Tuesday, June 14, 2011

House of the Wolfman = House of Boring Exposition (review)

I really wanted to like this flick. I have a deep love of monster movies and a high tolerance for cheese -- but here's what you really need to know about this film:

We don't see any monsters (not counting a scary servant and granny) 'til more than an hour in -- and the film is only 1 hour and 15 minutes long.

Then, we get a complete cluster-fuck of monsters -- 6 to be exact, all crammed into about the last 10 minutes of the flick.  And most of those monsters come from the "House of No Foreshadowing At All" (an entirely different -- and probably better -- movie).

The movie has good lighting, costumes, sets, makeup, and general production values.  The music, heavily Salter/Skinner influenced, is passable.

But the direction and camera work are pedestrian at best.  (They squander the production values.)  The dialog is suitably 40s in most places, but the plot... Well, there really isn't one.

Oh, wait, there's the standard "Old Dark House" plot where a bunch of heirs are invited to a mysterious mansion/castle.  But, why were they invited?  The audience figures that out in under 5 minutes, but the characters spend the first hour talking about it.  And talking, and talking, and talking.  And the acting...?

SUPER 8 came out this weekend, and it's about kids making their own movies.  Within that film, there are other films: the ones the kids are making.  In a meta-film twist, in SUPER 8 we get to see young actors portraying both naturalistic kids (in the main movie) and kids performing what they think a movie should be in the film-within-a-film.  The acting in this film is mostly on the level of that film-within-a-film.  That is, it's someone's idea of what 40s monster movie acting should be, rather than just letting the actors act.  Lots of line recitation, very little acting (or reacting).

Step One for making a successful 40s (or 50s or whatever) Monster Movie Homage/Parody: Decide whether you're doing a homage or a parody.  And if you're doing a parody, it better damn well be funny.  This one isn't funny enough to be parody or good enough to be homage.

As an author, I know a film is in trouble when I'm constantly rewriting it in my head as it progresses.  That started pretty early in this flick.

My friend (and award-winning short-film maker) Paul McComas, who was watching this with me, walked out before the end of the first hour; Universal Films are holy writ to him, and he just couldn't take it any longer.  (Glad he missed the closing line, which pissed even _me_ off.)  I stayed 'til the end mostly because of the lighting and sets -- and a morbid desire to see how it turned out.  If the movie had started with the last 10 minutes, it could have been better -- but it didn't.

If you want to see a well-made modern "old movie," see ALIEN TRESPASS (very good 50s homage) or CALL OF CTHULHU (brilliant silent treatment) or even FRANKENSTEIN VS. THE CREATURE FROM BLOOD COVE (good effort, but could have used HOTWolfman's lighting director).

Avoid this unless you're looking for a lesson on how to squander good production values.

I know the people making this were trying hard, but see "Step One" above.