In 1941 Universal Pictures defined werewolves on screen with the release of The Wolf Man, starring Claude Rains and Lon Chaney, Jr. in the lead as the titulature creature.
Much like their Dracula and Frankenstein films of the same golden horror period, The Wolfman clawed out a path for many werewolf films to follow, crafting the original elements such as the tormented man beast, gypsy curse, packs of hunters out for blood and full moon transformations.
Since then many, many hairy horrors have come out, some have added to and innovated in the genre such as Ginger Snaps, Teen Wolf and Dog Soldiers. Others have simply sprayed their scent over old ground.
Interestingly, Universal themselves have had a crack at the genre several times over the years with varying success, making the amazing An American Werewolf in London and the unfortunately unimpressive remake of The Wolfman, which failed to reignite the fun of the beast drawn forth by the full moon.
Werewolf: The Beast Among Us is Universal’s latest attempt at a reinvention, and following in the footsteps of The Mummy and Van Helsing it has decided to up the action, this time to give the movie more mass appeal.
Packed with characters straight out of a comic book; frantic fight scenes; historically inaccurate weapons and some strange accents (considering the 19th century European village setting) the most surprising thing about Werewolf: The Beast Among Us is that it’s actually pretty good.
Balancing entertaining action and gore with a reasonably interesting story, the film follows a gang of misfit werewolf hunters who head for a small village plagued by brutal attacks. The locals are convinced they’re being troubled by a werewolf unlike any other ever seen.
Determined to save his hamlet, local boy Daniel (Guy Wilson) forces his way onto the team to help them hunt the beast, but who or what are they hunting? And when they do find it, will they be able to stop it?
As one gypsy says to the group – taking a line straight out of the 1941 original – “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”
The film features a pretty good cast including Pretty Little Liars’ Nia Peeples as Daniel’s mother, Adam Croasdell from Eastenders as a suave debonair hunter and Stephen Rea, who knows a thing or two about werewolves having starred in The Company of Wolves and two Underworld movies.
These above average actors add to the story which is somewhat deeper than your average action horror. The result is that Werewolf: The Beast Among Us is definitely worth a watch. It’s reminiscent of the brilliant French beast movie Brotherhood of the Wolf and the intriguing Romasanta.
Having defined the werewolf genre so long ago it seems that Universal Pictures have proven with Werewolf: The Beast Among Us that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks.