It’s so hard to find — and presumably make– a good werewolf movie. It’s certainly one of the most complex creatures to create realistically, with a varying rate of success in the past and present. For instance, you have the classic “American Werewolf in London” where the werewolf effects were done the old-fashioned way with animatronics, with a very good result, at least for it’s time. But looking back at it now, it’s obviously dated in the special effects department and with our 21st-century eyes, we see how unrealistic it is. On the other hand, you have the full-blown CGI werewolves like those in the “Underworld” series, where the CGI can pass in those fast-paced sequences where we can’t look at it too close, but under any kind of close scrutiny of pure CGI, any realism crumbles.
Enter one of the latest installments of the werewolf genre in “Wer.”
This film shows a third option, combining special-effects makeup with motion special-effects and a real-life disease to create a more realistic Wolfman for the modern day. In “Wer,” the filmmakers linked becoming a werewolf to the very real disease of porphyria, and kept their beasts in a primary manlike state. Hey, I love the hairy beasts just as much as anybody, but I have to say this approach was refreshing. And when done well, it was very creepy.
The premise of the film opens with the brutal murders of American tourists in France. If you’re starting to think of “An American Werewolf in Paris,” you’re going down the wrong track. The film delves into the murder investigation as the primary suspect is about to be put on trial, defended by an American expatriate lawyer named Kate Moore (A J Cook). With her support team of Eric Sarin (Vik Sahay) and Gavin Flemyng (Simon Quarterman), Kate is determined to defend the brutish, hairy man accused of the crimes, and is convinced of his innocence. In fact, she is convinced that local investigator Klaus Pistor (Sebastian Roche) is part of a local conspiracy to take over his family homestead for a profitable development proposal.
As often happens in horror films, those with the best of intentions have a way of unleashing hell on everyone, and unfortunately for the locals, that’s no exception in this film. What does that this film apart from other werewolf movies is the convincing way they presented porphyria as a plausible explanation for the condition, although some of their science is fictional, to put it mildly. In other words, you cannot get poorer for it by being bitten by someone who hasn’t, just for the record. But just go with it for the movie’s sake. Hey, it’s fiction.
The use of special-effects with the way characters move has become a bit of a cliché, but it’s pretty effective in this film. Quite honestly, the appearance of the werewolf in this movie when he wasn’t attacking wasn’t that frightening to me. The jerky, seizure-like movements definitely enhanced the fear as did the gore. And make no mistake, there are some very gruesome moments in this movie. On the other hand, the second werewolf that comes along creates an appearance that is quite chilling. And kudos to the actor portraying that role, who I won’t name here for spoiler purposes. As he shaved his head and body during his transformation — creating an interesting opposite to the Talan (Brian Scott O’Connor) character — I felt that was the most chilling moment of the movie.
The performances are fine, and director William Brent Bell redeemed himself from the awful ending of “The Devil Inside,” his last turn at the helm of the horror film. There are some irritating plot missteps, such as the previously mentioned scientific flaws, and some stretches of the imagination. That’s local police would allow an attorney and her team on site while they were doing a manhunt, plus the old cliché of their idealistic lawyer insisting that her clients, who has been accused of horrific violent crimes be taken out of his handcuffs while she speaks with him. Pretty far-fetched to believe either of these situations would actually happen. But overall, “Wer” Is an unusual and refreshing take on the werewolf mythology if you’re up for trying something a little bit different.