Originally conceived as a sequel (or perhaps reboot) of Universal’s 2010 version of The Wolf Man, Louis Morneau’s Werewolf: The Best Among Us, out on DVD and Blu-Ray today, has more in common with Stephen Sommers’ forcefully stupid 2004 monster mash Van Helsing than any real Universal classic. That is to say: the filmmakers are clearly not shooting for horror, or even jump scares, but to repurpose well-known movie monsters into a badass action structure. However, while Van Helsing felt more like a bland theme park attraction (and you can picture the “Van Helsing Stunt Spectacular” at Universal Studios Hollywood, can’t you?), Werewolf, at least in fits, is actually genuinely fun. It’s not terribly original, but at least the film has some energy.
Sometime in the 1890s, I think. The story follows a sweet young twentysomething man named Daniel (Guy Wilson) who dreams of being a doctor, and spends his days dreaming of a love affair with the pretty Eva (Rachel DiPillo). At night, his small Transylvanian town is beset by a plague of werewolves that have been killing the populace, and occasionally turning them into creatures called wurdaleks, which are kind of like half-werewolves. At just the right time, a team of werewolf hunters traipses into town. The hunters are all the typically clichéd action badass types we’ve seen in countless movies before. There’s the dandyish knife thrower (Ed Quinn), the hot steampunk chick with goggles and a flamethrower, and there’s the grizzled leader of the pack (played by Steven Bauer) who looks an awful lot like Van Helsing. Each of the troupe hefts anachronistic looking weapons, and likes to have a hearty laugh. You’d probably want to hang out with them.
The enjoyable thing about Werewolf: The Beast Among Us is just how blisteringly balls-to-the-wall it is about its enjoyably clunky action characters. Why have a subtle and complex werewolf hunter, when overplaying Robert Shaw’s character from Jaws is so much more fun? Why have a mere charmer, when a borderline fop will do? Stephen Rea appears in the film as a doctor who, when he discovers he is operating on a werewolf, immediately shoots them through the head. Evidently this is a common practice. All of this makes Werewolf resemble a second-tier badass action flick from the mid-1980s.
Indeed, the only things really keeping this from being a perfectly notable action/horror/comedy film is the murky photography, and the pace. The film is only 93 minutes, but it feels like it could have been jauntier. And while the photography is impressive, it seems way too smoky and muddy. At least the filmmakers had the good taste to actually film in the hills of Transylvania. Something else: I’ve always said that a werewolf film lives and dies by its first transformation scene. Sadly, Werewolf is frustratingly stingy with its transformation scenes, and even at that, only shows the beast in CGI. I stand by this statement until my death: a guy in a rubber suit will always look better than a CGI creature.
The Blu-Ray features a commentary track wherein the director opines about how hard it was to make the film, and how much of a proper B-movie experience it was. There’s also a compulsory doc on the Wolf Man legacy, which seems irrelevant now that this film is no longer called The Wolf Man.