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Non-Review Review: Wilkolak (“Werewolf”)

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

Werewolf is pretty solid “Nazisploitation”, those sorts of genre (usually horror) pieces that play off the imagery and reality of the Second World War.

Werewolf is certainly stronger than other recent examples of the genre, such as Overlord. Focusing on a group of children Holocaust survivors who find themselves menaced by a pack of feral dogs from the camp, Werewolf is a story about trauma, violence and victimhood. It is a film about how these things self-perpetuate, and how these cycles of abuse need to be broken. Writer and director Adrian Panek frames this story through the lens of horror.

This certainly makes sense. The Second World War and the Holocaust were a trauma on a global scale, but most obviously on the European continent. The concentration camps were build outside of Germany, spreading the horror across the region. Poland was home to six extermination camps, something that leaves an indelible mark on a region. Werewolf navigates this trauma through  familiar horror movie staples; the orphans in the gothic mansion, the haunted woods, the allegorical monster, the group that threatens to fracture and fray under pressure.

The only real problem with Werewolf is that it’s simply not scary enough to work as a horror movie.

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The X-Files – Alpha (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

After a couple of misfires in the first few seasons, The X-Files had most steered clear of “classic” monsters. The first season had struggled with werewolves and ghosts and cryptozoology in Shapes and Shadows and The Jersey Devil respectively. 3 had been the show’s first “true” vampire episode, and had ended up as a bit of a mess. Perhaps it indicated that The X-Files was not a show that did “traditional” monsters particularly well; or maybe it was just a sign that the creative team were still figuring out how to make the show.

There was some evidence that the show might have been getting better at this sort of thing. In the fourth season, Elegy had been a (mostly) effective traditional ghost story. In the fifth season, Bad Blood had demonstrated that it was possible to make a good episode of The X-Files about vampires. Perhaps it was time to try another werewolf story. After all, the budget on The X-Files was bigger than it had ever been. There would likely be no better time to tell a classic werewolf story. Sadly, Alpha is anything but a classic werewolf story.

Hungry like the wolf...

Hungry like the wolf…

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The X-Files (Topps) #41 – Severed (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

This is the end.

Severed is the last X-Files comic book to be published by Topps. It was released in September 1998, after the release of The X-Files: Fight the Future and before the broadcast of The Beginning. The company had actually solicited a number of X-Files comics that were never actually published – including Season One adaptations of The Jersey Devil and Ghost in the Machine. It seems quite likely that Severed was the last comic book to be published by the comic book division of Topps, who had decided to retreat from the industry following market trends.

Filed away...

Filed away…

Topps wrapped up the bulk of its publishing operations over the summer of 1998, releasing the last few tie-in comics for Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Severed was actually delayed significantly. Devil’s Advocate had been published in June, leaving a three-month gap between the two issues. It is interesting to wonder what the delays behind publication might have been; certainly writer John Rozum and Alex Saviuk had proven themselves quite capable of managing a monthly schedule.

Whatever was happening behind the scenes, Severed is very much damp squib of an ending. It’s a bland and forgettable story, but one that is sadly par for the course in the stage of the book’s life cycle.

The transformed man...

The transformed man…

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Non-Review Review: Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf is quite possibly the single strangest werewolf movie I have ever seen. I would love to have been a fly-on-the-wall at that pitch meeting:

Teen movies are all the rage this year, sir.

And werewolf films have been trending up since The Howling.

Now if there were only some way to combine the two.

As the name implies, Teen Wolf is the story of a teenager who discovers that he has hair in places where he didn’t have hair before. Lots of places. The film does an… interesting job using a conventional movie monster as an exploration of teenage “otherness”, and I actually like the film’s second act is completely off-the-wall, but even the considerable charisma of Michael J. Fox isn’t quite enough to salvage a muddle mix of eighties clichés, knock-off eighties theme songs, and confusion about the movie’s rather basic “be yourself” metaphor.

Scott’s attempt to grow a beard has gone horribly wrong…

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Non-Review Review: The Wolfman

The Wolfman was clearly intended to kickstart a relaunch of Universal’s Monster Movie franchises, updating them for a whole new generation of movie-goers. It was intended to call back to a whole generation of horror films, starring Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff and so on. However, director Joe Johnston’s attempt to update the monster movie for a new generation is a muddled affair, simple and straight-forward, but clouded with unnecessary blood, gore and CGI.

No escape claws...

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Are Werewolves The New Zombies?

Well, I guess Twilight: New Moon was ahead of the curve in at least one regard. Perhaps horror tastes are cyclical, as it seems that werewolves have cycled back into public consciousness after a few hundred years. Disregarding the aforementioned sequel, we have the release of The Wolfman coming up next year. That the werewolf has been chosen to spearhead the planned relaunch of classic Universal horror properties is perhaps a large vote of confidence in the beasts, and perhaps a long overdue one. How come, for all the cheesy B-movies they’ve been featured in, werewolves have never pierced popular culture in the same way that vampires, zombies or even plain old ghosts have?

Benecio del Toro looks only slightly hairier than usual...

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