Wolfen DVDWolfen

It seems that 1981 was a big year for werewolves on cinema screens. There were three high-profile releases that year: the previously mentioned “An American Werewolf in London,” Joe Dante’s “The Howling,” and this particular film, which was a high-profile studio release but did lukewarm business and pretty much vanished from the public’s consciousness.

Wolfen” is a film by the guy who directed “Woodstock“. It is

also based on a novel by Whitley Streiber (COMMUNION). And it is exactly the type of film you would expect from the combination of those two sensibilities: a dark, brooding police procedural/horror film with a strong socio-ecological message! In essence, the titular characters are made out to be the good guys! (No, I’m not ruining anything for you here.)

The film has a very straightforward plot: Albert Finney plays a New York cop who, along with coroner Gregory Hines, investigates a series of seemingly unconnected killings that resemble animal attacks. The sheer strangeness of the case compels him to dig further and further until he arrives at an admittedly unexpected but somewhat pretentious conclusion.

I know, it sounds like I’m knocking this film. And I am, in a sense. It’s one of those instances where the icing is awesome, but the cake itself leaves something to be desired. But on that simple icing level, the film is worth a look. It’s a slick, polished production that gets the most out of its cast, its scares, its production values. The moody cinematography by Gerry Fisher contains some remarkable point-of-view shots of the titular characters which, surprisingly enough, almost completely resemble what was done in “Predator” six years later! There is also a thundering score by James Horner that works extremely well in the film, but if you’re a tried and true fan of Horner’s, you will notices that he reused a LOT of the same cues and themes from

this film in some of his later, more popular scores.

Here’s the trailer:

Again, worth a look if you happen to find this film. If not, don’t really go out of your way.

INTERESTING TRIVIA: This film could’ve been much more pretentious had the director gotten his way. His original cut of the film ran over three hours and had a completely different musical score by Craig Safan. This version leaned even more heavily on its hippie-ish themes. The studio execs saw this cut of the film, promptly fired Wadleigh, and recut the film into what it is today. It’s interesting to see that the movie works as well as it does now considering this

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Written by Josh

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