Back Comments (1) Share:
Facebook Button

Feature


A monstrous creature terrorizes a 19th Century European village by moonlight and a young man struggles to protect his loved ones from an unspeakable scourge. During his studies with the local doctor (Stephen Rea), Daniel (Guy Wilson) witnesses the horrific consequences of werewolf attacks. Watching as the beast’s fearsome reputation draws bounty hunters, thrill-seekers and charlatans to the tiny town, Daniel dreams of destroying the ruthless predator. So when a mysterious stranger (Ed Quinn) and his team of skilled werewolf hunters (Stephen Bauer and Adam Croasdell) arrive to pursue the monster, he offers to join them, despite his mother’s (Nia Peeples) protests. But it soon becomes clear that this creature is stronger, smarter and more dangerous than anything they have faced before. As casualties mount and villagers see their neighbors transformed into raving monsters, the townsfolk take up arms against each other to find the true identity of the werewolf. Amid the hysteria, Daniel begins to suspect he’s closer to his target than he ever dreamed. (From Universal’s official synopsis)

Werewolf: The Beast Among Us
When was the last time you saw a good, original werewolf movie? Not just a movie where a werewolf appears, like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I mean a movie where a werewolf or werewolves are an integral part of the film. John Fawcett’s Ginger Snaps in 2000? Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers in 2002? After a decade of inferior product, I’m not sure I have faith I’ll ever see another good werewolf movie, but then I remember there are always gulfs in subgenre quality and I approach Werewolf: The Beast Among Us with cautious optimism. Perhaps too much cautious optimism, because I think that, with lowered expectations, I would’ve liked it a lot more. What really should’ve thrown me off was the fact that it was originally envisioned by Universal as a STV sequel to Joe Johnston’s 2010 The Wolfman remake.

I’d never seen any of director/co-writer Louis Morneau’s largely straight to video catalogue, which includes unneeded sequels to The Hitcher and Joy Ride (similar to an unneeded sequel to The Wolfman). With only this film to go on it’s very difficult to pin him down. Werewolf: The Beast Among Us runs a gamut from genuinely effective and energetic, to utterly incompetent. At best, he makes great use of his handsome production design and tells his story with effective, sweeping camera moves. Other times, he seems disinterested in the whole thing and shoots like he’s filming a stage play. The bigger problem is that, in the face of a modest budget that likely doesn’t allow for excessive stunt and effects work, Morneau and editor Mike Jackson try to create the illusion of a more dynamic experience by over-cutting almost every sequence in the movie. This frustrating lack of rhythm sort of works in the case of some of the action sequences (though even here the heavy editing grows tiresome), but makes zero sense for simpler dialogue sequences. No one can fault the filmmakers for not being ambitious, but perhaps the better option is to work within a budget, because among Morneau’s biggest obstacles are some really ropey CG werewolf effects. Thankfully, there is a fair amount of old-fashioned, physical effects gore in this unrated version, which is almost enough to overlook a more modest production’s lack of CG funding.

Werewolf: The Beast Among Us
Co-screenwriters Catherine Cyran and Michael Tabb don’t instill much more faith in this project. Everything they’ve written is either another unneeded STV sequel or impossibly obscure. The script features hints of originality in its mythology and character’s traits. I like the idea of a town so commonly beseeched by werewolves that the townsfolk are almost blasé on the subject and I like the attempts at creating something of a super-werewolf that isn’t simply bigger than other werewolves. I also like that, pre-credit sequence aside, we mostly come into this story as it’s already in progress. The problem is that the plot surrounding these almost unique elements is wholly commonplace and any attempt at characterization is marred in sloppy exposition and overused genre clichés. The dialogue is entirely made up of the most obvious things that the characters in a tough-guy werewolf movie could possibly say to each other. A character honestly states ‘It looks like the hunters just became the hunted’ without a hint of irony. The cast is also confusing. Somehow, the coolest characters are almost always the worst portrayed, while the blandest characters are given measured, natural performances. It’s almost painful watching Rachel Dipillo and Guy Wilson fighting their way through mouthfuls of the same words and phrases you’ve heard a thousands times before and trying to make it sound good.

