Haunted Gypsy

by admin on January 15, 2009

Haunted Gypsy

Haunted Gypsy

The Wolf Man

In remaking The Wolf Man, Joe Johnston found the solution to keeping his movie fresh from the countless other films based on the centuries old legend. The Wolfman is not just an update of the 1941 Universal classic, but also a horror movie about horror movie. That’s not to say that it’s a film for fans of horror films, however, as most are likely to find The Wolfman a mere interesting failure. It’s primarily useful as a visual guide to the most common tropes of the genre, and how clumsy they look when thrown together.

            Visually, The Wolfman is a well made film, capturing the period detail of Victorian England vividly. Johnston is less successful in creating the immediate world surrounding Talbot Hall. It’s a dark and misty forest where a werewolf (the film hinders the suspense by exposing the monster in the opening). But it is so surreal (Terry Gilliam sense of the word) a place that it blurs the boundary between the world of the supernatural and the ordinary world of Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro), the stage actor arriving from America to visit his father’s estate in the country after receiving news that his brother was devoured by a creature in the forest.

            This is what really kills The Wolfman.  The Talbots seem to have been a part of, rather than victims of, this world from the beginning. Their fear of this strange world and the beasts it harbors is more a personal one instead of fear of the unknown. As an audience, we need to identify with the people we see on screen. Because this world is unknown to us, it should be unknown, at least, to Lawrence Talbot. But because they know about this world already and are in tune with its dangers, we are the outsiders. They know where they are and what’s happening, so nothing is mysterious to them and therefore neither to us, hence the feeling of blandness accompanying the first half of the film.

           Why should this world be shocking to them? After all, the supposedly normal world they inhabit is just as bizarre as the haunted forest. Every “real” animal, from the Gypsies’ trained bear to the red deer used by villagers to bait the werewolf, is so obvious a CGI creation that, by comparison, the hairy beast Lawrence Talbot shape-shifts into isn’t all that weird.

As Sir John Talbot, Anthony Hopkins justifies are premature alienation from the Talbot family. From the start, he knows what awaits his son after he is mauled by a werewolf and he believes it unquestionably. The way he believes his son is a werewolf after his first rampage doesn’t work. He should either be incredulous (or in denial, given what we will learn about him) or, at most, only suspicious. Sir Talbot knows too much too soon to keep the suspense going. When the man’s big secret is revealed, our disappointment is confirmed.

The best moments in The Wolfman are, unsurprisingly, Benicio del Toro’s transformations and the chaos that ensues. They exist as kinetically fun isolated bits without build-up. But even here, Johnston is blasé. He wastes Benicio del Toro’s talent by never sharing with us some insight into how exactly his Lawrence Talbot feels about his destiny. When he is in human form, doe she remember the carnage he brought on? Does he understand any of what’s going on? Sadly, we aren’t told much.

Here, Johnston seems more eager to try and shock us with the kind of blood and gore that has become old. Is it really that shocking to see a severed head anymore? As much a misfire as his use of intestine splatter is Johnston’s pointless forays into Talbot’s mind. Instead of telling us what we really want to know about the character, he gives us a lot of nothing images of a statue of his mother talking to him and one of his victims talking to him on stage. Please.

It is also here that The Wolfman is attacked by clichés. It starts when the bewildered Talbot is skipping rocks across a pond and his deceased brother’s love Gwen (Emily Blunt) approaches him. There is never any doubt that these two are in love, but did the movie really need to remind us with the over-used trope of a man using physical contact ostensibly to show a girl how to do something, in this case skipping stones?

Then they are approached by a mob of villagers (including a priest that would be the winner of any Buster Keaton look-alike contest). Of course, this is the same lynch mob that appeared in the original Wolf Man, but could also be the one from Frankenstein or so many other monster movies. As they did in Jack Nicholson’s 1994 Wolf, horses spook at the sight of Lawrence Talbot and, of course, only the girl understands him. Well, so does the Talbot family’s Sheik servant (Art Malik). Otherwise, this character serves no function in the movie besides being the mysterious Far Easterner who “get’s” what’s happening.

            Given Hollywood’s disdain for psychologists, Talbot has to end up in an asylum under the supervision of a boastful doctor (Michael Cronin). As he displays his patient before a hall full of gray-haired doctors sporting those bushy beards that movie scientists are so fond of, he claims that if Talbot is a real werewolf then he will fly out the window before the night is over. As if Hollywood hasn’t already made it clear that appearing in a horror movie is the kiss of death for an arrogant psychiatrist, The Wolfman has to clue us in on exactly how he will be killed when Talbot turns into a werewolf right there on stage. The movie, meanwhile, turns into King Kong with the panicked crowd running out of the auditorium as the beast breaks free. Like Merian C. Cooper’s giant ape did in New York, Benicio del Toro’s wolfman wreaks havoc in the streets of London even imitating Kong’s demolition of a trolley car, going a step further by breaking in and devouring the terrified passengers. Oh yes, the doctor get’s it as did almost every other despicable psychologist stupid enough to cross paths with a movie killer including Hannibal Lecter’s psychiatrist  in Silence of the Lambs.

            Speaking of which, Anthony Hopkins here is playing much the same sophisticated murderer he did in Silence of the Lambs. He even plays the piano like Dr. Lecter as one of his victims lays soaked in blood.  Soon, however, the juxtaposition of high art and grisly death will turn into a werewolf rumble in which the contestants will become indistinguishable in an underwhelming display of CGI galore. It is pointless to point out that the ending runs by the numbers except in one respect. If only one werewolf movie could let the monster survive at the end. In a sense, The Wolfman may at least grant us that change.

About the Author

I was born in Dorchester, MA on January 8, 1983 and though I was raised and live in Boston. All my life, writing has been my primary sustainment. Writing, of course, and my love for reading, cinema, and travel.

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Letta-Me-Out On Extra 2002

Any good movies with goths?

Not any comedy movies with goths, but dark movies with goths.
I have seen:

Gypsy 83
Addams family
Elvira Mistress Of The Dark
every Munster movie
My First Mister
Witchhouse 13
5 Girls
Stay Alive
A Haunting Hour

and I want the Goth(s) to be the main character please- or the best friend of.
Thank you :]

While I don't consider some of these movies to be very good, I'm listing them anyway as you may feel differently 🙂

Eternal Blood
The Gene Generation
Repo! The Genetic Opera
Blood is Thicker Than Water: Vampire Diaries Part 1
The Craft
The Crow
Home Room
Book of Shadows
Hangman's Curse
Razorblade Smile
Carrie (the remake)
Cradle of Fear
Devil's Diary
Blood: A butcher's tale
Queen of the Damned
The Sublet
Doom Generation
Love Bites
Blood Ties (tv series)

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