Search: Full Moon Features (99)
Craig J. Clark — Mar. 11th 2017
It’s a tale as old as time: One studio announces a project based on a well-known (and preferably public domain) property and others pile on, jockeying for a piece of the action. So it is that Disney’s highly anticipated live-action Beauty and the Beast, due out this week, has been beaten to the punch by a French version of the same Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont story, albeit one that came out three years ago. It just landed on video here, though — courtesy of the good folks at Shout! Factory — so clearly the thinking is that some viewers either won’t know the difference or won’t care that there aren’t any singing teapots.
Co-written and directed by Christophe Gans, whose Brotherhood of the Wolf left me dissatisfied when it showed up Stateside in 2002 (mostly because it was not, as I had hoped, about werewolves), this Beauty and the Beast is closer in spirit to Jean Cocteau’s 1946 fantasy than it is to Disney’s animated musical, a comparison driven home by the framing device of a mother reading it as a bedtime story for her children. They must be especially patient children, though, because a full 26 minutes elapses before André Dussollier’s down-on-his-luck merchant, having lost his fortune and his way in a blizzard, plucks the fateful rose that invokes the wrath of Vincent Cassel’s Beast, who demands that the merchant return the next day to forfeit his life. In the merchant’s place, though, comes his daughter Belle (Léa Seydoux), who slowly comes to learn there’s more to the melancholy monster holding her prisoner than meets the eye.
Now, strictly speaking, Beauty and the Beast isn’t a genuine werewolf narrative since the Beast isn’t capable of changing back and forth between his two forms — although he technically does thanks to Belle’s nightly dreams which double as flashbacks to how Cassel’s Prince came to be cursed — but there’s no denying that it plays on some of the same themes of duality. (That these are mirrored in the Prince’s tragic backstory is no accident.) And it’s not a horror film, but Gans takes pains to keep the Beast hidden from view initially, enshrouding him in shadows, keeping him out of focus, or only showing his paws or a close-up of his mouth. That all changes, though, once Belle gets her first clear look at his face when she awakens to find him watching over her (not at all creepy, dude). From then on, despite his repeated demands that she not look at him, Belle (and, by extension, the viewer) gets an eyeful of the leonine Beast. (When a peripheral character encounters the Beast, he asks point blank, “What are you, anyway? A lion? A big cat?”) And while he tries to keep his savage side from her, it has a way of asserting itself at inopportune moments.
As lavish as the production is (it’s not for nothing that it was nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design at the César Awards, where it won Best Production Design), it’s unlikely that this telling of Beauty and the Beast will stand as the definitive one. For one thing, the CGI employed for the Beast’s furry visage and his overly cute canine helpers (which turn into ordinary puppies when their master transforms back into a man) will probably age about as well as digital effects tend to (i.e. not at all). For another, Gans and co-writer Sandra Vo-Anh add some wholly unnecessary elements to the story’s climax, which could have stood to be less bombastic. Mostly, though, it has to contend with Cocteau’s wondrous vision, which has been enchanting audiences for seven decades and remains as beguiling as it ever was.
Craig J. Clark — Feb. 10th 2017
The list of period werewolf films is pretty short to begin with. Due to the compound challenges of producing a period film and adding werewolves to it, the list of successful ones is even shorter. For every Curse of the Werewolf, there’s a Van Helsing. For every Company of Wolves, there’s a Werewolf: The Beast Among Us. Try as they might, the makers of 2004’s Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning also fall short of the mark, but at least they’re able to rise above the level of, say, 1979’s Wolfman (admittedly, not the most difficult bar to clear and a film I intend to cover in this space in the near future).
Co-produced and directed by Grant Harvey, who previously served as second unit director on Ginger Snaps and also co-produced its sequel, Snaps Back is set in the winter of 1815 in the Canadian wilderness, in which sisters Ginger and Brigitte (Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins) are discovered wandering on horseback. How they came to be there is never adequately explained, but after they come across a ravaged Indian camp and meet an old seer who cryptically warns them to “kill the boy or one sister kills the other,” their horse gets spooked and gallops off, leaving them in a spot that is exacerbated when Brigitte steps in a trap meant for some other kind of animal. She’s helped out of it by an Indian named Hunter (Nathaniel Arcand) who tends to her wound and accompanies the sisters to a nearby fort — a remote outpost of the Northern Legion Trading Company — where they are a less-than-welcome presence because of the shortage of supplies (seems the crew that set out the previous spring never returned) and the supernatural threat from without that no one is eager to give a name to.
Inside the fort, the sisters are under the protection of Wallace (Tom McCamus), the man nominally in charge, but his second-in-command (JR Bourne) would just as soon throw them to the (were-)wolves, and the resident fire-and-brimstone preacher (Hugh Dillon) likewise urges Wallace to cast them out. That seems harsh, but if they had been, Ginger wouldn’t have been bitten by the deformed creature kept locked up in the basement (the aforementioned boy) and the fort’s dwindling population wouldn’t have fallen to her furry friends quite so speedily. It also would have prevented Harvey from displaying his fondness for time-lapse effects, which lose their novelty the more he uses them. Thankfully, the full-on werewolf attack that arrives at the film’s climax is worth sticking around for, but it does strike me as a case of too little, too late.
Craig J. Clark — Jan. 11th 2017
It’s increasingly rare for a werewolf film to actually be out in theaters when the moon is full, but as the one that’s currently playing on 3070 screens across this great nation is Underworld: Blood Wars — and I gave myself permission to skip any further films in that dreary franchise after the last one — I have chosen to devote this month’s column to another, decidedly more worthy, werewolf movie sequel.
Released in 2004, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed came along four years after its Scream Factory-approved predecessor and found editor Brett Sullivan stepping into the director’s chair. It also sees surviving Fitzgerald sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins) barely keeping her nascent lycanthropy at bay while staying two steps ahead of a persistent male werewolf (dubbed The Beast in the closing credits) that’s looking to answer the call of the wild. On top of that, she’s periodically visited by the ghost of her dead sister Ginger (Katharine Isabelle), who may in fact only be a figment of her imagination. Either way, Ginger’s appearance generally signals that things are going south for Brigitte in one way or another, as they do early on when she winds up in a rehab facility and is denied the monkshood extract she’s been using to keep the beast within her in check.
The primary setting for the first half of the film, the hospital is where Brigitte runs afoul of administrator Alice (Janet Kidder), who works overtime to convince her charges she’s been where they are, and orderly Tyler (Eric Johnson), who takes advantage of the more vulnerable patients. It’s also where she makes the acquaintance of Ghost (future Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany), a chirpy eight-year-old who seems to have the run of the place and arranges for the two of them to escape together. Their destination: Ghost’s grandmother’s off-the-grid cabin, where Brigitte finds out what it’s like to jump out of a frying pan and into the fire. Considering she’s gradually turning into a creature that’s covered in hair (a welcome design change from the first film), that’s obviously less than ideal.
Craig J. Clark — Dec. 12th 2016
As film historian Tom Weaver points out on his commentary, much of the werewolf mythology we take for granted today was codified in Curt Siodmak’s screenplay for The Wolf Man and further refined by the sequels that followed. Happily, Weaver’s informative commentary track is one of the many special features Universal ported over from its previous releases to the Complete Legacy Collection, which got a DVD release in 2014 and has been upgraded to Blu-ray just in time for the original’s 75th anniversary.
Since its general release on December 12, 1941, and home-video bow four decades later, The Wolf Man has been trotted out many times by Universal in multiple formats — VHS, laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray. What makes the Complete Legacy Collection special is it collects the entire Lawrence Talbot saga in one set for the first time. If you bought the previous Legacy Collection released in 2004, all you got was The Wolf Man and its sequel, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, plus 1935’s unrelated Werewolf of London and 1946’s worthless She-Wolf of London. If you wanted to find out what happened to Larry after he threw down with the Monster, you also had to get the Frankenstein Legacy Collection (for House of Frankenstein, which also came as part of a double feature with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man) and the Dracula one (for the otherwise unavailable House of Dracula). And that’s not even taking into account 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, for which Universal brought back all its heavy hitters from the undead.
The point is, in the DVD era you had to shell out for a lot of extraneous content if all you wanted to do was follow Lon Chaney, Jr. from first bite to monster-mash finale. Now there’s no need to jump through so many hoops and, with any luck, this Blu-ray release, which also comes with the Abbott and Costello title, will be definitive. And best of all, it isn’t sullied by the behind-the-scenes featurette on Stephen Sommers’s Van Helsing, which the initial trio of Legacy Collections were put out in tandem with. As much as Universal likes to repackage its horror classics, at least it knows well enough what to excise from later editions.
Craig J. Clark — Nov. 13th 2016
Compared to the ’80s, which was rather a boom time for werewolf cinema, the ’90s were considerably leaner, and with one or two notable exceptions, the films produced that decade much less memorable. Case in point: 1996’s Bad Moon, which was released 20 years ago this month, coming between the ludicrous Project: Metalbeast (which, I shit you not, is about a secret military plan to create armored werewolves) and An American Werewolf in Paris (a misbegotten sequel I still have no intention of wasting my time on). Tellingly, neither of those cast-offs have been released in souped-up editions by Scream Factory, but Bad Moon has, so that’s a definite point in its favor. Plus, the thing’s only 79 minutes long. How torturous can it be?
The answer is not very torturous at all. Bad Moon is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s ridiculous enough to be laughable for long stretches of time — even when the filmmakers are trying to play it straight. It was written for the screen and directed by Eric Red, who deserves an award for adapting a novel called Thor and not filling it with references to Norse mythology. Rather, Thor is an überprotective German shepherd owned by lawyer Janet (Mariel Hemingway) and lovable moppet Brett (Mason Gamble), who have moved to the Pacific Northwest to get away from the big, bad city. What they end up doing is moving next door to the big, bad wolf when Hemingway’s brother Ted (Michael Paré) returns from the jungle, where he was attacked by a werewolf, and takes up residence in their backyard. Thor knows what’s what, though, and does what any dog would do to protect the family.
Werewolf films live and die by their transformation scenes. In the olden days, they were accomplished with the use of time-lapse photography (as in 1941’s The Wolf Man) or simple cutaways (as in 1935’s Werewolf of London, which is featured in this film). During the wolf’s ’80s resurgence the order of the day was in-camera make-up effects (which is why classics like The Howling and An American Werewolf in London continue to be revered today). By the ’90s, however, the standard was CGI “morphing,” which in the case of Bad Moon looks about as cheesy as you would expect. The werewolf itself isn’t half bad and Paré’s performance as its human side is reasonably credible, but one wishes the effects crew had skipped the part in-between.
Craig J. Clark — Oct. 15th 2016
Faithful readers of this blog are well aware that 2006 was not a stellar year for werewolf films. Between the turgid Underworld: Evolution, the substandard The Feeding, and the abysmal Curse of the Wolf, it has a lot to overcome. Which is why it’s such a surprise that Big Bad Wolf, which came out ten years ago this month, kinda works. I know I wouldn’t have expected too much from a movie about a group of college kids who drive up to a cabin in the woods to party and fall victim to, as Netflix describes it, “a vicious werewolf that rapes, murders and cracks bad jokes.”
For one thing, it helps that writer/director Lance W. Dreesen dispenses with the “teens partying in the woods” angle after the first 30 minutes and concentrates on the cat and mouse between the two survivors — timid Derek (Trevor Duke) and tough girl Sam (Kimberly J. Brown) — and the man they suspect of being the werewolf, namely Derek’s stepfather Mitchell (Richard Tyson), whose last name is Toblat because Dreesen apparently didn’t feel like being too subtle about it. As it turns out, Derek’s estranged uncle Charlie (Christopher Shyer) has also had his suspicions about Mitchell ever since Derek’s father died from an animal attack while on a hunting expedition in Cameroon, but getting the proof they need is harder than it looks, especially since the wolf has a way of coming out whenever Mitchell is roused to anger or just plain aroused. This leads to some pretty awkward scenes for all concerned (and a bit more hand-wringing than is absolutely necessary when Sam has to resort to drastic measures to get the DNA sample they need), but all roads lead back to the cabin on Bear Mountain for the final showdown between man and beast.
Genre fans looking for some creative bloodletting won’t walk away from Big Bad Wolf disappointed (although there is one scene that may cause those of the male persuasion to cross their legs in discomfort). And there are a couple of nice cameos from Clint Howard (as the requisite local who warns the kids away from the cabin) and a noticeably paunchy David Naughton (as the sheriff who believes Derek and Sam are holding back, but doesn’t feel obligated to press them on the matter). If only Dreesen had resisted the temptation to have his furry villain quote from a certain story about a wolf and some little pigs…
Craig J. Clark — Sep. 15th 2016
In all the years I’ve been watching werewolf movies, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a sorrier example of the genre than the 2006 schlocker Curse of the Wolf, which went direct to video ten years ago this month. In fact, it may very well be the worst werewolf film I’ve ever seen, eclipsing even the amateur-hour likes of Night Shadow and Werewolf: The Devil’s Hound, which I didn’t think was possible. Like the latter, Curse of the Wolf was shot on cruddy-looking video and used cheap-ass werewolf makeup, and like the former, it was built around the skills of a martial artist. In this case, though, there are multiple martial artists in the cast, and one of them was also the writer, director, and fight choreographer, which explains the preponderance of hand-to-claw combat scenes.
When it isn’t focused on the fisticuffs, the action revolves around Dakota (Renee Porada), the most reluctant member of a sad little five-person wolf pack who breaks away when she figures out how to medically suppress her transformation. This doesn’t sit well with her would-be mate James (Alex Bolla, who wears shiny shirts so he can be readily identified even in wolf form), but pack leader Michael (Todd Humes, who overacts something fierce) decides to let her go for the time being. And offered up as a study in contrasts are the other two members of the pack: sexpot Harley (Katie Russell, who owns the film’s first gratuitous nude scene) and repulsive, blue-haired fat slob Franklin (Brian “Blue Meanie” Heffron, who spends an entire scene clad only in a pair of pee-stained and skidmarked briefs, which makes the fart sounds laid over top of it superfluous).
Jumping forward six months, the story finds Dakota working at a veterinary clinic, which gives her access to the drugs she needs, and palling around with co-worker Sam (Kylie Deneen), whom she rescues from a gang of would-be rapists who are subsequently slaughtered by Franklin while he’s out following Dakota’s scent. Per the homicide detective interviewed on the news about it the next day, “One victim suffered gash wounds over 50% of his body. Looks like he was mauled by a bear, for God sakes. There were chunks of these potato heads all over the place, and drugs everywhere. What could have done that in this area? No idea, but one thing’s for sure: We’ll get the bastards.” This turns out to be a load of hot air, though, since we never see this cop again, or any other police officer for that matter.
Instead, we’re plunged into a lopsided conflict between Michael’s pack and magnanimous club owner Logan (top-billed Lanny Poffo), who offers Dakota his protection. This extends to the services of his long-haired right-hand man Stick (writer/director Len Kabasinski, credited as Leon South) and clothing-averse weapons experts Ivy (Darian Caine) and Star (Pamela Sutch), who go with Dakota to stake out the house where the pack is holding Dan (Dennis Carver), whose relationship to her is rather nebulous. Even so, it’s more explicable than the scene where Ivy takes a bath while listening to a song called “Teetah the Cat Lady” which I swear I’m not making up. I’m also not lying when I say this film has one of the most deliriously incoherent final melees ever committed to magnetic tape, which is topped only by the credits for Kabasinski’s “spiritual advisor” and “snack guru,” who shockingly enough aren’t one and the same person.
Editor’s note: the cover art for Curse of the Wolf is so discomfitingly gross / bad / that I’m too embarrassed to display it directly on the site. You can see it here if you think you want to, but you don’t want to.
Craig J. Clark — Aug. 17th 2016
Of all the werewolf movies that have yet to come out on DVD — and at this late date, there aren’t too many that haven’t — the most bewildering case has to be AIP’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf, a slavering beast that was first unleashed in 1957. It’s the kind of film where even if you haven’t seen it, you at least know of it, and there are many people who, almost six decades after its release, continue to seek it out. Amazon has multiple listings for the 1993 VHS release, which can be bought new in the original shrink wrap for the low, low price of $75, but on DVD it is decidedly M.I.A. Heck, even the 1997 Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode in which Mike and the Bots savaged it has yet to surface on home video, a sure sign that someone, somewhere is sitting on the property, hoping for a huge payday that has thus far been far from forthcoming.
Anyway, I Was a Teenage Werewolf is a typical AIP quickie, perfunctorily directed by Gene Fowler, Jr., but when it proved to be wildly profitable they rushed several follow-ups — including I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, which was released less than five months later — into production. Even Roger Corman’s Teenage Cave Man from 1958 could be said to be one of its progeny since it was shot as Prehistoric World before AIP changed the title. As for the film itself, it probably would have faded into obscurity if not for Michael Landon’s subsequent fame and his feral performance as tortured teen Tony Rivers (with more than a little James Dean in his DNA) who becomes the title character under the questionable care of hypnotherapist Dr. Alfred Brandon (Whit Bissell), who somehow believes that regressing mankind to a bestial state is preferable to having angry young men pick fights without provocation and throw milk bottles around.
As the film opens, Landon is involved in just such a tussle with a fellow student (Tony Marshall) who merely slapped him in the shoulder. This is enough to get the attention of kindly police detective Donovan (Barney Phillips) who recommends he see a psychiatrist about his anger management problem, but Tony isn’t having any part of it. Even Arlene, the nice girl he’s going with (Yvonne Lime), can’t convince him that he needs help, but after one too many blow-ups he’s placed in the care of Dr. Brandon, who injects him with an experimental serum and, using hypnosis, regresses him back to a time when all people were werewolves or something. (You remember that from your history books, right?) Brandon’s assistant (Joseph Mell) is skeptical about what this will accomplish (“You call it progress to hurl back the human race to its savage beginnings?” he quite reasonably asks), but the proof of the pudding’s in the eating, and soon enough Tony is sprouting fur and fangs and chowing down on his classmates.
Something similar occurs in “I Was a Teenage Werebear,” Tim Sullivan’s contribution to the 2011 horror/comedy anthology Chillerama. In it, closeted gay teen Ricky (Sean Paul Lockhart) finds out why he isn’t interested in his hot girlfriend Peggy Lou (Gabby West) when he’s bitten in the rear by leather-jacketed tough Talon (Anton Troy), forever dooming him to become a fur-faced leather bear whenever his libido rises. (Doesn’t sound so bad to me.) It takes a while for Ricky to come to terms with his new sexual identity, though, even after Nurse Maleva (Lin Shaye, channeling Maria Ouspenskaya) helpfully clues him in by reciting “Even a boy who thinks he’s straight, yet shaves his balls by night, may become a werebear when the hormones rage and the latent ways take flight.” Oh, and did I mention the whole thing takes the form of a beach musical set in Malibu, circa 1962? (Sample song titles: “Love Bit Me on the Ass” and “Do the Werebear (And Let the Werebear Do You.”) What’s most refreshing about it is that Sullivan ends on a note of tolerance and acceptance, which is in sharp contrast to Tony Rivers’s ultimate fate.
Craig J. Clark — Jul. 18th 2016
This month marks the anniversaries of two werewolf films made half a century apart. The first is the imaginatively titled The Werewolf, which was released in July of 1956 according to the IMDb, but the site is no more specific than that. The second is The Feeding, which had its TV premiere on July 11, 2006, before going to video just two months later. Neither is particularly good, but at least one of them is a little fun to watch. See if you can guess which one that is.
Made by producer Sam Katzman and director Fred F. Sears, who teamed up the following year for the notorious giant bird movie The Giant Claw, The Werewolf was the first wolf-man movie to come along since Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein eight years earlier and, as such, it reflected the times by having its tortured lycanthrope change into a bloodthirsty beast as a result of getting into a car accident and receiving a transfusion of irradiated wolf’s blood from two unethical doctors. (If you think that sounds pretty far-fetched, just wait until I cover I Was a Teenage Werewolf.)
The film opens with a stentorian narrator explaining what a lycanthrope is and saying that stories of men changing into wolves have been passed down through the ages because “it is a universal belief” (a sly nod to Universal Pictures, perhaps?). We’re then introduced to an amnesiac werewolf (Steven Ritch) who comes to the sleepy town of Mountaincrest and causes numerous headaches for sheriff Jack Haines (Don Megowan) and his fiancée, nurse Amy Standish (Joyce Holden). Ritch’s first victim is a belligerent drunk who corners him in an alley and immediately regrets it when he transforms (off-screen) and tears the drunk’s throat out (also off-screen). Curiously enough, Ritch keeps his shoes and socks on throughout the attack and runs around with them on for a good while before removing them in the woods — that way Jack and his men can be bewildered by the way the shoe prints they’re following abruptly change into wolf tracks.
After one of his deputies is attacked, Jack orders the town to be sealed off and a tired and bewildered Ritch arrives at the door of the doctor Amy works for looking for help but almost immediately gets scared off. Eventually we’re introduced to the reckless doctors responsible for Ritch’s sorry plight, who wish to eliminate him before he can recover his memory and point the finger (or claw, as it were) at them, and the poor man’s wife and son, who track him down to Mountancrest and just want him to come home safe. In the meantime, we see him transform in and out of his wolf-man makeup a few times with the aid of some pretty shoddy trick photography, and Amy and Jack keep up a running debate over whether he should be captured alive or not. That’s not carried over to The Feeding, though, largely because its characters are preoccupied by other concerns.
As a matter of fact, The Feeding has the makings of its own drinking game since it’s a werewolf film that goes so far out of its way to avoid having anyone say the word “werewolf,” writer/director Paul Moore seems perversely proud of himself for not using it. There are, however, many times where the characters are right on the verge of identifying the kind of creature they’re facing by name, only to walk it back at the last moment. So, should you watch The Feeding (something, incidentally, I do not recommend), every time it looks like somebody is about to say “werewolf” and stops themselves short, take a drink. That might not get you drunk, but it could help make the viewing experience somewhat tolerable.
As much as Moore ties himself into knots having his characters talk around what they’re up against, he also doesn’t do them any favors by writing lines for them like “I’m guessing that if your girlfriend were alive, she wouldn’t want you to hang around here waiting to have your throat torn out.” In a low-budget, direct-to-video film like this, it’s tempting to blame the stiff line-readings on the inexperience of the actors, but it’s the lines Moore has given them to say that are dead-on-arrival. And it doesn’t help that they’re playing such thinly conceived walking stereotypes. On the one side, there’s cocky Wildlife and Forestry special agent Jack Driscoll (Robert Pralgo), who’s been after this particular monster for a few years, and his partner, animal expert Aimee Johnston (Dione Updike), who’s keen to prove herself in the field. On the other, there’s the septet of sex-crazed stoners (three couples and one seventh wheel) who pick the wrong week to go hiking in the Appalachians.
Following the requisite shock-kill opening, in which two redneck hunters banter pointlessly for a couple of minutes before shooting a very hairy werewolf, which makes short work of them, the first half of the film is all set-up as Jack and Aimee brief the park rangers in charge of clearing the mountain of civilians and then lie in wait for their quarry, and the interchangeable seven manage to slip past them and prepare to be werewolf chow. I would identify them, but really, what’s the point? When just about everybody who appears on screen is in the opening credits — even the actors playing “Hunter #1,” “Ranger #1,” and “Hunter #2” — that makes nonentities of them all. Sure, Moore tries to inject some drama into the situation by having one of the guys be the ex-boyfriend of one of the girls, who has since paired off with another one of the guys, but this doesn’t generate any more conflict than the ill-advised game of spin the bottle they choose to play one night. (I blame the weed for the poor decision-making.) And the second half of the film, during which the bipedal human-animal hybrid stalking and killing them gets a lot of screen time, is marred by the fact that it’s always a little bit out of focus, as if Moore knew he had a lousy werewolf suit on his hands. Surprise, he was right.
Craig J. Clark — Jun. 19th 2016
Tonally, the horror-comedy is one of the trickiest hybrid genres to successfully pull off. Lean too heavily on the comedy — as last month’s Full Moon Feature Crying Wolf did — and the horror won’t register. Go too far in the other direction and the comedy will feel awkwardly shoehorned in. The third option arises when neither half of the equation works all that well, leading the whole to be a wash, which is the unfortunate situation with the new werewolf film Uncaged by writer/director Daniel Robbins and co-writer Mark Rapaport. What’s especially sad is they started with a not-terrible concept and proceeded to spoil it with sloppy execution, illogical plotting, and the most egregious comic-relief character this side of Franklin in the woeful Curse of the Wolf. (Stay tuned for that direct-to-video gem.)
See, there’s this boy named Jack (Ben Getz) who, upon turning 18, inexplicably starts waking up outdoors, completely naked and with no memory of how he got that way. Since he’s spending winter break at his uncle’s cabin with his college buds Turner (Kyle Kirkpatrick) and Brandon (Zachary Weiner) — the latter his geeky horndog cousin — after it happens a second time he borrows the former’s GoPro camera and straps it to his forehead to see what he gets up to when he gets up in the middle of the night. This sets up the moment the next morning when he uploads the video to his laptop and watches himself (or, rather, his hairy, flailing arms) kill a man and chase down a woman who manages to get away. That’s when he realizes what he is and retroactively figures out what happened when he was six and his mother slaughtered his father one night while he cowered in his bedroom. (They really should have been more strict about who tucked him in when it was mommy’s time of the month.)
So far, not so bad, even if Brandon’s obsession with sex is more off-putting than endearing. (After Jack comes home one morning clad only in a plastic garbage bag, Brandon confides, “You know, if it’s something weird, like some fetish thing, I get it, all right? Let’s just say I get it.” Enough said, young man.) Then Robbins and Rapaport start introducing extraneous characters like Rose (Paulina Singer), whose suspicious-minded drug dealer husband Gonzo (Garrett Lee Hendricks) is anxious to know what she was doing on a train platform with Jack’s victim. (When she’s interviewed about it on TV, it’s called a “bear attack,” but when she tells Jack the creature looked like “a big gorilla,” that’s a bit closer to the mark.) And the less said about Turner’s online hookup Crystal (Michelle Cameron) the better since her only function is to be his victim when he’s bitten by Jack and subsequently turns into a werewolf himself. Which, incidentally, is where Robbins and Rapaport directly contradict themselves since every discussion between Jack’s mother (Angela Atwood), who’s kept her distance from him for the past twelve years, and his uncle Mike (Alex Emanuel) makes plain that their shared condition is genetic, so it shouldn’t be able to be transmitted via bites or scratches.
Speaking of Jack’s mother, she jumps through a lot of unnecessary hoops to get a heavy-duty metal cage to him, dropping it off at a second-hand store and having its owner leave a cryptic message on Jack’s voicemail. If she had truly wanted him to be prepared for his first (and his second and his third and his fourth) change, she would have been up front with him instead of sneaking into the cabin at night to secretly tranquilize him. And having Uncle Mike send a letter inviting Jack to his empty cabin while he’s out on the road for some damned reason is just plain illogical. Then again, a dearth of logic is endemic to most of these characters. As suspicious as Turner is about what’s going on, why would he go out of his way to prevent Jack from locking himself in his cage? And when Brandon turns up with his throat torn out the next morning, why doesn’t Turner blame himself since it’s totally his fault? And why does he keep inviting Crystal out to the cabin if he truly believes this will put her in harm’s way? When you get right down to it, the only halfway reasonable character in the whole bunch is Wade (Gene Jones, also the only halfway recognizable actor in the cast), the second-hand store owner, and he has next to nothing to do with the plot. That says something, and what it says is not good at all. Woof.