Werewolf: The Beast Among Us

Video


Werewolf: The Beast Among Us is a forgettable STV mediocrity, but it looks pretty good (if not a bit inconsistent) on this 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer. Shot on Red digital HD cameras (a format so close to taking over the industry that I’m probably going to stop noting its use soon), the film is given every advantage throughout. The inconsistent qualities refer to the transfer’s tendency to look particularly ‘digital.’ Some shots look highly detailed, crisp, and ‘filmic,’ while others appear flat and over-blended. Among the better shots are some gorgeous fine textures both in background and close-up elements. These are well-separated without much in the way of compression effects or other digital artefacts. The less impressive shots, which are the more rare, feature little texture, minor blocking effects and both jutter and smoothing effects (some of which, I suppose, may be done on purpose). Colours remain consistent despite differentiations in image quality. The palette is sort of ‘default era’ and made up of mostly warm earth tones with eerily blue undertones and bringt red highlights. Hue separation is strong and the bulk of the gradations are complex without a lot of banding.   Some of the darkest shots (and, in a film like this, they’re mostly ‘darker shots’) are too dark to really discern the action, but usually highlights prevail over mud. Edge enhancement effects appear most often during these blue-struck night sequences while the darker, browner interior shots feature an uptake in the minor blocking effects I referred to earlier.

Audio


This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is certainly lively. The film begins with a werewolf attacking a home from mostly off-screen – tearing off the wooden roof and smashing windows with severed horse heads. The attack features heavy portions of properly-placed directional work and gives the appropriate sense of immersion within said house. Similar sequences throughout the film follow suit, but none quite equate the dynamic range or strong sense of movement as this opening sequence. As the film proceeds, it’s clear that the sound design staff is working largely from library sources rather than preferred original foley work. This creates something of an artificial track where a more natural one is needed, but isn’t really a problem for the Blu-ray’s sound, specifically. Michael Wandmacher’s original music is used quite a bit throughout the film and works best during quieter moments where it blends with the dialogue and helps iron out some of the unnatural effects. When the score is given a bigger range, it suffers from being placed almost exclusively in the two stereo channels where it sits too low in terms of volume and its synthetic production becomes more obvious.

Werewolf: The Beast Among Us

Extras


The extras begin with a commentary track featuring writer/director Louis Morneau and producer Mike Elliott. Morneau very much rules over the track while Elliot sits so silently, it’s sometimes hard to believe he’s even in the same room. The track covers the behind the scenes facts with an eye for being as screen-specific as possible without missing a beat on the bigger story of the film’s inception. It turns out that Werewolf: The Beast Among Us started life as a project for hire at Universal, who, for whatever reason, wanted a new, lower-budget, standalone werewolf movie and, for whatever reason, went to Monreau for ideas, then apparently started pre-production without him (likely under a Wolfman 2 banner). This kind of explains the appearance of waxing and waning filmmaker interest throughout the film. The space on the track is well used with only minor bouts of empty air and the participants do a good job being inclusive without incessantly patting backs.

Next up is Making the Monster (9:20, HD), a featurette featuring behind the scenes footage and interview with Morneau, Elliott, production designer Dan Hirschfield, costume designer Oana Paunescu, and actors Ed Quinn, Adam Croasdell, Steven Bauer, Ana Ularu, Nia Peeples, Stephen Rae, Rachel Dipillo and Guy Wilson. It covers the cast, production design, costume design, shooting on location in Romania, and stunts. Transformation: Man to Beast (6:10, HD) covers the film’s special effects with more set footage and more interviews, including VFX on-set supervisor Stefan Cios, animatronics supervisor Josh Head, Wolf Man suit performer Robert Freeman, and first AD Franklin A. Vallette. Monster Legacy (4:00, HD) finishes things off with the cast and crew discussing Universal’s monster movie tradition.

Werewolf: The Beast Among Us

Overall


I hate to say things like this, but this really is a case where lowering one’s expectations will make for a better viewing experience. If you’re one of those people that really craves B-monster movies, like me, you can do a lot worse than Werewolf: The Beast Among Us. On the other hand, it has some brutally bad dialogue and character clichés, so be prepared. This Blu-ray’s image and sound quality are a bit hit and miss, but I believe this is mostly due to limitations in the source material.

* Note: The images on this page do not represent the Blu-ray image quality.


Links: