Wolfen (1981)

APRIL 15, 2009


This is the sort of thing that makes people wonder if I may be brain damaged. I was going to watch Gozu today, but the length (123 minutes) turned me off from such an endeavor. Instead, I put on Wolfen, which has a running time of 115 minutes. Would 8 minutes really make a goddamn difference at all? Plus, my Wolfen DVD was still shrink-wrapped, so I probably spent 2-3 of those 8 minutes fiddling with the adhesive crap on the sides. Whatever.

Anyway, given my general disinterest in werewolf films, this one ain't too bad. Its biggest blunder (besides the overused "Wolf POV" color effect - it seems nearly half the movie is shot in this headache inducing mode) is spending time on red herrings that anyone watching the movie KNOWS is a red herring. After the initial murders, there's a bunch of hooey about a terrorist group (the guy was a land developer) being responsible. And while I don't doubt that in real life, a cop would suspect a terrorist before a killer wolf (for pretty much any crime), we know perfectly goddamn well that it's a wolf, and since the movie runs long as it is, they really should just get to the goddamn point.

Have you ever watched Battlestar Galactica and thought "I wish I could see Bill Adama naked"? Well, Wolfen will satisfy your disturbing wishes. As a Native American who may or may not be a wolf in human form, Edward James Olmos spends a good three minutes in his birthday suit, baring all as he runs around a beach. The movie also offers us Albert Finney's bare ass. Yet, Diane Venora remains clothed. Thanks, movie.

One thing that stuck out about the movie was the humor. The wolf stuff is played straight and serious, but there is levity in the form of Finney and Gregory Hines' characters. They have a lot of little throwaway lines and character beats that amused me, to the point where I didn't mind hanging out with their characters despite the occasional long stretches of zero wolf action. Tom Noonan also pops up in a rare non-villain role, so there's something.

I probably would have liked the movie more if it had a more powerful finale. The wolves have enclosed our heroes, killing the stock "greedy businessman" character in the process. Finney and Venora take an elevator to the top of a building, and the wolves follow. Finney then settles things by smashing a model of the building that was going to be built in the wolves' stomping grounds in the Bronx (which appears to be half demolished in the film). The wolves are satisfied (buildings can't go up if their model has been broken, I guess) and disappear. Would it have hurt to have Finney actually kill one of the damn things? Granted, the movie's point is that they are just protecting their home and that its businessmen and developers that are the real enemy, but come on. They took out a homeless guy too, what the hell could he have been doing to hurt them?

This is based on a book by Whitley Strieber, the batshit author who also wrote The Hunger. Apparently, his forte is taking classic monsters and putting them into really slow stories in which they are sort of the heroes. Wonder what he'd do with a slasher movie. Like everyone else involved with the movie, he offers no insight on the DVD; an extra feature called "Howl-ywood", which I assumed was a featurette of some sort, was just a text based rundown of some other (and more popular) werewolf movies from 1930 to the late 1990s, which thankfully means we didn't have to endure some sort of diplomatic description of Cursed. The flashy, misleading trailer is also included, and is not recommended for anyone suffering from epilepsy.

What say you?


  1. I always saw the posters as a child and thought it was a great werewolf movie, what a letdown!!!

  2. Actually, the book is really good. I read it a couple of years ago and then decided to watch the movie. The movie doesn't have much of what makes the book actually work. I recommend checking it out.

  3. Whitley Strieber is better known for his series of books where he claims to be regularly abducted by aliens... which ended being made into a movie starring Christopher Walken.

  4. This was another movie I saw at the dollar movie, I think it was paired with Sharkeys Machine. Anyway, I remember even then the foreshadowing of the whole decapitation scene. Why would they talk about a subject like that, at random, in a horror movie. So, when it happens later, and the guys mouth is opening and closing, and his eyes are looking around I nearly shouted, " I knew it!", but I refrained.


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