Craig J. Clark — Nov. 5th 2014
Game of Werewolves aside, this decade has been disappointingly short on good werewolf movies, so I’m pleased to report that 2013’s Wer fills that void quite admirably. Co-written and directed by William Brent Bell (who previously made the little-loved found-footage horror film The Devil Inside, but I never saw that, so I won’t hold it against him), Wer also reinforces the idea that all the good werewolf movies are being made outside the United States since it’s set in France and was shot in Romania. That said, it still jumps through a few hoops to establish that its three leads — the defense team for a man accused of viciously attacking an all-American family on a camping holiday in France — are two expatriate Americans and a Brit. The upshot of this is it means not having to constantly be reading subtitles, only sometimes.
Introduced during the flurry of quick-cut news reports and talking heads following the attack on the unremarkable Porter family (captured on extremely shaky video) and subsequent arrest of local recluse Talan Gwynek (Brian Scott O’Connor), public defender Kate Moore (A.J. Cook from Criminal Minds) is convinced her client has been singled out simply because he’s tall, thin, hairy, and lives just a couple miles away from the crime scene. That’s more than enough for smarmy lead investigator Klaus Pistor (Sebastian Roché), who doesn’t feel the need to look any further once he has his man, but Kate is intent on getting to bottom of things, especially when she learns about the mysterious car accident that took the life of Talan’s father just the year before and its possible connection to the dispute over the land where he lives with his Romanian mother (Camelia Maxim). Another wrinkle is added by Kate’s ex-boyfriend, British animal expert Gavin Flemyng (Simon Quarterman), who’s flown in to build the case for the Porters being the victims of an animal attack. He also looks into the genetic condition that causes Talak to be so frail, yet physically imposing, but after he’s bitten by the unmuzzled prisoner during a scuffle, the other member of Kate’s team, tech expert Eric Sarin (Vik Sahay), begins to notice his increasingly erratic behavior and makes the connection to the full moon, which is approaching.
Even if you think you know where Wer’s story is going, the road Bell and his co-writer Matthew Peterman take there is still worth following. For example, the same scene where Gavin tells Kate and Eric about porphyria, which he believes could account for Talan’s excessive body hair, is the one where he starts coughing, a sure sign that his “scratch” is more than just skin-deep. And the carnage that ensues when Talan is taken to the hospital and strapped to a table to undergo some tests, which include inducing a seizure with flashing lights, is more visceral than a similar scene that appeared in 2010’s Wolfman remake, largely because of how Bell has built up to it. As for the form Talan takes when he transforms, it may be underwhelming to some since he doesn’t grow any more hair than he already has, but O’Connor brings a definite physicality to the role that is positively awe-inspiring.
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