Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Wolfman. A-

Now, I've been excited about this movie ever since it was supposed to be released in April 2009, and then even more when it got pushed back to just after Halloween in the same year. But like the similarly moody Shutter Island, it got delayed yet again to the snowy environs of february. Indeed, the movie was released when D/FW got hit with a foot of snow. I meant to see it then, but the weather was too awesome and I couldn't bear the thought of sitting in a theater when I could spend the weekend tramping in the snow. The next week Shutter Island came out and I dashed out to see the very first showing Friday morning. My intent was to catch The Wolfman afterwards, but the rush of adrenaline from Shutter and the fact that The Wolfman wouldn't be showing for another two hours brought me home still not having seen it. Then I found out that there would be an extended director's cut and I decided to just dash all attempts of seeing it in theaters (in spite of my love of the big screen) and wait for the DVD instead. Normally I would go ahead and catch both versions, but I knew that Joe Johnston's ideal edition had not been distributed into theaters. Keeping impatient viewers in mind, the development of the characters had been cut down in order to get to the bite and the transformation. And now that I've seen it, the extended cut is definitely the version to check out. You don't even need to see the theatrical cut to know that. The key to The Wolfman isn't the horror, but the storytelling. This is a great story that sticks in the memory the same way Dracula does. And Joe Johnston's movie does to the 1941 Universal classic what Coppola's 1992 Dracula did to Bela Lugosi's 1931 fright flick. It's more of a recreation than a remake. The Wolfman tells its story at a slow, very even pace. The director's cut gives the movie a long introduction that lets you know more than enough about the characters and then it launches into a thriller that's actually pretty fascinating. It's all stuff I've always dug and always will. Johnston establishes a dark mood with wide shots of ominous skies and dangerous woods where anything can jump out. This eerie look accompanies the macabre family tale and extinguishes any hope of salvation for these people. This a gloomy movie without an ounce of happiness in it. And that's not a bad thing because this a horror story, old fashioned and thrilling. There's nothing cheap about it and while modern horror films try and generally fail to spook us, this one doesn't even make an attempt. Instead it settles for something more traditional and compelling. Story, character, setting, mood, and romance. That's what these movies are all about and gladly The Wolfman respects that.

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