Thursday, October 21, 2010

House of the Wolf Man

Before I get into my review proper, I just wanted to give a shout-out to the surprise influx of new readers brought here by Red Letter Media. I hope you’re all enjoying the site, and I trust at least some of you will become permanent readers here. Also, those of you who don’t stay are jerks and I didn’t want you around anyway, jerks.

But onto House of the Wolf Man. For those that are unfamiliar with the film, this is a new movie intended as a comedic tribute to the old Universal horror movies like House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein. Now, we’ve recently seen how that could be pulled off really well, with Larry Blamire’s The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (and, I have to assume, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again). Unfortunately, writer-director Eben McGarr’s effort here is not done as well.

The film follows a gathering of relatives and other relations that are invited to the castle of Bela Reinhardt (Ron Chaney, grandson of the late Lon Chaney Jr., the original Wolf Man) in the hopes of determining which of them will be inheriting the castle from him. Of course, strange things are afoot in the castle, from an old gypsy woman that dispenses cryptic advice, to paintings that seem to stare a little too intently at passers-by, to ghoulish servants that seem to leer a little too knowingly at the guests. It all leads up to the following nightfall, when old Reinhardt’s dark secret will be revealed with the rise of the full moon.

There’s two main problems with the film, and both are connected to how McGarr seemed to be spending most of his efforts trying to capture the proper feel of the period rather than focusing on creating a quality film. The first of these problems is the acting, which tries to be intentionally stiff and hokey in an effort to mimic the old horror films, but winds up going so far that I was reminded more of particularly bad soap opera acting than anything from the time period its aiming for. I have to assume this was mainly because the low budget kept away any actors talented enough to pull such a thing off (and no, Chaney was no better -- he unfortunately does not have the acting chops of his grandfather or great grandfather), which is a shame, because it’s a distraction throughout the entire film.

The other main problem is the pacing. I’m all for a nice slow burn at times, but when the movie’s only 75 minutes long to begin with, you may want to actually throw the monsters in before the one hour mark. The name (as I mentioned above) is taken from House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein, which were both designed as a means of injecting some extra life into franchises that were winding down by throwing all of their major monsters into one movie, and that method is included here. Unfortunately, when the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Dracula all make their first appearances with less than fifteen minutes to go, it’s impossible not to feel a little bit cheated.

The film isn’t terrible, of course, and it gets enough things right (mainly the visual look of everything, from the creepy look of the castle and its denizens to the movie being done full screen) that it’s thoroughly watchable right up to when the big end brawl starts and it goes from watchable to entertaining. It’s a film of largely wasted potential, yes, but at least I can honestly say I’ve seen worse films earlier this very week.

Rating: **

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