Tag: The Wolfman

Mark Romanek Explains Why He Bailed From “The Wolfman”: The Producers Were Idiots

In a recent FirstShowing.net interview to promote his latest film “Never Let Me Go”, director Mark Romanek explains why he walked away from “The Wolfman” with only three weeks of pre-production left.

And then I got involved in The Wolfman which was exciting because I was going to work with Benicio Del Toro. And I wanted to reinvent that genre and make this dark, rich, intelligent Jungian kind of piece that I was hoping could totally work as populist entertainment and yet be legitimate, like be an intelligent film that might even be critically well-received. And I just could never get on the same page with the producers about what it should be. I think they were scared of doing it the way I was suggesting. There was so much money involved that I ultimately couldn’t convince them of my idea of the film.

Read more at FirstShowing.net — the bit about The Wolfman is roughly halfway down the page.

Mark’s comments are very much in line with what Rick Baker had to say about the producers meddling and waffling on the werewolf design. Mark’s a great director, but with such spineless people in charge, had he stayed on I doubt he could have done much better than Joe Johnston did. What a shame. If only Bill Carraro, Ryan Kavanaugh and Jon Mone had trusted the people they hired.

Are Werewolves Scarier When We Don’t See Them? Or, “A Werewolf in the Mind is Worth Two on the Screen”

I was recently directed to “Wolfman versus Werewolf“, an entry in Roger Ebert’s “Our far-flung correspondents” feature. Gerardo Valero writes what is ostensibly a review of “An American Werewolf in London” (AWIL), but he touches on a larger (and to me, more interesting) conversation about the potency of fear when its subject is imagined or unseen. Valero says that “Landis directs this film [AWIL] with a clear awareness that the things that scare us the most, reside in our imaginations, never just on the screen.” I agree that keeping werewolf David (mostly) hidden from view after his transformation was the right call– it allows the special effects to shine without revealing any zippers, and it makes for a better story. In fact, I think virtually every werewolf movie released since AWIL could have been improved if their makers had handled the screen presence of their lycanthropes in the same way.

First, consider the state of special effects in 1981. Yes, the effects work done by Rick Baker and his crew were so far ahead of their time that they inspired a new awards category at the Oscars. But not being able to see into the future, and with only $10 million to spend on the entire production, Landis had to assume that even Baker’s most realistic efforts to create a fully transformed werewolf, if shown full-body and in decent lighting, would have been read by the audience as “dude in a suit”. Instead of fear, the audience’s reaction would become one of artistic / technical appraisal, and it’s difficult to be scared of a monster when you’re looking for its zippers or rubber claws (or CG equivalents like bad compositing or flat textures).

The decision to limit the werewolf’s screen presence isn’t merely practical. Like Valero says, it’s all about the imagination. By showing only brief closeups and the occasional half-body tracking shot of werewolf David, the AWIL audience gains just enough exposure to trigger the mind into creating something far more ferocious than a costumed actor or an animated prop could represent. This is why even the most amazing combinations of CG and physical effects still fall flat today. Baker’s work on the recent “Wolfman” remake, for example, was amazingly, startlingly detailed… but was it scary? The survey says “no“. Everyone who was even remotely interested in the film knew what the Wolfman looked like well before the film came out, and even those who avoided spoilers got to see the beast in full detail before the first hour of the film was up. The initial shock at the vivid detail wears away, and there’s no suspense anymore, no mystery or fear of the unknown. Those are potent elements of fear, and they are easily lost when too much light is shed on the monster.

Every film tries to tell a story, and most werewolf movies are meant to be horror stories. Sadly, rather than being truly horrific, werewolf movies tend to fall into the schlocky domain of the “creature feature”, in which audience-avatar protagonists are menaced by a monstrous presence. In these movies the monster is only a character insofar as it possesses frightening qualities to highlight its “otherness” and status as a threat. The audience wants a clear look at the foe before it’s destroyed; otherwise there’s no payoff or gratification. Zombies, for example, are usually shown in exquisitely gory detail because there’s nothing there with which to empathize. Even if you can see the humans they once were, zombies aren’t people; they’re merely monsters, and are designed to eat housewives and businessmen until they’re destroyed by flame or a 12-gauge blast. The monsters in creature features might be frightening, but as characters they’re no more engaging than the interchangeable aliens foes in Space Invaders. We can’t identify with them, nor do we want to.

