If the ever-dwindling number of halfway decent werewolf movies I have to choose from is anything to go by, it won’t be long before I run out of Full Moon Features to write about. (Considering I’ve watched 172 of the cursed things over the past 14 years, it’s a miracle I’m still finding ones that are even watchable.) This month’s selection is Wild Country, a wee wisp of a film (it runs 67 minutes, 73 with credits) that earns points for using practical creature effects, but loses them straight away because they’re so damned silly-looking. (According to the IMDb, their design was based on the four-legged monster wolf from An American Werewolf in London, but one thing writer/director Craig Strachan forgets is that John Landis shows David Kessler in his fully transformed state only sparingly, and never in the full light of the last 20 minutes of this film. Lesson: If you’re going to take cues from a classic, make sure you learn the right things from it.)
The supernatural angle aside, Wild Country is a straightforward story of survival, populated by barely sketched-in teenage characters played by unseasoned actors who do little to make the viewer care about which order they get picked off. Right at the top, Strachan introduces his predetermined Final Girl, 16-year-old Kelly Ann (Samantha Shields), who gives birth to a baby that is immediately whisked away and given to a childless couple. Six weeks later, Father Steve (an underused Peter Capaldi) picks her up so she can take part in an overnight church youth club hike on the heath. Her companions: her best friend Louise (Nicola Muldoon), bully David (Kevin Quinn), his runty younger brother Mark (Jamie Quinn), and unexpected addition Lee (Martin Compston), who just so happens to be the boy that got her into trouble. On the way to the drop-off point, Father Steve regales his charges with the story of Sawney Bean and his clan of inbred cannibals (which previously served as the inspiration for Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes), but once the youths are on their own, they find there’s something even more terrifying out there, and it’s fast and covered in fur.
Strachan throws viewers a curve by letting the kids have a couple run-ins with a feral-looking shepherd (Alan McHugh), a likely suspect to turn out to be the werewolf right up until the moment he becomes its first victim. There’s also a fair bit of business about a baby boy Kelly Ann and Lee find in an abandoned castle, thus giving her a second chance to be a mother. Overall, though, it’s just a lot of running and yelling and dropping mobiles and the like until the twist ending that anybody with half a brain should be able to see coming a mile away. Still, at least it gives Peter Capaldi something else to do. Did I mention he’s grossly underused?