Posted on February 21, 2007 by Flames
Lion’s Gate Films Home Entertainment (2004)
Let me begin by writing something positive about director, Francisco Plaza’s, Werewolf Hunter. It’s ambitious. But really. What do you get when you try to combine a monster movie, a serial killer thriller, a period piece, a docudrama, and an episode of National Geographic Explorer? Answer: A disjointed mess that never commits to any of these. Rather than pulling us through a compelling narrative, we watch while Mr. Plaza meanders in circles for 89 minutes. What’s left in his wake is a movie so disengaging that the most frightening experience I had watching it was the possibility that I may fall asleep and have to watch it again so that I can write this review.
Werewolf Hunter is based on the real life exploits of one of the earliest serial killers on record. In 1851, Manuel Romasanta (Julian Sands), a traveling soap salesman in Spain confesses to committing 15 murders. He claims the reason for his behavior is that he is, in fact, a werewolf.
The film begins as bodies are discovered around a village inhabited by sisters Maria (Maru Valdivielso) and Barbara (Elsa Pataky). The killings are attributed to wolves by most, but others are convinced it’s the work of a killer. Still some speculate about an even more fantastic source of the carnage, giving rise to the legend of Allariz’s Werewolf.
Maria, her lover Romasanta, and her daughter travel to a neighboring village looking for a safe place to live, far from the supposedly marauding murderous wolves around Maria’s own village. Barbara, who secretly lusts after Romasanta, is left behind. Somewhere along the way Romasanta kills Maria and her daughter and then returns for Barbara, commencing a passionate affair. However, before long she notices that Romasanta is the only person unafraid of the wolves and soon suspects him of killing her sister and niece. Love sick and desperate, Romasanta confesses, claiming lycanthropy, but it’s too late. Barbara will stop at nothing to avenge the murders
There are several problems with Werewolf Hunter, but among them, two are particularly glaring. The first is a fundamental flaw in the film’s composition that I can only assume started with Elena Serra and Alberto Marini’s script and was exacerbated by Plaza’s direction. I’ll preface this with a quick reminder: It’s a simple formula folks! Every well-executed movie is about a protagonist who wants something and has to overcome a series of obstacles to get it. The direct result of this process is called plot. And therein lies the problem. Werewolf Hunter doesn’t have one. No discernable protagonist and subsequently no plot. The true events on which this film is based apparently compelled the film makers to eschew characters and just focus on said events. When this creative domino fell, it took with it not only plot, but tension, and cohesiveness too.
The other major problem is that there isn’t a single frightening second in this entire movie. Obviously, not a problem that sinks every story, however, in this case it’s a big issue. This movie is just not scary.
And here’s a rule of thumb: When one renames a movie about a serial killer, calling it Werewolf Hunter, the cover of which portrays the vicious fang-infested maw of the movie’s namesake, the movie must A.) Contain werewolves, B.) Portray the horrors of serial murder, and C.) Possibly even explore the activity of werewolf hunting. Other than one bizarrely inexplicable scene in which a wolf creature transforms into a man, I would have sworn that my DVD case contained the wrong DVD. I’ll pin this confusion on Lion’s Gate Films Home Entertainment, the American distributor.
Moreover, Werewolf Hunter takes itself seriously. Instead of being the good kind of bad (Jason Takes Manhattan, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II) it’s merely the bad kind of bad so it never even rises to the level of being entertaining, just arduous.
Ok, back to the ambitiousness of Werewolf Hunter. The acting is average, highlighted by a solid performance by Elsa Pataky as Barbara. The costumes and sets feel authentic and the look of the film itself is impressive for direct-to-DVD fare, a credit to cinematographer, Javier Salmones. There are also a few sickening scenes that, while not frightening, should at least appease the gore hounds out there. A montage of Romasanta’s soap making technique, showing us everything from how he obtains the key ingredient of fat to the finished bubbly bath time bar is sure to dissuade even the most hardened among you from eating any vanilla pudding or cottage cheese for a couple weeks.
Unfortunately, Werewolf Hunter is a great premise executed poorly, but not for a lack of effort.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5
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