JUNE 22, 2010
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a lot more werewolf and vampire movies, thanks to the success of the "Twilight" books (and subsequent movies), so stuff like Transylmania gets a theatrical release, or long-shelved nonsense like Neowolf gets a nice DVD cover. In other words, for the most part, they don’t seem to be specifically ripping off Meyer’s series, just sort of jumping on the bandwagon. But Wolf Moon (formerly Dark Moon Rising - guess they were determined to use a generic title*), on the other hand, is largely stolen directly from the "Twilight" novels (the film was shot in early 2008), something even I, a man who has only seen the first two movies (and fine, read the 1st book to see what the big deal was) was aware of almost instantly. A die hard twi-fan will either be insulted, or ecstatic that they have another sort of sequel.
See if this sounds familiar - a shy girl meets a bad boy type who at first doesn’t want anything to do with her, but then decides to give her a chance. He also saves her from a would-be rape (being nearby due to the fact that he’s basically stalking her), and they begin a deep romance, which is not approved of by her father, who is trying his best to raise her without her mom being around. He makes fun of her driving, and it’s all cute, but then folks start getting killed. Is it him, or something LIKE him?
The main difference, of course, is that he’s a werewolf instead of a vampire, so writer/director/producer/casting director/music supervisor/co-star Dana Mennie either only read the first book and replaced “Vampire” with “Werewolf”, or he is combining elements of the others, where the wolves show up. Either way, it was the most blatant knockoff of another property that I’ve seen in years; I think I’d have to go back to the slasher era to find something so obviously copying another story (Halloween and Final Exam, maybe?).
Otherwise, it’s not THAT bad. The film’s rather punishing length (124 minutes) at least pays off with the fact that the characters are well rounded and the name actors actually have real roles, as opposed to the glorified cameos that they usually have in these sort of things (that being DTV movies from Lionsgate). Billy Drago (again!) is actually somewhat of a normal person for once, playing a guy who is hunting the wolves after one killed his wife. He still Dragos out every now and then, but at least I could understand what the fuck he was talking about more often than not. And Sid Haig plays the local hothead who is angry about the wolf killing his dog and horses. See, they actually have character motivations and stuff! You don’t see that in Reborn. Some of the casting is a bit wonky though - the Edward Cullen standin looks about 10 years older than Bella (called Amy here), which makes the father’s concerns actually sound logical. I wouldn’t want my teenager dating a 28 year old either, regardless of whether or not he was a damned werewolf. Plus he’s not a very good actor, making his casting all the more puzzling. The dad, by the way, is Chris Mulkey, in the largest role I’ve seen him play in years, so I had to like that.
Mulkey and his daughter engage in one of the stupider scenes I can recall in recent memory. After she is attacked by some punks in a scene I can’t quite figure out the point of, her dad asks how she got the big bruise/cut on her face. “Did HE do this to you?” he yells, as its already been established he doesn’t like the dude. But rather than say “No, it was this other guy” or whatever, she just protests that she loves the guy, which sounds like an admittance more than anything else (“he only hits me because he loves me!”). After more “could have easily been avoided” arguing, Mulkey smacks her on the other side of the face! What the hell?
I have to give Mennie and crew props for not using a CGI wolf, opting for a guy in a costume. It’s not the best costume, but it still looks better than CGI, and it was nice to see some 90s style morphing again. But since they had the suit I’m not sure why they used it so sparingly - the movie’s over 2 hrs long (and has an R rating) but there is precious little action. Yes, yes, developing character is more important, fine, but come on, throw us a bone here. The climactic fight is only about 8 minutes long and it pretty much triples the amount of action in the movie. Even New Moon had that one wolf on wolf fight and the vampire mob guys throwing Pattinson around.
I had to laugh at the top of the film though, as it opens with a dedication: “this one’s for Bobbie Shannon, Joanie and Diana, Stephanie, Annie and Sarah” and then the first thing we see is a woman being brutally killed. Got some lady issues, Mennie? He also lists himself as both the screenwriter and the creator, which is another puzzler. I remember Carpenter saying that he gave himself a pseudonym on some film credits because he didn’t want his name over everything (and this is a guy who puts his name in the goddamn title), Mennie seems to be the opposite, offering redundant uses of his name. At least we have no one else to blame. Another curious credit is that pretty much every name actor in the film is listed as a co-producer. Glad to see Sid Haig branching into behind the scenes roles though.
The soundtrack is pretty decent too. One song sounded like Leonard Cohen, and some others were worth paying attention to over the dialogue. According to the credits, they are largely written (and often performed) by someone named Geoff Gibbons, so good on you, sir. Under them, there is a “In memory of” for Benjamin Orr and Brad Delp (from The Cars and Boston, respectively), so I guess someone is a big fan of Boston-based music.
The only extra on the disc (save LG’s usual parade of trailers) is a commentary by Mennie and top-billed (for some reason) Alex Ryan, who is neither the film’s biggest star nor its most prominent character. It doesn’t matter, since he doesn’t really contribute much to the track anyway, as Mennie barely ever shuts up, even if that means simply narrating the movie instead of pointing out his mistakes, such as when Haig fires about a dozen rounds from a six-shooter. Nor does he ever acknowledge "Twilight", which would have been at least admirable. Instead, his insights are 100% positive, like when he praises a particular look on an actress’ face when she’s about to be attacked, which we just have to take his word on since she’s inside a car and her face is largely blocked by the car door and the other character. If you simply must listen to him, you can probably just watch the movie for the first time with his track turned on; he narrates everything anyway, so you won’t miss any plot points or anything.
Really not sure who the hell this movie is targeted at. The R rating keeps the teens away (in theory), but I can’t imagine adults would find any of this doomed romance/over-protective dad vs. boyfriend stuff interesting, and there’s certainly not enough action to attract the die hard horror crowd, who would be better off watching Dog Soldiers or something. The only reason I didn’t hate it is because it’s the rare DTV release that actually feels like a real movie, with known actors giving 3 dimensional performances and FX that look like the artists were putting effort into it. Also you get to see Billy Drago’s head torn off, which I feel I am owed after enduring Demon Hunter and Seven Mummies.
Actually, there’s my quote: “Best Billy Drago Movie Of The Month!”
What say you?
*It’s even more hilarious when you consider that in the film, they can change into werewolves whenever they please, full moon or not.