Then there’s David, the protagonist of AWIL. We spend a lot of time getting to know David as a character before the appearance of the werewolf. Much of that getting-to-know-you time is spent with the audience well aware of what’s to come, and we empathize with him. He talks with his friend Jack, he canoodles with a pretty nurse, he loafs around a London flat reading books and watching television… and then the moon rises, Rick Baker works his magic, and David becomes the creature we’re meant to fear.

And we do fear it, but why? How is this scenario more horrific than what Lawrence Talbot or Ginger Fitzgerald faced? Like Valero, I think the answer lies in how the werewolf is portrayed: as a shadowy and unknowable presence, seen only in glimpses and heard as menacing sounds from the dark. Just as David has no memory of what he becomes or what he does while in his bestial form, the audience doesn’t really know what the werewolf looks like, so has no way to associate the monster with the man it used to be. This underscores David’s (and therefore the audience’s) horror of the “other” he becomes. Other than the traumatic transformation scene there’s no screen-based connection between David and the werewolf; to the viewer, David is not just transformed but utterly annihilated. Without clear visuals of the beast he becomes, there’s no easy way to equate the likable mop-haired American with the glimpses of fangs and yellow eyes his victims see before they die. Yet we know it’s him, because our minds tell us so, and from that knowledge and our own empathy for the character, a stronger horror is born than that which is derived from an overexposure to props and effects.

What if Wes Craven’s “Cursed” had been filmed with these points in mind? How about any of the “Howling” sequels, or even the dire non-sequel “An American Werewolf in Paris“? No amount of editing or tweaking would turn these into Oscar material, but I think each one could have been more interesting and enjoyable (and less embarrassing to werewolf fans) if the filmmakers had left their werewolves in the shadows like Landis did with AWIL. By focusing on what makes the werewolf a genuinely frightening creature instead of stretching the effects budget in an effort to shock and amaze, I think the the intrepid filmmaker might actually be able to produce a werewolf film worth watching.

“The Wolfman” Available for Pre-Order on DVD & Blu-ray, Out June 1st

If you’d like to watch Lawrence Talbot do terrible things over and over from the comfort of your own home, you’re in luck: Director’s Cut DVD and Director’s Cut super-bonus-feature Blu-ray editions of “The Wolfman” are available for pre-order now, and will be released on June 1st. In addition to the director’s cut of the film, the DVD version contains the theatrical cut and deleted / extended scenes. The Blu-ray version contains all of that too, plus

  • Five featurettes: Return of The Wolfman, The Beast Maker, Transformation Secrets, The Wolfman Unleashed, Werewolf Legacy, Lore and Legend
  • A “Take Control” feature with Makeup Artist Rick Baker, Visual Effects Producer Karen Murphy-Mundell and Director of Photography Shelly Johnson
  • A digital copy of the film (no doubt encumbered with DRM)
  • A copy of the original 1941 “Wolf Man” movie

I want to mention that every site I’ve seen mention these home releases has felt obligated to include a few shitty editorial comments about how “disappointing” this movie was. Even the official review Amazon is running moans about “bland computer-generated werewolves”. Sorry this movie didn’t blow the doors off Schindler’s List and the first three Indiana Jones movies, guys. It’s a bloody werewolf movie.

Massive Update to the Official “Wolfman” Site

The official web site for “The Wolfman” has just gone from placeholder mode to a full-on content explosion. The site’s framework is the usual major motion picture Flash-based extravaganza with requisite decorative “loading” animations and photo collages (yes I’m a web design snob), but to its credit it’s been jam-packed with new film stills, downloads (including this wallpaper, which I have duly applied) and an impressive feature on the “truth” behind lycanthropy. There’s also a link to Universal’s Monster Legacy site, which uses The Wolfman as the kickoff point for a cool-looking retrospective of Universal’s classic monster movies (and probably to generate some buzz for the next Universal monster remake).

Many of the sections on the Wolfman site are marked as “coming soon”, so keep an eye on it as the February release date gets closer!

Official Wolfman Trailer

It officially debuts online and in theatres tomorrow, but Bloody Disgusting has got an early scoop on the official theatrical trailer for The Wolfman. This trailer leaves little to the imagination– werewolf attacks, multiple transformations, and a handful of scenes that I can’t wait to watch play out in their entirety. Personally, I’m stoked. Without further ado, here you go: The Wolfman trailer, courtesy of Bloody Disgusting! Watch it and post your comments– what do you think?

