This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
Oof, this is one of those films where you figure that it’s not going to be good from the start. It’s going for the ultra violent route to the Wolfman mythos and in the meantime you also have a romantic rebound going on which never helps anything. I think there are parts of this story that can be a little interesting but at the end of the day there isn’t much going in its favor. I’m not a big fan of the setting for starters and beyond that there aren’t many good characters. The film is also very mean spirited which doesn’t help anything either so it becomes a bit of a wash.
The movie starts with Lawrence coming into town after his brother was brutally murdered by something. Everyone has their own theories but it was either a wild animal or..something supernatural. Lawrence takes care of business but he ends up getting bitten and now he is doomed to be the next Wolfman. In an old town where everyone is superstitious, that’s not a good thing. Additionally Lawrence has little to no control over this transformation either so he could really end up hurting someone. Can he find a way to either stop his transformations or get out of town?
There is a lot of mystery in the air throughout the film but at the end of the day there isn’t much Lawrence can do for most of it. When he’s not being assaulted by the villagers or manipulated by Sir. John, he’s being strapped to a chair and tortured by the doctor. That had to be the worst scene in the film by far. So this doctor decides that he will use shock therapy to save Lawrence and the way he does this is to continuously electrocute him until Lawrence can feel his mind slipping away the entire time. Lawrence can barely focus or even think rationally by this point so he starts hallucinating.
I should mention that the film loves its fake jump scares and hallucinations. Get ready for his mind to play tricks on him in rather violent ways. I suppose that’s the best way to escape the actual pain in the real world but I still feel like this whole sequence had no purpose being here. Of course he will end up murdering this guy viciously in his Wolfman form but did we need Lawrence to go through all of that? I personally don’t think he deserved it.
Not to say that Lawrence is a great guy or anything but it was all so extreme…much like the rest of this film. You will be hard pressed to find a Werewolf film more violent than this one. They really wanted to show people getting ripped apart and eaten alive. One poor guy is basically hung up with what’s left of him for the world to see and that guy at least had some experience with werewolves. The whole movie felt rather mean spirited and even the dead couldn’t know peace.
So at the start of the film Lawrence’s brother was brutally murdered and his fiancé is the one who was pushing for Lawrence to arrive so that he could help out. She must be in a lot of deep distress over this tragedy right? Well…she falls for Lawrence rather quickly and they have a romance. How could this possibly happen? Rebounds are bad enough as it is but this one had two reasons for why it should not have happened at all. The first is fairly obvious which is that she’s now going out with the guy’s brother. You never rebound with family, that’s just awful. The second is the circumstances of the brother’s death which you think would add some extra time to how long you wait before entering another romance.
So the romance here was particularly bad without a doubt. It really hurt the character of both Lawrence and Gwen. I can’t say that I liked either one of them by the end. Gwen doesn’t do a whole lot beyond the romance either. Then for Lawrence, well he goes through a lot for sure and I can’t say there are many things he could have done differently but he probably should have dashed out when he had the chance.
John is the most interesting character because he’s rich, aloof, and a little odd. He knows how to use a gun and isn’t afraid to threaten the entire town with it. You can tell that nobody’s going to be messing with this guy that’s for sure. As the film goes on he gets shadier and shadier but is ultimately the character who adds the most to the movie. At least he always takes over any scene that he’s in. Then we have Inspector Francis but I feel like he’s fairly generic. The guy basically admits that his skills aren’t great so he waits at the pub until the Wolf makes his next move. The location of the pub is quite convenient for him and all but he’s still not putting in a lot of the work personally. I expected him to have a much more active role in all of this.
I at least enjoyed one exchange between him and Lawrence where they traded insults during the entire conversation. Neither one of them was going to back down in the slightest and it was nice to see. It ended up being a stalemate but I always like it when a character doesn’t meekly just take the insults or anything like that. Lawrence wasn’t going to take it and the Inspector has a lot of experience on his end.
Overall, The Wolfman doesn’t really add anything to the mythos. Instead I would say that it’s one of the weakest installments in the series. It’s ultra violent without much reason behind this and the story is fairly basic. You could tell that the story was not the highest priority for the writers compared to just making this as gory as possible. There really isn’t much reason for the film to exist at all. The torture was also gratuitous and all the shock value moments just serve to weaken the movie. I would absolutely recommend giving this one a skip. You’re better off with just about any other film about a Universal monster and considering that Dracula is around, that’s saying something. There are some worse films out there to be sure like Frankenstein but it’s best that you don’t seek those out either.