Wer[e]wolfs in France: a horror movie review
If you’ve been watching some of my social media feeds, you may have noticed my recent bent, complaint, what have you, regarding a general lack of good werewolf movies. Its a serious issue. Well, serious enough to make a geek for werewolf lore to pout and stomp about on Twitter and Facebook. I mean, what’s really out there? Anything good? But then again, the bar for werewolf movies is a precarious one, for sure. Like most monster movies, or at least the classic monsters, most walk a thin line between greatness and cheesy. And because I know you’re dying to know, here are some of my favorites, including but not limited to: The Wolfman (1941), for obvious reasons as the godfather of all traditional werewolf movies and one I use as a bar for all others, Frankenstein meets The Wolfman (1943), simply because its basically a sequel for The Wolfman, Silver Bullet (1985), for its small town charm and of course Gary Busey cameo, Ginger Snaps I & II (2000, 2004 respectively), which were odd twist on the womanhood coming of age trope, but entertaining nevertheless, Cursed (2004), say what you will about Christina Ricci but I thought the practical effects and mood and throwback to classic monster movies was great, Wolf (1994), cause come on! who doesn’t enjoy a good Jack Nicholson flick? And of course, the greatest of the great, An American Werewolf in London (1981) which boosts some of the best transformation scenes in horror history!
With the above information, you can kind of gleam how I judge or expect from a werewolf movie. Last night, because most of my shows are now on summer break, I was on the prowl for a good horror movie, one that I had not yet watched, something new, and something (hopefully) good. While trolling some online, I stumbled upon a new werewolf movie, one with a synopsis and trailer that were potent enough to actually catch my interest. Wer, released in 2014 bringing the werewolf mythology to the steady-cam genre. The filming is actually quite bizarre, or perhaps I watch too many old flicks and am out of touch, but the steady-cam in Wer was a strange mix of found footage and a handheld following the cast, giving an off beat “you’re part of the movie” vibe. Before I continue, let you toss you the synopsis!
Wer is set in France, and we begin with an American family camping near woods at night, and while filming with the obligatory hand-held camera, the family are brutally attacked by something unknown, but the camera fails to catch anything worthwhile. The husband and small child are slaughtered but the mother survives, and gives a statement to police telling them it was like a man with big hands that attacked them. It just so happens that an extremely tall and hairy man, Talan Gwynek (Brian Scott O’Connor), lives near where the attack took place, and because he closely fits the description is immediately arrested for the gruesome murders.
Talan refuses to speak to anyone until his newly appointed American lawyer, Kate Moore (A.J. Cook), turns up at the police station. Talan has a strange body and mouth guard to protect the police from his bite, but Kate insists the police remove his cuffs and the gag. The cop in charge, Detective Pistor (played by Sebastian Roché, who bares an uncanny resemblance to Chef Gordon Ramsay) gives her only 5-minutes with the suspect. Talan talks very briefly and when the police rush in to put him back in his restraints, Kate’s co-worker, Gavin Flemyng (Simon Quarterman) is scratched on the arm by Talan. Eventually Talan is on the loose with predictable results – Nav Qateel, Influx Magazine.
For starters, let me tell you a bit of the film that I actually liked. One, the musical was chilling and original. The score is probably what saved Wer when the special effects had failed to capture the moment. The mood, through the majority of the film, is haunting. Especially at the beginning when the Porter family is brutally attacked and during the chase to find poor Talan Gwynek. And to boot, Wer was something new, exploring new avenues to bring audiences back to the classic monster tale. The casting was good, though I prefer no names in my horror movies. You may recognize the protagonist, Kate Moore, played by the ever serious A.J. Cook (think Criminal Minds).
But there were some setbacks…
The dialogue and character motivations are gruelingly opaque. There were a few moments when I felt tossed from “being in the movie” to cringing as the characters stumbled through the script. The screenwriting needed some major cleaning up. The beginning was great, it was toward the middle and ending when you were able to notice some ugly un-buffered moments and painful improv. The motivations were also not very clear. There was some mystery, I guess, with Gwynek’s family and their land, but it wasn’t polished enough to make any sense. And think this is were some horror flicks trip up. They make the story and plot overly complicated by adding all these minor conflicts that actually don’t even matter. The biggest conflict is the werewolf “sickness.” And that should have been the only conflict, aside from perhaps some character conflict and love interests. Just saying, you don’t need some government conspiracy story in the midst of a werewolf conspiracy story, especially if you’re screenwriting isn’t polished, it’ll just get confusing. I’m not an expert, but if you want my opinion, focus on the monster and flesh the characters out more. Don’t worry about all this “other stuff,” it’ll just be distracting.
Let me say something regarding practical effects. It is a sad but true state of affairs that because of budget restraints, a film must sacrifice some practical effects for CGI. However, budget restraints should not be an excuse for cheap and sloppy effects. There were some really good practical effect moments in Wer, but they were too often overshadowed by the cheap use of CGI, and not even good CGI. The muzzle fire and blood splatter was some of the worst, even more than The Walking Dead’s muzzle fire and blood splatter effects. If you don’t have the budget, cut back. Or find someone good who is willing to work for cheap. Cut back on something in the budget, for heavens sake! You’re making a horror movie for crying out loud! The practical effects ought to be your top priority!! This is why you should also cast talented no names who are looking to earn their bones in the movie biz.
My Rating: 2.5 / 5