It's like Ed Wood rose from the grave, only with a better sense of direction and special effects.
Just to give you guys an idea of how long I've been waiting to see this film, I first wrote about it last Halloween (see post) while it was still making its rounds at independent screenings and festival circuits. Fast forward to present day and I now hold in my hand the unholy grail of recent horror cinema... or is it?
The plot, like oh so many of those classic fright films, revolves around a slightly mad scientist who has invited a group of young people to his castle by offering them each a chance to inherit his vast estate and resources. Each member arrives single file as Bela Reinhardt (played by a stone-faced Ron Chaney) proceeds to [annoyingly] deliver psychological profiles on each ad nauseam. There's some spooky, Scooby-Doo type shenanigans that unfold and then Bela delivers his pièce de résistance... he's actually *GASP* a werewolf! I won't spoil the second half of the "twist," suffice to say by that point the surprise has pretty much been spoiled anyway.
Witness have reported sighting the Blair Witch in the Wolfman's basement.
Sexy scandal or something more sinister?
Having not heard much about House of the Wolfman online, I've let most of my excitement rest on the merit of the still photos and trailer that have been floating around the internet for the past year. Watching it I really wanted to experience a film that would transport me back into the birth of Universal Horror (1930s). Instead, the film seems to strike an uneasy balance between being an honest homage and an all-out satire.
It would be unfair to say that the film as a whole is "bad," however I don't share the same mentality regarding the acting which is really what pulls the film down to Ed Wood status. Best described as uninspired, each actor and actress delivers their dialogue with such a sense of austere disinterest it's as if they're being held against their will. Lines that should be creepy are instead wooden and awkward while moments of brevity (mostly thanks to Jeremie Loncka's "Sully") seem too forced. Perhaps the most jarring and uncomfortable character was Jim Thalman's character, Archibald Whitlock, whose racist overtones are arguably more terrifying than the monster's themselves.
This pup is a bit long in the tooth.
Actress Cheryl Rodes sizzle up the screen with some vintage eye candy about halfway through, but the real bits of excellence come from the small nuances that the film offer up including a creepy, disfigured grandmother and the special effects for the Wolfman. There's also a nice throwback to Dracula courtesy of the late Michael R. Thomas, but it happens so late in the film and without any real impact to the plot that it loses any of its campy intention.
Having not seen Eben McGarr's (writer, director, producer) previous film, Sick Girl, it's hard to make a comparison but with this being only his sophomore effort I'd have to say that it shows potential. At the very least I would have to say that McGarr should be commended for the scope of his intentions as I'm sure filming a period piece is no easy feat on an independent budget. With a better cast, a little editing and a bigger budget House of the Wolfman could have been everything I had waited for and more.
Speaking of more, I found this really cool fake commercial for House of the Wolfman action figures online that's a great throwback to the 70s MEGO action figures. Just like the trailer it's a wonderful example of how well crafted the marketing elements of the film are and it would have made an amazing little bonus feature on the DVD. Unfortunately, the only bonus features on the DVD are the trailer and a brief slide show of still shots.
This article is part of the Countdown to Halloween blogathon, a month-long blogging marathon dedicated to honoring the Halloween season. For more information and a full list of participating sites, please visit www.countdowntohalloween.com.