“There wolf! There castle!”
Directed by Louis Morneau
Starring Ed Quinn, Guy Wilson and Stephen Rea
A family is attacked by a werewolf. The young son is the sole survivor, and years later is a hunter of werewolves with his own team of Transylvanian steampunk Expendables. Charles (Quinn) and his crew have put down dozens of beasts and have a fearsome reputation when they are called on to hunt a particularly dangerous foe; a beast with all the power of a werewolf, three days in which to hunt, and all the intelligence of a man.
In the afflicted town, the crew meet the local doctor (Rea) and his apprentice Daniel (Wilson), the latter asking to help them hunt the beast, having produced a profile of sorts. Daniel is being pressed by the Doctor to go to university and study medicine, and in love with a local rich girl, and has an overprotective mother, so his life is already complicated before he turns out to be the werewolf
The hunt is interrupted when one of the crew goes off the reservation and the doctor reveals that he has been moulding Daniel’s werewolf persona into a weapon against ‘low lifes’. Daniel fights the traitor and chooses his path, and Charles must decide whether Daniel should live or die.
What’s wrong with it?
It is revealed that victims of lycanthropy become wurdalak, a sort of zombie-vampire, but there isn’t much more explanation given of what, for example, makes someone a wurdalak instead of a werewolf.
Also, the subtitles spell it ‘wurdalek’, so I figured they just turn into psychopathic pepperpots at the full moon.
Smoothie Stephan has been hunting beasts since he became… I’m not sure. Possibly a vampire, or just a very urbane wurdalak. Anyway, he’s been doing this for centuries and working with Charles for years, but he goes rogue for a sniff at Daniel’s girlfriend… why? It seems a thin motivation, perhaps in part because the rest of the crew basically vanish for the final act of the movie, meaning that there is no clash of loyalties involved. Although in that case why are they so okay with him being dusted by werewolf Daniel?
As mentioned above, after the Doc shoots Charles (he survives thanks to the crew’s magically bullet-proof leather vests) to protect Daniel, the rest of the crew – One-Eyed Raconteur, Sexy Crossbow Chick and Murder Hobo – basically vanish until the very end of the film.
What’s right with it?
The film paints an interesting variation on movie Transylvania, with its land of isolated forest villages and rampant lycanthropy. Seriously, no-one is the least bit surprised by werewolves in this movie, and indeed all know enough to scoff at the idea of a werewolf striking off the full moon.
The hunter crew are a promising cast for a series, although not given room to breathe here. Ed Quinn – a poor man’s Christian Bale, at least as werewolf-hunting Batman – is a convincing lead. Sexy Crossbow Chick (Ana Ularu) gets to be genuinely tough when she’s actually on screen, and One-Eyed Raconteur’s bullshit stories and the rest of the crew’s heckling are a highlight of the movie (especially when it is revealed after a particularly bullshit tale of his horse having its back legs ripped off from under him by a werewolf that his horse really does have prosthetic wheels.)
How bad is it really?
Intended as a spin-off from The Wolfman, this is actually a lot more fun than that rather po-faced effort, and as a wacky quasi-pilot DTV affair has a lot more excuse for its weaker moments. Also, how bad can a film really be that lets me not only use the phrase ‘werewolf-hunting Batman’, but also ‘Transylvanian steampunk Expendables?’
Best bit (if such there is)?
- Having rounded up the usual suspects (anyone without an alibi) the panicky townsfolk witness the constable start to convulse and open fire, killing all of their suspects. Daniel’s mother furiously berates them for opening fire on the epileptic constable and murdering a group of their fellows. It’s actually quite tragic and affecting.
- In a similarly tragicomic vein, the scene where Doc realises that his patient was bitten by a beast and not mauled by a thresher. He takes out a pistol and shoots the man through the head, pulling down the screen behind him to reveal half a dozen bullet-holes in the plaster.
What’s up with…?
- The wurdalak/wurdalek? What are they?
- The bullet-proof vests? Are they made out of werewolf skin or something?
Production values – The werewolf itself is a little inconsistent, but the costumes and design are solid gold non-specific, early industrial Transylvaniana. 9
Dialogue and performances – For the most part workmanlike, with a few occasions when the writing ascends to something decent. 8
Plot and execution – One does wonder what would have happened if the hunters had been more willing to take Daniel along with them at first, but a few contrivances aside the first 3/4 of the movie are fine. It’s when it wants to get love triangley and has to lose most of the hunters to do so that things get wibbly. 13
Randomness – The big problem, again, is the vanishing hunters. Other than that, the film sticks to its basic principles. Oh, and the magic body armour of plot convenience. 11
Waste of potential – This film is actually better than it has any right to be. As long as it followed the hunters and not Daniel, I’d watch a spin off series. 0