Wolfen


Year 1981

Albert Finney as  Captain Dewey Wilson  
Diane Venora as Rebecca Neff
Gregory Hines as Whittington
Edward James Olmos   as Eddie Holt
Tom Noonan as Ferguson
 
Director - Michael Wadleigh
Screenwriters - Michael Wadleigh
  - David M. Eyre, Jr.
Book Author - Whitley Strieber

Woo-hoo! Four, count them, four horror movies from Warner Brothers. Hey, it had Coma and Wolfen on it for twelve bucks. And Bad Moon wasn't so bad that I had to quit watching.

For good movies in that bunch, Wolfen is leading the pack right now. Granted that it takes place in the eighties but at least they're the nineteen-eighties.

I've liked Albert Finney ever since Tom Jones. I've disliked Gregory Hines ever since I saw him in a movie. At least in Wolfen he didn't tap dance for no apparent reason. And Tom Noonan? Remember Manhunter? He was the Tooth Fairy and almost upstaged Hannibal Lector in the process.

Wolfen does a lot right. It doesn't give away too much too soon. It has good acting throughout, even Gregory Hines. It relies more on suspense than special effects. It keeps you guessing. It has an original plot twist. It's from a book by Whitley Streiber Streiber's other claim to fame is Communion which is even creepier.

In Wolfen, there are murders by something supernatural, but with claws. Eccentric, ostracized police captain Dewey Wilson (Albert Finney) is in charge of the investigation. The "real" police are blaming terrorists and refusing to connect murder victims to keep things simpler. Captain Dewey sees one puzzle instead of two and uses his pieces to put his single picture together. The reason behind the killings is easy to figure out once you find out what the first victim did for a living. But the motive behind the deed is still very creepy. Semi-false leads followed by Captain Dewey actually propel the plot along rather just add running time to the flick.

Some nice scenes, like the beheading, are well set up. Sometimes there's a reach in deduction, but more often than not there are no startling leaps of intuition.

The vaporous aspect of the wolfen is either a nice touch or a "Put down the drugs, Whitley" moment.

Despite an effort to keep it gritty and real, there's a sense of cinema that can't be ignored. That's a shame and a lot of that has to do with the fact that it is an eighties movie. What made a movie seem distanced and other-worldly in 1981 is now dated.

Still, it's well done, well acted, and there's more than one "Did you catch that?" moment.

More of a back story on what caused Captain Dewey's pre-Wolfen breakdown would have helped ratchet up the suspense. I get the feeling that the audience is supposed to suspect that Captain Dewey could go off the deep end again at the drop of a paw. But without the back story, it never comes across.

Instead, Albert Finney comes across as being either fearless or cowardly.

A couple of blasphemies, some male nudity, maybe some female nudity (if so, it was forgettable), a few gotchas, and lots of tension and style. Yeah, not too shabby at all.


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