The Wolfman 2010 ***

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If the public flock to see a galaxy of superheroes, why wouldn’t they flock to see a universe of monsters? That’s the conundrum as yet unsolved by Universal’s proposed Monsterverse, which aimed to bring together Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, the Wolfman and more, but has faced several false starts. These IP are better known that anything Marvel or DC offer, and yet there are narrative issues; aside from origin stories, what would the public want to see the monsters do? With a script co-written by Se7en’s Andrew Kevin Walker, Joe Johnson’s The Wolfman tries harder than most to invigorate the clichés; Shakespearean actor Larry Talbot (Benicio del Toro) returns home to Blackmoor, and Talbot Hall specifically, after hearing word of his brother’s disappearance. His father Sir John (Anthony Hopkins) is already in on the werewolf family secret, and Larry finds himself involved with his dead brother’s fiancé Gwen (Emily Blunt) as well as the usual mistrustful villagers. Inspector Abberline (Hugo Weaving) of Scotland Yard is also on the case, fresh from his work on the Jack the Ripper murders. The Wolfman looks great, and has some cool make-up from Rick Baker, plus better acting than most horror films. There’s a duff ending, and an overall lack of suspense, possibly due to re-cutting, although a medical inspection at the hands of Anthony Sher’s asylum manager goes amusingly and spectacularly awry. Universal seem to have been somewhat dismissive of the outcome, but The Wolfman is better than it’s dire reputation suggests; it’s clearly a loving attempt to revise a classic story, with top talent del Toro, Hopkins, Blunt and Baker all on message, and a few neat moments for genre fans to enjoy, even if the final wolf-on-wolf fight is risible.

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Beasts: What Big Eyes

Nigel Kneale reworks some of his original Quatermass body horror for this truly bizarre take on the werewolf legend, updated to 1976 Britain. Michael Kitchen is the keen RSPCA officer, complete withy uniform, who is on the track of imports of wolves; he traces them to an anonymous-looking pet-shop, but one glance at the owner, the perennially lupine Patrick McGee, suggests that the creatures have been used for experimentation, and McGee is the result. What Big Eyes has a typically wordy Kneale script, which includes an eye opening discussion of the story of Red Riding Hood, and a fascinating description of how the werewolf myth might be derived from reality. What Big Eyes has a slight, but telling pay-off, and it’s a slow-burn story that make up for in originality what it lacks in scares. If nothing else, it shows off Kneale’s gift for reworking classic horror tropes into everyday British life.