Review: an incomplete “Angelic Wolves” sells itself short

I recently received some very polite emails from whoever’s in charge of Dark Libra Films, asking if I would like to review their short film Angelic Wolves, available now to rent or purchase on Amazon. My unofficial policy for the past few years is that only Craig gets to review films on Werewolf News because he’s better at it than I in every way, but I wanted to field this one because I want to combine my “review” with some meta-commentary.

In their email to me, Dark Libra wrote:

The film only runs 25 minutes and is supposed to be a reminder of what horror films were once like with classics such as “Nosferatu”, “Werewolf in London”, etc. We intended for the film to look as though it was shot with some scrappy old film camera, while editing in some more modern sounds.

Judged by the criteria its makers set out for it here, Angelic Wolves is not good. It’s a weird, over-long student film with bad dialogue and a narrative arc that never lands. The premise from which the title is derived takes too long to establish – not because it’s complicated, but because the thin setup takes forever – and then the concept goes nowhere. It doesn’t succeed as a campy or sincere throwback to the “classics” because its only nod to proto horror films is a distressed sepia tone filter that blows out all the highlights.

If I’d never heard of Angelic Wolves before September, I’d leave it at that, or perhaps I wouldn’t have posted about it at all. But I have more to say, because I did hear about it before September, and I know that the in the email quoted above, the filmmaker is sandbagging and selling themselves short.

Angelic Wolves isn’t a short film. It’s a web series that Dark Libra Films tweeted to me about in April. They released four or five episodes over several weeks (which I regret to say I did not watch at the time). What’s available on Amazon feels like the first episode, or maybe two or three stitched together, in which we meet the main characters and learn what’s at stake over the remaining instalments. I have to assume from the abrupt, cliffhanger ending that there are more episodes, either unreleased or unshot, and that’s a shame.

Viewed from the “web series” angle, Angelic Wolves is a gothic-y, ultra-low-budget production with amateur (but charming) actors, a distinct visual style, and a premise that could have gone to some interesting places. As an ongoing a web series with more space to establish its world-building chops (and some tighter editing), I’d watch it with interest. I sincerely hope Dark Libra Films return to these woods (without the old-timey filter) to complete Eve and Johnny’s story.

Here are the notes I took while watching:

  • interesting camera angles
  • too many fast crossfades
  • Eve likes turtles
  • found footage or documentary vibe?
  • introduction of Johnny is effective and his weirdness is charismatic
  • Eve’s bemused “what the fuck” is a good line reading
  • Johnny’s gratuitous shirtless pull-ups
  • Bone-nub hands! And that spinal column is suspiciously clean
  • “werewolves are angels” is cheesy but I’ll stay for the guardian / agent of justice thing
  • Line of the day: “Did you place that strange skull next to my bed last night?”