The Wolfman/The Crazies

The Wolfman

Saw this remake of the 1941 classic two weeks ago, took notes for a review, and then kind of forgotten that I’d even seen it.

Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

It has a cheesy old-fashioned quality and pretty scenery that kept me sporadically entertained at the time I was watching it. Like a lot of horror movies it needed a serious plot doctor. But the lack of emotional impact was really the kicker. It just failed to connect in any meaningful way.

I think the filmmakers would have done well to crank up the cheese factor by quite a lot and pile on the black comedy — look, you know the audience is going to be snickering when you show him howling at the moon like that, why not go all the way and make it obvious you meant to make us snicker?

I’m not a big fan of the original ( loves it) but this ends up having exactly the same problems I had with the original: I find the protagonist kind of a blank, and therefore don’t end up caring what happens to him or getting really involved in the story. It also adds a bunch of shiny, ridiculous new flaws of its very own.

I think I’m slightly biased against the original just because I don’t like werewolf transformations where the end result is something that looks like a really hirsute person and not like a wolf of any kind. This is just a personal thing. You’re a wereWOLF, dammit! You should become a wolf! And you should run on all fours! (I’ll accept the little Incredible Hulk pants only if the alternative is No Pants At All.)

I’ll make some allowances for the fact that human actors are generally portraying the wolves (little-known fact: real wolves can’t act) but the basic design still needs to be something that, if you saw it, you’d think "there’s a big animal" as opposed to "there’s a man with an unusual genetic condition." It’s a suspension of disbelief thing.

I am also biased against werewolves that are nothing but insane mindless killing machines, which is really apparent in this movie. (Because it maligns wolves, yeah, in part.) Actually, I’m against that model for any kind of monster. I feel like it’s lazy worldbuilding. Even monsters need a reason to kill — that reason can be as simple as "weird mystical compulsion" but you still have to establish that’s the reason.

(And note, by "establishing" I do not mean that some Van Helsing type should flatly explain it to us. You can actually establish that sort of thing quite readily through the action. Having a Van Helsing explain it to us is only a teeny tiny fraction of a bit less lazy than not having it at all.)

Not only is it lazy worldbuilding, but it kind of removes the suspense: if you already know the werewolf is going to rip the head off of absolutely everybody in reach, you can’t waste any time worrying about whether this or that particular person is going to have their head ripped off.

The one part of the story that starts to work up some emotional energy is the protagonist’s doomed romance with his dead brother’s fiancee — the actors sell it — but the film squanders this by wasting a lot of time with a really pointless trip to London, which serves largely to remind us of the climax of An American Werewolf in London.

So, really, give this movie a pass and see the original Wolfman (if you haven’t) and watch An American Werewolf in London again.

The Crazies

A competent thriller that doesn’t screw anything up too badly, and has some nice bits (look out for the car wash!) But overall it doesn’t keep the tension levels high enough and doesn’t have quite enough fun with its own premise. Plus, it goes back to a couple of wells too many times: the pan around to reveal OMIGODSOMEBODYBEHINDYOU and the "you wait here while I go check out this other thing that I think might be dangerous so that YOU can be attacked!"