A couple of weeks I wrote an article about remakes and whether there was a need for them. The answer was: sometimes. Up for dissection at the Avenue soon, it’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which is Abel Ferrara‘s film Bad Lieutenant with a different director, a different actor and a different setting.
As far as remakes go, that Werner Herzog film has a bigger reason for existence than The Wolfman, which is essentially The Wolf Man with Benicio Del Toro instead of Lon Chaney Jr and CGI instead of a story.
Or is that too negative a view? Let’s find out…
Lycantrophy enthusiasts will almost definitely have their favourite, either it’s Lon Chaney Jr or it’s Paul Naschy, with lower-than-low budget movies on counts with hairy afflictions. In La Noche de Walpurgis (a.k.a. The Werewolf vs The Vampire Woman) Naschy’s budget for special effects is so low the poor man had to dive behind chairs during his transformation from man to werewolf, because a transformation scene would be too tricky or expensive to film. The result is Naschy falling down and popping up from behind a chair with a slightly hairier look.
Yet, I’ll take that film over the latest blockbuster any day. Why? Not that there’s anything bad about Del Toro (not that he’s impressive either), the biggest culprit here is the director. Joe Johnston is his name and he’s also responsible for Jumanji, Honey I Shrunk The Kids and Jurassic Park 3. It’s enough to find any man guilty. The worst part of his direction is that it looks as if he’s read the Debuting Director’s manual and followed it close at heart. One example of his storybook filming is that there’s a silly need to prove the obvious: to make the town look lively, every time a street is filmed someone has to cross a street in the background. To make it clear to the audience a butcher’s shop is smelly, the stench must be mentioned both in text and manners (i.e. holding a handkerchief in front of your mouth). Etc etc etc…
And let’s not forget what was so great about the Chaney era… Chaney’s wolfman was a tormented soul, whose soul fell to pieces at the thought of having to bear another full moon and killing more people. This is somewhat present in the 2010 version, but it’s mostly shadowed by the conflict between father and son (which overall doesn’t make a lot of sense and seems mainly there to keep the conflict running). Also, the ending makes it seem being a wolfman ain’t too bad if there’s a loving woman next to your side. Chaney’s wolfman was like an alcholic: every month there’d be a gigantic chance of a relapse.
One other thing, though I already mentioned it, is the silly need for CGI effects. I often thought they weren’t convincing and distracting from the story. Well, the few threads that were supposed to be the story. The Wolf Man was not a perfect film, so it wouldn’t be bad to have a film that would become the definitive lycantrophy story, but Johnston seemed more interested in making a rehash with modern-day effects. Which sadly means that, for now, the George Waggner film is still the best wolfman film. You wanna know why? Because it had atmosphere.