The Wolfman

The Wolfman (2010)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving
Extras: Alternate Endings, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Scenes, Featurettes, Bonus Movie, and more

A renaissance of gothic-themed movies is currently underway it seems, with the recently released "Sherlock Holmes" and Universal's remake of "The Wolfman" probably being the biggest contenders thrown in the ring. Since gothic horror is one of my favorite genres – as witnessed by my very own gothic horror dime novel series Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter" – I was all too eager to take a close look at "The Wolfman" when the Blu-Ray disc arrived on my desk.

After a traumatic experience in his boyhood, Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) has been estranged from his family for many years. Traveling the country as a successful theater actor, one night his brother's fiancée (Emily Blunt) seeks him out to inform him that his brother has gone missing, asking for his help in the search. As a result, for the first time in countless years, Lawrence returns to Talbot Hall where he meets his father (Anthony Hopkins), only to learn that his brother's body has been recovered, mauled by a savage beast.

Rumors are about that a strange beast of lore is haunting the woods and is responsible for the recent killings, spawned by the local gypsies' evil magic. Lawrence is determined to find out what happened to his brother and is soon attacked by the monster himself. A change occurs to him on the inside and with horror he realizes that he now carries the curse of the werewolf. When the full moon rises, Lawrence is no longer himself and turns into a ferocious creature that kills everyone in its wake. But while the beast takes over during the nights, the man still tries to fight his demons. He now knows the source of the evil and desperately struggles to put an end to it once and for all before the authorities and townspeople catch up with him and kill him.

While many aspects of this remake resemble Curt Siodmak's 1941 screenplay for the film of the same name, the writers for this remake put a few new twists on this story to make sure it still feels fresh and offers a few surprises.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the movie – despite the fact that it is a classic story – is its wonderful cinematography that manages to conjure up memories of the 1941 classic while also using modern day technology to create an experience that is visual and graphic. Speaking of graphic, I was quite honestly surprised at the level of gore and graphic violence depicted in this movie – something I personally found somewhat gratuitous. In a movie where atmosphere is the key ingredient, splattering the screen with bloody intestines, decapitated heads and bodies ripped to pieces seems simply jarring, to say the least. The film could have worked wonderfully without the gore and have defined itself as possibly a new fan favorite among the masses. The R-rating limits the film's exposure seriously for no apparent reason, but enough of that…

Benicio Del Toro gives us a great performance. He looks a lot like Lon Chaney Senior in this movie, his hair, eyes and square face bringing to memory the man of a thousand faces on numerous occasions. Emily Blunt makes a great showing in another period piece while Anthony Hopkins gives us a somewhat lethargic performance as the Talbot patriarch.

Overall "The Wolfman" is not a bad movie, but it's not a great one either. It does have its flaws, feeling a little slow at times, lacking real suspense, as the plot is so transparent that no guesswork is required to figure out how this story will unravel despite the changes made to the script. The computer generated shots while atmospheric do have a tendency to stand out a little too much, and since CGI wizards have still not figured out how to properly create and animate living beings, reverting back to practical effects would probably have served the movie better on a number of occasions. All too often the shots resemble computer game graphics – out of context, out of style, only to serve their own purpose – making you wish someone would have taken a page from John Landis' "An American Werewolf" here and there.

The thing I did like however, was the overall look of the werewolf, depicting him a lot like the classic monster, and not like some real mutated wolf. The image of the werewolf hearkens back to the 1941 classic, immediately striking a harmonious chord with most fans of Universal's golden era, I am sure.

Appearing as a 1080p high definition transfer, "The Wolfman" looks every bit as spectacular as it should. Without a hint of a defect or blemish, the transfer is rock solid and boasts some amazing colors. Particularly the gothic look with its night time scenes, the wafting fog, the roofs of London with the city's skyline in the back, all these are wonderfully rendered with incredibly richness and detail. The level of definition is truly striking throughout, giving the image razor sharp edges and extremely fine detail. Black levels are perfectly balanced to give the film the visual depth it needs to play its muscles.

The audio track, provided here in a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio lossless format, supplies the raw energy to propel the film through many of its action sequences. I do have to point out, however, that the mix is incredibly unbalanced. Sound effects and the music are consistently mixed at levels that are too high, drowning out the dialogue and making watching the film a constant juggle with your remote control. This mix may have worked for a movie theater – though even there I would consider this mix too unbalanced – but in a home theater environment, or even a regular home environment, it is simply excessive and actually hurst the overall presentation as a result.

This Blu-Ray version contains a number of bonus materials, including two alternate endings. They are interesting to watch, just to get a feel for the alternate directions the ending also took in the filmmakers' minds. You will also find a few deleted and extended scenes on the disc, ready for your viewing pleasure.

Two featurettes give you a better look at the conception and the production of the movie with behind-the-scenes clips and cast and crew interviews.

Also included are Universal's U-Control and pocketBlu features, as well as digital copies of the movie. As an additional bonus, the release allows you to view the original 1941 "The Wolf Man" streamed as a BD Live feature form the Internet. I have not been able to confirm this feature, as the movie has not been accessible as of this writing.

"The Wolfman" is a fun- and gore-filled romp. While it feels a little too modern at times with its overblown CGI special effects, it still manages to create a wonderful gothic atmosphere throughout, resplendent with some truly magnificent, almost iconic, imagery. It may not be quite as grand a resurrection of the classic movie, but it is entertaining and well worth seeing nonetheless.