Craig J. Clark — Nov. 3rd 2017
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Some college students head into the woods under some flimsy pretext and get picked off one by one by a POV camera that knows the terrain better than them. In the new indie Lycan, the pretext is that the six students are working on a group project where their vaguely defined assignment is to “recreate a moment of history,” and between the title and the fact that the landmark they’re looking for (on horseback, no less) is the supposed grave of the Werewolf of Talbot County (get it?), it’s reasonable to assume that whatever is stalking them is a werewolf. Then again, the opening title does specify that it’s “A FILM Based on a TRUE LEGEND,” so the chances of anybody in it actually sprouting fur and fangs before going on their co-ed killing spree land squarely between slim and none, and slim isn’t liking its chances.
Set in the year 1986 for no discernible reason (although it does allow writer/director Bev Land and co-writer Michael Mordler to shoehorn in references to Sixteen Candles and Mr. T with impunity), the film announces its intentions with two solid minutes of a naked, overweight farmer having vigorous sex with a prostitute, followed by his discovery that something has killed his chickens and his dog and is about to do the same to both of them. On the other side of the opening titles, a history prof with a prickly sense of humor (played by Vanessa Angel, previously known to me as the Soviet snow bunny Dan Aykroyd cozies up to in Spies Like Us) sets things in motion by throwing six Breakfast Club types into one group and addressing them all by name so the viewer knows which characters they’ll be following and what their defining traits are.
The one that doesn’t fit into the John Hughes mold is Kenny (Parker Croft), the Bolex camera-toting horndog pothead whose character seems modeled more on Jamie Kennedy in Wes Craven’s Scream than, say, Judd Nelson’s “criminal” Bender. As for the others, Irving (Craig Tate) is definitely the overachieving “brain” of the group, putting him in Anthony Michael Hall’s shoes. Baseball player Blake (Jake Lockett) is the Emilio Estevez “athlete” equivalent. Stuck-up rich girl Blair (Rebekah Graf) and her dutiful sorority pledge Chrissy (Kalia Prescott) have to split the Molly Ringwald “princess” role between them. (Blair even makes multiple references to the debutante party she doesn’t want to miss.) And bringing up the rear is social outcast Isabella (Dania Ramirez, also one of the film’s producers and a contributor to its story), who’s working the Ally Sheedy “basket case” angle something fierce but needs more than a simple makeover to fit in.
Unsurprisingly, Isabella is the character we learn the most about, including that she lives on a farm with an older woman she calls “mama” (Gail O’Grady, who made her screen debut as “Victim in VW” in the pilot for the ’80s Werewolf TV series) who isn’t her real mother, she takes medicine for some unspecified condition, she sleeps in the barn, and she has a fairy tramp stamp (which is tastefully revealed by Land, who incidentally is also Ramirez’s husband). Furthermore, when the group sets up camp for the night, she repurposes her own childhood trauma by relating how her actual parents were slaughtered in the very same woods when she was eleven as a campfire story, which none of the others pick up on. Soon after the party turns in (with Irving having been drugged by Kenny, who intended to roofie Chrissy), one of them is dragged out of their tent by something with enormous claws and the game is afoot (or aclaw, as it were).
Even in the light of day, the boobs falls prey to various traps, with one getting his foot caught in a coyote trap, another stepping in one that leaves him hanging upside-down from a tree, and a third falling into a pit (and pulling the fourth down into it with him). Finally, the survivors make it to Isabella’s house, where they’re greeted by a couple of not-terribly-intimidating-looking wolves and their number is further reduced by a booby-trapped piano. (Don’t ask.) There follows one of the most blatantly foreshadowed reveals ever, a poorly choreographed fight to the death, and an unnecessary flash-forward to the present day, when Kenny’s Bolex is happened upon by a little girl. Based on the footage he got and the condition it will be in after being out in the elements for three-plus decades, I don’t foresee anyone making a Blair Witch-type feature out of it.