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JIM reviews film "THE WOLFMAN"

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The Wolfman

MY Rating: 8 of 10 stars (based on an advance screening of the 125-minute film).

The Creature is a Feature which will Teach her to Respond

The place is Blackmoor, England, and the year is 1891. What happened then & there?— It’s not pleasant: Ben Talbot (Simon Merrells) decided to go traipsing thru the foggy forest during a full moon, & was savagely ATTACKED by— something big, fast-moving and malicious that ripped him to shreds!…

… His fiancée, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), wrote to his brother Lawrence (Benicio Del Toro) to urge him to come home from America for the funeral… He does that, and speaks to his strangely detached father Sir John (Anthony Hopkins) at the huge and spooky family mansion. Benicio is appalled & deeply saddened when he sees how badly his brother has been torn apart…

… The movie moves along at a “leisurely” pace, revealing information in bit-by-bit tidbits— showing the brothers together when they were kids, the violent death of their mother, and how Benicio had (after being upset by events in his life) been put in a sort of INSANE ASYLUM for a year, after which he went to America and became an actor (which might be the apogee of his “insanity”?!)…

… Typical of the “blame-the-outsiders” attitude seen in conservative small towns, the various “upright” (but brought-up-WRONG) villagers — led by holier-than-most Reverend Fisk (Roger Frost) — try to blame a band of GYPSIES for the death of Benicio’s brother and various other unfortunates who’d been torn asunder…

… As the movie moves along, there are numerous scenes of “difficult” talks between Benicio and his dad Anthony, and a growing attachment between Benicio and Emily. You’ll also see the introduction of “side” characters such as Anthony’s faithful Indian Sikh valet Singh (Art Malik) who makes silver bullets to try to kill the unknown evil creature, Constable Nye (David Schofield), Colonel Montford (Nicholas Day), and others…

… On a hunch, Benicio goes out (naturally, on another nite of a full moon) to visit the GYPSY camp. There, a lady fortune teller named Maleva (Geraldine Chaplin) gives him some ominous words of warning about the future (and don’t they always seem to do that!)…

… Around this time, the up-in-arms townspeople arrive (with their FIREarms) to threaten the Gypsies (— as self-righteous Vigilantes are wont to do —), just at the time the rampaging “CREATURE” arrives & starts attacking all the people & REMOVING a bunch of arms (& various other vital areas) in very GORY fashion…

… Benicio tries to fight off the creature, but is severely injured around his neck by the Wolfman… The superstitious townspeople are not “comforted” by the fact that Benicio has a sudden miraculous HEALING of his injury, which makes him “suspect” in their eyes, & they start making “threats” towards him (only to find him protected by Anthony at one point)…

… More full moons arrive, more creature attacks happen, & Benicio is blamed for the assaults (with the typical gracious “understanding” of the villagers). At one point, a Scotland Yard Inspector named Aberline (Hugo Weaving) arrives. He’d investigated the then-recent Jack the Ripper slayings, and he makes clear he also suspects Benicio of “bad” activities…

… Once again, Benicio is sent to an INSANE ASYLUM, where he’s compelled to undergo the usual “enlightened” treatment of being forcibly immersed in a tank of ice & shot full of chemicals. Strangely enough, that treatment does not seem to “HELP” him— especially when another FULL MOON returns & he starts to “transform” into a Wolfman in front of a large bunch of none-too-happy “observers”…

… Benicio eventually escapes from the asylum, &, when he returns home to his father’s place, there is considerable active “tension” between them (particularly because Benicio feels Anthony has had some “hand” in the problems that have occurred)…

… What has “happened” to Benicio, & WHY has it occurred?… Does Anthony have anything to “do” with the situation?… Will they finally “bond” as a family?… Will anything “happen” between Benecio and Emily?… How will things “TURN OUT” in the end for the major figures?…

… Folks, this is NOT a “comedy”: it is exceptionally bloody, gory & violent. I try to rate movies partly on how they “succeed” at doing what they seem to be TRYING to do— &, in that regard, even tho it’s not anything “great”, I think this is a quite WELL-DONE work of its type:

… I feel it does a very effective job of setting up its overall “MOOD”, has some lively ACTING by the major characters, and some fine SPECIAL EFFECTS (including by Oscar-winning creature-effects master Rick Baker— who even has a “live” role as Gypsy # 1 who’s killed by the lycanthropic Wolfman)…

… A friend (who loves bloody & gory films, while I do not) felt this film was overly “slow-moving”. I felt it was DESIGNED to be deliberate, in part to make the cruel violence “jump-out” and “stun” you when it happens (& thus, to me, it potently “accomplished” what it wanted to)…
… While I might’ve liked seeing a more “psychological” thriller edge to the action, I found it efficiently set up an apropos level of “monster-ish” TENSION for the overall “re-imagined” story (which, upon “inspection”, seems clearly designed for a SEQUEL)…

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