Vampire and zombie movies are a dime a dozen but werewolf stories are scarce. That’s just one of the reasons to be excited for Wolf, a fresh take on the movie monster.
When Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) is bitten by a wolf, he gets his rabies shot and moves on. Soon afterward, however, he begins to change. His eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell sharpen. He notices extra hair growth and an increased appetite for meat and sex. Will is turning into a literal and figurative wolf at the office. The transformation is perfectly timed, as things are not going well with his position as editor-in-chief.
It’s clearly a werewolf film, with references to the full moon, the old curse being transferred through a wolf bite, physical transformations at night, and more. What it doesn’t do is take the traditional werewolf elements and play them in the same way you’ve seen before. Will likes the changes happening to him. It makes you wonder if he’s ultimately going to embrace the monster he’s becoming or not. What happens when his situation escalates into traditional werewolf maimings and killings? Will the benefits still outweigh the disadvantages?
This is an unmistakably ‘90s film. It’s about a guy being pushed around at the office because of his age because someone younger is getting ready to take his position. All of a sudden, he’s given the aggressive power that he needs to fight back. We never thought of it before but the office area lends itself surprisingly well to the werewolf transformation aspect. Its direction is nothing like the one chosen by Ginger Snaps but in a way, it is as innovative and refreshing a lycanthrope story.
Something else you don’t often see in horror is a prominent romantic/erotic element. Yes, this is a horror romance. I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t elaborate any further but this tale reveals just enough to get you wondering where Will’s journey will end. This is actually where we come to the biggest criticism; the conclusion. Whereas the rest of the picture is original and inventive, this felt like an afterthought. It turns into standard monster-movie stuff with a final shot that’s kind of interesting but raised a lot more questions than I would’ve liked. It’s too bad. In every other scene, Wolf is truly fresh. The minimalist werewolf visuals work because they serve to “ground” the story and put more emphasis on the real-world applications of the transformation and the romance. You sacrifice the “money shot” of any werewolf movie but in exchange, get real characterization. You won’t mind.
I thought Jack Nicholson really did a terrific job playing a compelling character in this. There are some really solid moments between him and his rivals and friends here. It really surprised me to see all of the subtlety and intelligence… well until that last bit anyway.
If you’re like me and you’re always looking for something new to check out, and you’re worried that you’ve seen every single good werewolf movie out there, I really think you should check out Wolf. I really liked the escalation and transformations in this film. I was thoroughly impressed. (On DVD, December 14, 2014)
Mine! One of my most sought-after Universal 8 prints. Hope I get it before Halloween!