"The Beast Within"
What You Need To Know:
THE WOLFMAN is a good re-telling of Universal’s original movie. It is very scary but also very gory. Hence, it has an R rating. Despite the violence, the movie shows the sinful nature of man by stating explicitly that every man has a beast within his nature waiting to be unloosed. As Lawrence’s father says, “The Beast will have its day.” Extreme caution is required, however, for THE WOLFMAN.
(C, BB, Cap, P, L, VVV, S, N, A, D, M) Light Christian worldview overall with some strong moral, biblical elements including protagonist prays silently to God then makes a visual reference to the Cross, amid lots of graphic mayhem and some problem areas (see below), plus some capitalist, patriotic elements that include a positive view of a London police detective; two “d” words and one light exclamatory profanity referring to the Mother of God, plus man exclaims, “God help us!”; extreme, scary violence with much blood and gore includes many attacks on people by a werewolf, at least three decapitations, werewolves fight one another, people get burned in fires, man tied down and dunked into icy water at insane asylum, boy sees blood on mother’s throat with father next to her, people shoot at attacking werewolves; no sex but man dreams of seeing woman’s naked back and man bitten by werewolf suddenly displays lustful interest in a woman when he stares at her exposed upper neck, but this is played very lightly to reveal the beast he is becoming; upper male nudity and implied nudity when woman has her naked back turned to camera; alcohol use; smoking and man is drugged by doctors and attendants in an insane asylum; and, vicar says God has forsaken a man bitten by a werewolf, father gets son placed in an insane asylum, talk of being cursed, and kindly but distant father turns out to have been transformed into villain who now wants his own way rather than the welfare of others, including his two sons and his main servant.
In classic horror movies, the normal order of the world is disrupted in scary and/or disturbing ways. For example, Dracula upsets the boundary between Life and Death because he is both alive and dead, and the Wolf Man confuses the line between the Human and the Animal because he is both a wolf and a man. Faced with such scary chaos, the characters must try to restore order by repairing the balance, frequently by killing the monster responsible for the disruption. Once the chaotic monster is destroyed or banished, the characters are then able to begin their lives anew.
THE WOLFMAN is a new attempt to revive the Wolf Man, the classic Universal Pictures monster played to such wonderful effect by Lon Chaney, Jr., the son of one of the biggest stars of silent movies. Despite very horrific violence, the movie succeeds because, from the very start, it plays on the classic horror movie conventions established by Universal in the 1930s and 40s. From the very beginning, the movie asks the question, Where does the Beast begin and the Human end?
Benicio Del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, a traveling actor who gets a letter from Gwen, the fiancé of his brother, Ben. Gwen asks Lawrence to come home to the family mansion on the English moors, to help find Ben, who is missing.
When Lawrence arrives home to greet his kindly but solitary father, he finds Ben has been murdered, torn savagely apart by a large vicious animal of some kind, or by a lunatic trying to fake an animal attack. Local gypsies are implicated in the attack, so Lawrence goes to talk with them one night. A mob from the local village also wants to confront the gypsies, but when they do, a large wolf of some kind decimates the mob and the gypsy encampment. During the melee, Lawrence tries to shoot the beast dead, but gets bitten instead.
Recovering from his wounds, with Gwen playing nurse, Lawrence begins to have troubling visions and even more troubling emotions. Soon, the full moon will come and “even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night” will not be safe from the Wolfman’s bite.
THE WOLFMAN has atmosphere galore. It also has blood and gore galore. Even so, it is the deeper themes in the movie that should resonate more with moviegoers.
First of all, the movie shows the sinful nature of man by explicitly stating that every man has a beast within his nature waiting to be unloosed. Thus, the end of the movie asks where does the one begin and the other end? Also, as Lawrence’s father tells him, “The Beast will have its day.”
Secondly, the movie also shows the biblical notion that the sins of a father will be visited upon the children. Thus, the movie’s second half reveals that Lawrence and his father are harboring a terrible family secret that will tear them apart, literally.
The movie sprinkles these themes with a few positive references to Christianity and prayer. For instance, at one important point, Lawrence crosses himself. Despite this, the local vicar shows no sympathy for Lawrence’s plight, saying that God has forsaken Lawrence. Gwen, however, holds out hope that her love may be able to save Lawrence.
All in all, THE WOLFMAN is a good modern-day re-telling of Universal’s original 1941 movie. It is very scary but also very gory in parts. Hence, it has been given an R rating. There are also scenes set in an insane asylum where inmates are dunked in very cold, icy water, and a scene where Lawrence is given electric shock therapy. The scary graphic violence and asylum scenes require extreme caution for media-wise viewers. This is not your grandfather’s WOLF MAN movie. Modern special effects have been used with great effect to make this one much more intense and disturbing. The acting is good, and the music is even better, though a bit loud.