Say, do you like werewolf movies but wish more were based on actual historical events? Well, you’re in luck because 2004’s Werewolf Hunter, a bloodthirsty yarn about a traveling salesman who seduced and murdered his way around Europe in the mid-19th century, holds the distinction of being one of the few that can plausibly claim to be based on a true story, in this case that of Manuel Blanco Romasanta, Spain’s first documented serial killer. Be forewarned, though, in spite of the misleading poster art, this isn’t an action-adventure film like Brotherhood of the Hunt, which the film’s marketing department was clearly aping. (For starters, nobody in the film wears anything even remotely like that outfit.)
Known variously as Romasanta, Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt, and Werewolf Hunter: The Legend of Romasanta, the film is headlined by Julian Sands, who brings an appropriately feral intensity to his role, whether he’s luring unsuspecting women (and their unfortunate children) to their doom or courting their replacements. The one who blows the whistle on him is Elsa Pataky (fresh off creative producer Brian Yuzna’s Beyond Re-Animator), who becomes suspicious when her older sister and niece disappear while in his company. Before she goes to the authorities (represented by district attorney Gary Piquer), though, she takes a silver bullet meant for Romasanta and, upon her discovery of his ill-gotten gains, is waylaid by the bald, scarred huntsman who fired it. This is Antonio (John Sharian), a desperate individual who turns out to have a complex relationship with Romasanta.
Since their goal was to treat the story realistically, director Paco Plaza (whose next big-screen outing, co-directed with Jaume Balagueró, was the hit zombie film [Rec]) and screenwriters Elena Serra & Alberto Marini had to get creative in order to include the requisite transformation sequence that is featured quite prominently on the DVD menu screen. (Their solution: it’s a visualization of Antonio’s deposition since he truly believes both he and Romasanta are able to change into wolves.) They also throw in references to the condition known as clinical lycanthropy, which expert Professor Philips (David Gant), a well-practiced hypnotist, is on hand to explain. And in the interest of parity, Patasky’s one topless bathing scene is balanced out by multiple scenes of Sands and Sharian running around the woods, naked and covered in mud. Some might not call that an even trade (particularly since Sharian goes full-frontal), but it’s one that I will take.