Craig J. Clark — Jan. 4th 2015
As the new year dawns, I’m going to start it off by looking back on one of the handful of new werewolf films that came our way in 2014. (I hope to catch up with the likes of Late Phases, When Animals Dream, Wolves, and especially WolfCop in the months to come.) When approaching a film like Werewolf Rising, though, it helps to know going in that it isn’t going to make a lick of sense or add up to anything. Unfortunately, I went into it hoping it had been made by people who knew how to tell a coherent story and wouldn’t deliberately waste 80 minutes of my time.
Writer/director BC Furtney gets things off to a rousing start with a carjacking victim (Danielle Lozeau) who’s about to get raped by an escaped convict who has “been upstate for a long time” (as if that’s some kind of an excuse) when her assailant, Rhett (Bill Oberst, Jr.), is attacked by a red-tinted POV camera. Instead of sparing her, though, it takes her down when she tries to run while Rhett crawls away, having survived his mauling to rape another day. The scene then abruptly shifts to follow Emma (Melissa Carnell), a 20-something recovering alcoholic who’s returning to her family’s Arkansas home for the first time in 15 or 20 years depending on who you ask. Most of her backstory is dumped on us in a rambling voicemail message being left for her long-distance boyfriend, who should really know most of it already. And we shouldn’t need to be told she’s having nightmares when one of the first things she does on her arrival is curl up on the couch in front of the nice flatscreen TV (a sign somebody’s been using the place) and have one of those jarringly edited dreams (which incorporate Rhett for maximum skeeviness).
In quick succession, two men arrive on the scene: corpulent family friend Wayne (Brian Berry, whose halting line readings are a major distraction), who’s been looking after the place, and his ne’er-do-well nephew Johnny Lee (Matt Copko), who engages in multiple weird, banter-heavy conversations with a constantly smiling Emma, who acts defensive after being warned about him by Wayne. Overriding her own common sense, she goes four-wheeling with Johnny Lee (who’s always called that, by the way; never just “Johnny”) and drops him off at the abandoned church where he’s squatting. There he’s attacked by a very hairy werewolf while Emma has Wayne over for a housewarming dinner and has to beat him off when he drunkenly comes on to her. That means absolutely none of the men in the film are upstanding in any way whatsoever, yet Emma still takes Johnny Lee in and patches him up when he refuses to be taken to the hospital. Sure enough, before long he’s back on his feet and engaging in feral, Nicolas Cage-like behavior while Emma keeps senselessly running in and out of the house, with no clear goal other than to pad out the running time.
I can’t fully explain how dumb this movie gets without revealing the ending, so skip down to the end of the review if you want to remain unspoiled. All right. While Emma is being freaked out by the creature growling and prowling around the house, Furtney throws in pointless cutaways to Wayne in a local bar getting soused and Johnny Lee walking into a laundromat stark naked and stealing some clothes. This sets up the long-awaited confrontation between uncle and nephew which ends with Wayne shooting Johnny Lee and then plugging Emma when she comes out to investigate the gunshot. Finally, Rhett shows up and gets shot as well, giving Wayne the perfect guy to pin both murders on, even if he has to strangle the life out of Emma to make it stick. Rhett turns the tables on Wayne by wolfing out, though, and chases Emma for a very long time until she runs into a woman in a red dress (Irena Murphy) standing by a bonfire who gets naked like she’s in a ’70s exploitation film and throws herself at the werewolf when it belatedly appears. Here’s where it gets really stupid, though: There’s no reason in the world why she would expect Rhett to be a werewolf. She was looking forward to meeting the escaped convict she’s been corresponding with, so why does she calmly stand there and let him pick her up and sink his fangs into her neck? Furthermore, when he turns his attention to Emma, does he really need to follow through on the sexual assault he promised in the opening scene? Somebody needs to tell Furtney that there’s no such thing as Chekhov’s Rape.
In conclusion, in my considered opinion, Werewolf Rising should have stayed down.