SDCC Photos of Mazco “Wolfman” Figures

Mazco Wolfman Figures - SDCC

ArcLight wrote in to let me (and all of you) know that Bloody Disgusting posted some close-up photos of Mazco’s official Wolfman figures. Three versions of a wolfed-out Lawrence Talbot were shown at the San Diego Comic Con, including an awesome “bloody” version. They say that you need to visualize the future you want, in order to achieve it, so let me say this again: I will have these. Click through to Bloody Disgusting to see more photos!

“Wolf Man” Creature Redesign, Wolf Man Vs. Werewolf + “Upcoming” Trailer

Back in May, word was going around that stuntman / second unit director Vic Armstrong was coordinating some additional beastly fight scenes for The Wolf Man. Now Mail Online’s Baz Bamigboye reports that the reason behind the additional filming may have been to introduce a new design for the titular lycanthrope. “The Wolf was on its heels and it looked daft,” says one Wolfman actor. A Universal rep had this to say (warning: PR speak in full effect): “The full articulation of the transformational lead character will be realised when the film is completed and we are excited to share his incredible look with the world in the upcoming trailer.” Bamigboye also mentions that the scenes involve a “confrontation between the Wolf Man and the Werewolf”– a choice of words with some exciting and curious implications.

So what we can take from all this is

  1. The Wolf Man’s design may be changing, possibly going from a two-legged creature to four legs. Whether Rick Baker was consulted remains to be seen (let’s hope he was).
  2. Apparently the film involves a Wolf Man and a Werewolf. The differences between the two remain unclear.
  3. An official trailer for The Wolf Man is “upcoming”. Considering the film’s November release, maybe in another month or two?

Universal Orlando Brings The Wolfman To Life For Halloween

Halloween Horror Nights - The Wolfman

Universal Orlando has announced that a live-action treatment of The Wolfman will play a major part of its 2009 Halloween Horror Night events, presumably as part of the marketing effort leading up to the film’s release on November 6. From the press release:

Universal Orlando is partnering with Universal Pictures to bring one of the year’s most highly anticipated films, “The Wolfman,” to life so guests can experience it firsthand before it hits theaters on November 6. …“Halloween Horror Nights is the perfect launch for ‘The Wolfman,’” says the film’s producer Scott Stuber. “The horror audience is one of the most enthusiastic and loyal so we are so pleased they are experiencing it first at Halloween Horror Nights.”

Planning and set-up for the events are still underway so there aren’t any specific details regarding how The Wolfman will be showcased, beyond visitors being able to watch “as ‘The Wolfman’s’ alter-ego, Lawrence Talbot, discovers a primal side of himself he didn’t know existed.” Presumably there will be some element of transformation, which would be cool.

Halloween Horror Nights are slated for September 25-26, October 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 21-25 and 28-31. Tickets are $69.99 US plus tax, and can be pre-ordered at www.HalloweenHorrorNights.com or by calling 1-888-467-7677 (HORROR-7).

“The Wolfman” Werewolf Fight Scene Re-Shoot + Potential Spoiler

This may be making a mountain out of a molehill, but Dark Horizons has an interesting reader-submitted scoop about some additional filming being done for The Wolfman. Apparently stuntman Vic Armstrong is doing some stunts and acting as second-unit director for a CG-heavy werewolf fight scene being shot (or re-shot) at Pinewood Studios. Read on for an interesting detail (and potential spoiler) that this news brings to light.


Test Screening of “The Wolfman” Gets Positive Reviews

Ain’t It Cool News has posted three reviews from people who attended a test screening of The Wolfman in New Mexico last week, and the reviews are largely positive. Some excerpts:

…even in its pretty unfinished state tonight, this movie was satisfying and scary and has huge potential if they address a few things…

…Obviously, I quite liked this film. Perhaps they could tighten it here and there (I think it ran like 1 hour 50 mins) but I was surprised at its ‘brain over braun’ approach and really hope that it finds its deserved audience this coming Summer.

…it is with great pleasure that I send this review of what I thought was a high minded, tremendous and incredibly SCARY work to you tonight.

Sounds promising! You can read three reviews (warning – spoilers!) here.