scary German Guy” (Leonardo Cimino) to translate the diary. (When he is asked how he knows so much, he tells them cryptically that he has “some experience with monsters.” When the children leave his home and he closes the front door, a concentration-camp number tattoo is revealed on his forearm.)

The diary describes, in great detail, an amulet that is composed of concentrated good. One day out of every century, as the forces of good and evil reach a balance, the otherwise-indestructible amulet becomes vulnerable to destruction. The next day of balance falls within a couple days, at the stroke of midnight.

The kids realize they must gain possession of the amulet before the day of balance arrives; once they have the amulet, the kids can use it — with an incantation from Van Helsing’s diary — to open a hole in the universe and cast the monsters into Limbo. As shown in the prelude, van Helsing had unsuccessfully attempted this one hundred years ago in order to defeat his old adversary Count Dracula; he subsequently hid the amulet in America, where it was out of Dracula’s immediate reach. Dracula, meanwhile, must obtain the amulet before the Monster Squad does, so that the Count can take control of the world. To this end he assembles several monstrous allies: Frankenstein’s monster, a werewolf (an unwilling participant in his human form), a mummy, and an amphibious gill-man, in addition to three young women (Mary Albee, Joan-Carrol Baron, and Julie Merrill) whom the Count transforms into his vampiric consorts. The next day, Frankenstein’s monster is wandering in the forest where he encounters Phoebe. Rather than being afraid, she shows him the kindness he has also sought, and he get acquainted with and becomes a member of the Monster Squad.

The amulet turns out to be buried in a stone room, under a house that Dracula and the other monsters now occupy. The aforementioned room is littered with holy symbols, including crucifixes, which prevent the monsters from simply taking it. However, once removed from its secure location, nothing stands in the way of Dracula taking it. The German Guy informs them that the incantation must be read by a female virgin on holy ground, on which neither Dracula nor any of his minions can set foot. As midnight approaches, the Squad makes their way to a local cathedral — and in the nick of time, as shortly after they leave, Dracula destroys their clubhouse with a stick of dynamite. This also calls up another helper for the Monster Squad: Sean’s father, Police Detective Del, who has been charged to investigate the strange happenings in town off late (as caused by Dracula’s cohorts) but has been quite skeptical about their supernatural causes, not to mention Sean’s hobby, in the first place.

Unfortunately, the doors to the cathedral are locked, so the incantation must be read on the stoop, leaving them vulnerable. The Monster Squad has the assistance of Sean’s father and Patrick’s older sister (Lisa Fuller), as she’s the only virgin they know who speaks German. Unfortunately, with time winding down, the incantation fails. Lisa reveals that she is not only failing German, but is also no longer a virgin. As Dracula’s Brides and the other monsters close in, it is realized that Phoebe, being five, must still be a virgin, and the German Guy attempts to help her read the incantation as the rest of the squad fends off the monsters.

In the ensuing battle, the vampiresses, the Mummy, the Gill-Man, and the Wolf-Man (who reverts to human form after being shot with a silver bullet by Rudy, thanking him for ending his suffering) are killed. Dracula arrives and stuns the German Guy. He is about to kill Phoebe when the Frankenstein Creature betrays him, impaling him on a wrought-iron fence. Phoebe finishes the incantation, opening the portal which begins to consume the bodies of the monsters. Dracula, still alive, attempts to drag Sean in with him, but Sean is saved at the last minute by his father and Van Helsing, who escaped from limbo to capture Dracula. Although Phoebe tries tearfully to hold onto him, Frankenstein’s Creature is the last to be sucked through the portal, which closes, ensuring the world’s safety.

REVIEW:

I guess I should have known there wasn’t going to be much to this thing when the biggest name to come up in the opening credits was Jason Hervey, best known as the big brother from The Wonder Years. Believe it or not, the film didn’t get much better after that.

I think my opinion of this is more related to expectation rather than reality, but I was highly disappointed in what I saw this afternoon. I mean, I wasn’t expecting anything too special, but for some reason, I thought this would be more on the level on The Goonies, but instead of searching for treasure, they were fighting monsters. Maybe that would have been a better idea that what this mess was.

The good…the wolf-man. Plain and simple, he’s the only character worth mentioning, to be honest. The filmmakers decided to go more with a Jekyll & Hyde version of the werewolf, and it worked. We on;y get to see him transform. No, it isn’t on par with some other werewolf transformations seen on camera, but it’s far being one of the worst.

The bad…look, if I sit here and list everything bad about this picture, we’ll be here until the cows come home, but the major wrongs are a bad story/script, special effects that look like they were bought out of a gumball machine (which is bad…even for the 80s), and actors that don’t sell their characters.

I know there are thousands out there that have made this a cult classic. Many of them are likely to hunt me down for not loving this flick, but I just can’t bring myself to do so. Often times there are bad films that are so bad, they’re good. This is one of those that is so bad it is bad. I can’t belive they actually wasted the time restoring it and putting it on DVD. There are so many other better films that those resources could have been used on. Don’t waste your time with this one, unless you’re a fan.

2 out of 5 stars

The Wolf Man

Posted in Classics, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) returns to his ancestral home in Llanwelly, Wales to reconcile with his father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains). While there, Larry becomes romantically interested in a local girl named Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), who runs an antique shop. As a pretext, he buys something from her, a silver-headed walking stick decorated with a wolf. Gwen tells him that it represents a werewolf (which she defines as a man who changes into a wolf “at certain times of the year”.)

Throughout the film, various villagers recite a poem that all the locals apparently know, whenever the subject of werewolves comes up:

Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.

That night, Larry attempts to rescue Gwen’s friend Jenny from what he believes to be a sudden attack by a wolf. He kills the beast with his new walking stick, but is bitten in the process. He soon discovers that it was not just a wolf; it was a werewolf, and now Talbot has become one. A gypsy fortuneteller named Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) reveals to Larry that the animal which bit him was actually her son Bela (Bela Lugosi) in the form of a wolf. Bela had been a werewolf for years and now the curse of lycanthropy has been passed to Larry.

Sure enough, Talbot prowls the countryside in the form of a two-legged wolf. Struggling to overcome the curse, he is finally bludgeoned to death by his father with his own walking stick. As he dies, he returns to human form.

REVIEW:

Someone once called the wolfman “the runt of the horror monsters”. This was no doubt referring to his legacy compared to the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. I can’t deny that, but I can say that I believe this film is underrated, especially when you consider the major stars that are in the cast.

The myth and lore of the wolfman tends to be different with every werewolf incarnation, but I believe that The Wolf Man is the original (on film, anyway).

Lon Chaney, Jr. was apparently a very talented actor, so for him to be reduced, for lack of a better word, to a growling, snarling beast, and have such a legacy etched in cinematic history is no surprise. As a werewolf, though, we don’t really see him until the last half hour of the film. I have issue with that. It is my belief that they could have taken out some of the unnecessary dialogue and replaced it with the wolf hunting, but that’s just me.

Claude Rains is the consummate professional as he portrays Sir Talbot. His best scene, though, may be one at the end where he doesn’t speak, but the expression on his face says it all.

With the mixture of all sorts of mythology and religions going on in this flick, I’m surprised that it was allowed to be released, given the time period its from. That could just be my assumption, though.

There’s nothing like a classic horror film. Although this isn’t the scariest picture you’ll ever see, even by 1940s standards, its still pretty good, and a good intro into the werewolf lore. If not for this film, all subsequent werewolves (in just about any media) probably would not exist, so why not see where they all came from?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars