Full Moon Features: Summer of Syfy: Wolvesbayne & Red: Werewolf Hunter

WolvesbayneThe Sci-Fi Channel rebranded itself Syfy in the summer of 2009, making that year’s Wolvesbayne the first official werewolf-centric “Syfy Original Movie.” I went into it hoping for the best, which I’ve always found to be preferable to the alternative, but alas, Wolvesbayne is a sorry slice of sub-Underworld schlock with a convoluted plot about a rogue vampire clan collecting magical trinkets to resurrect their queen and a newly minted werewolf who’s recruited to help stop them.

A puffy-faced Jeremy London stars as Russell Bayne, a slimy real estate developer (is there any other kind?) who’s rebuffed by occult book store owner Christy Romano (the lone holdout holding up a major property deal), but has bigger problems to contend with when he is attacked by a werewolf and survives. Soon he’s dreaming about transforming into a hairy beast, waking up covered in blood and finding animal carcasses in his house, and looking up information on “WEREWOLVE” on the popular Internet search site BooYah! And screenwriter Leigh Scott (the auteur behind The Beast of Bray Road) leaves no cliché unturned since he also includes the requisite moment where London discovers that he has super-sensitive hearing. Before he can get too bogged down in the bewildering changes he’s going through, though, he’s rescued from two hot vampire chicks by Romano, who also turns out to be a werewolf because why the hell not?

From there, London finds himself caught between the vampires (headed up by clan leader Mark Dacascos, who amply illustrates the difficulty of speaking intelligibly with fangs) and the slayers (led by Rhett Giles as Jacob Van Helsing because of course he’s a Van Helsing) who keep them at bay. Director Griff Furst does them no favors, though, by intercutting their first fight scene with two other, unrelated melees. And he also does little to restrain Yancy Butler, who devours scenery left and right as vampire queen Lilith, who turns out not to be that much of a threat, really. Sure, she was planning to blot out the sun so vampires could take over the world, but I never believed for one second that she was going to pull that off. As for London, by the time he masters the ability to wolf out, he looks silly enough that he probably should have just stayed hairy on the inside.

Things didn’t improve much the following year when Syfy unveiled Red: Werewolf Hunter, which somehow managed the trick of being a knockoff of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters years before that even existed. As the film opens, federal agent Felicia Day is bringing jerky fiancé Kavan Smith (also a federal agent) home to meet her family — headed up by wise, all-knowing grandmother Rosemary Dunsmore — for the first time and let him in on the family secret — namely, that they hunt werewolves. Smith barely has time to process this before he’s bitten by a particularly nasty customer named Gabriel (Stephen McHattie) who is able to “phase at will,” but he’s able to keep this a secret long enough to put Day and her family in danger.

Between action beats, writer Brook Durham gives smartass younger brother David Reale (who comes across as vaguely B.J. Novakish) a hair more complexity than older sibling Greg Bryk, but Durham’s least compelling contribution to werewolf lore has to be the notion that they burst into flame when they’re killed. (Really? That’s your choice? What were your other options?) Also, while I was expecting the transformations to be computer-assisted (this is a Syfy Original Movie, after all), the fact that the werewolves are completely digital creations was a major letdown to me. I guess director Sheldon Wilson couldn’t be bothered to have an actual werewolf suit made. (Even a guy in a crappy werewolf suit — like the ones on display in The Beast of Bray Road or Never Cry Werewolf — would have been preferable to the rail-thin, virtually weightless creatures in Red: Werewolf Hunter. Ish.)

Next Up: The embattled Summer of Syfy reaches its conclusion by going to the dogs…