After taking last month off, we are back with a werewolf film as hot off the presses as you can get. Norway’s Vikingulven, which has been Anglicized to Viking Wolf by Netflix, has the air of novelty about it thanks to its Nordic setting, but looking past the surface, co-writer/director Stig Svendsen follows the genre’s trappings without too many deviations.
The film starts off promisingly with a prologue set in the 11th century when — so the saga goes — Viking chieftain Gudbrand the Grim and his crew bring a vicious werewolf back with them from Normandy. (That none of them survive the return trip is right out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula or F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu.) The action then jumps forward to the present day, establishing the minor municipality of Nybo, where sullen teenager Thale Berg (Elli Müller Osborne) has relocated with her mother Liv (Liv Mjönes), the new deputy on the police force, stepfather Arthur (Vidar Magnussen), who stays home and plays househusband, and deaf-mute sister Jenny (Mia Fosshaug Laubacher). Accepting an invitation from nice boy Jonas (Sjur Vatne Brean), Thale joins some of her classmates for a party at the local bay, where Thale is made to feel like an outcast and mean girl Elin (Silje Øksland Krohne) falls prey to an animal attack that baffles the authorities and leaves Thale with a festering shoulder wound that means exactly what you think it does.
From there, the plot lurches forward in fits and starts, beginning with Liv’s discovery of a claw in a tree trunk at the crime scene that nobody else on the force thinks could possibly belong to a wolf. (When Elin’s mutilated body is found, the coroner identifies a “very big claw and bite mark on her neck,” but still discounts Liv’s “wolf theory.”) It’s only when the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science sends one of its lecturers, William (Arthur Hakalahti), that he confirms what they’re dealing with is an unusually large wolf. In the meantime, one-armed drifter Lars Brodin (Ståle Bjørnhaug) rolls into town, bearing silver bullets and asking leading questions like “Is the deputy familiar with the term ‘lycanthrope’?” He’s also the first person to say “werewolf” and drops ominous hints about needing to sever its bloodline, which means exactly what you think it does.
All the while, Thale has to contend with frightening visions of Elin’s ghost, which guilt trips her for no apparent reason, and the usual heightened senses, including hyperspecific hearing during a school lesson about the Fenris wolf that amplifies everything in the classroom but her teacher’s voice. After that, it isn’t long before Jenny catches her sleepwalking and another one of her classmates is found dead, prompting Thale to hop on the next bus to Oslo, which has the misfortune to get underway after the full moon has risen and, well, let’s just say it doesn’t make it to Oslo.
Svendsen and co-writer Espen Aukan (who also had a hand in last year’s Troll, also on Netflix) try to set their film apart by nominating Lars as their source of accurate werewolf lore. (“You hear the word ‘werewolf’ and you picture a mix of man and wolf running around on two legs, howling at the moon,” he scoffs.) Their efforts are undone, however, by the unconvincing CGI wolves conjured up by the effects department. Yet another area where Viking Wolf falls right in line with its contemporaries.