Film Reviews

Wolf Manor – Film Review

Werewolf movies seem to have one of two approaches: they either play things completely seriously, and make things dark, distressing, and gory, or they inject a little bit of humour into things to try and lighten the mood somewhat.

Films like An American Werewolf in London manage this second option perfectly, giving the film moments of genuine humour and levity, whilst also making it truly terrifying at times. Sometimes it can skew a bit too far into comedy, giving us films like Werewolves Within, which felt like a comedy film with some monsters thrown into the mix. The new British-made horror film Wolf Manor is trying to create a werewolf movie with some fun, but seems to play it a bit too safe, and never really veers far enough into horror, or comedy, to really excel at either.

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Wolf Manor drops viewers into the final days of a film shoot, where a small team of people have stayed on at an old manor house in the middle of nowhere, past their agreed upon time, in order to get the final few pick-up shots to finish their Gothic vampire movie. The crew are tired and ready to go home, with the past month of shooting having drained many of them. It doesn’t help that the film is the final hurrah of old horror legend Oliver (James Fleet), who seems to find it difficult to get into character, has problems with his fake teeth, and keeps sneaking off for a drink whenever he’s not being supervised.

Determined to make the film a success, a couple of horror magazine reporters are stopping by the shoot to try and promote the movie. However, the locals warn them that they shouldn’t go up to the isolated manor house on the full moon. As the moon rises the bodies begin to mount, and the cast and crew discover that they’re under siege from a creature right out of their nightmares.

Wolf Manor knows it’s a bit of a campy, silly film. It makes it clear straight away when the film begins with classic horror credits, with a model plane flying around a spinning globe, and old style titles appearing on the screen. The movie within the movie is a love letter to old films from Hammer and Universal, and the rest of the movie seems to embrace many of the tropes and references that fill most werewolf films.

There are comments about the pub nearby being like The Slaughtered Lamb from An American Werewolf in London, and the locals inside all go silent and creepy when outsiders come in. There’s the wolf head cane from the old Lon Chaney movie, and warnings to stay on the road when out at night. If you’ve watched a few werewolf movies you’re going to recognise the trappings of the genre here, and will probably appreciate their inclusion.

As mentioned before though, the film isn’t just a horror movie, and it tries to inject quite a bit of humour into things. Whilst some of it works well, such as a visual gag of an ever expanding pile of balls every time the camera comes back onto a certain character, other times it feels a bit too forced, like the contents of the old wooden chest the pub landlord brings out. Comedy is always a difficult area, as you can never guarantee just what is going to make people laugh, and can end up with a film that people hate. It’s perhaps because of this that Wolf Manor never quite seems to be comfortable to push the comedy too much, relying on giving the audience a smile and a small chuckle, rather than going for out and out laughs.

On the horror side of things the film does pretty good, with some gory, surprising moments when the werewolf attacks. Some of it is a bit predictable, and you know that the character carefully sneaking outside to try and escape is going to get grabbed by the beast, but it’s always done well enough that the moments feel frightening and awful for the characters. The film doesn’t skimp on the blood, guts, and dismembered body parts, and every time a character gets snatched you know that something terrible is happening to them.

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The werewolf design is pretty decent too. Rather than going more wolf-like, the film almost goes for a bestial, ape-like wolf, and the face brought to mind the vampires from From Dusk Till Dawn or the hellhounds in Buffy the Vampire Slayer more than it did something from The Wolfman. Whilst I’m sure there are some who would want to see a more classic wolf-like look, the design felt different and interesting enough to stand out, and showed that the design team put some effort into their creature effects.

Wolf Manor is an interesting and entertaining horror film that doesn’t really do anything new or different, and seems more focused on just having a bit of fun. The people who made the film are clearly fans of the genre, and that love comes across in the film. Wolf Manor doesn’t take itself seriously, and if you’re looking for a film that’s a bit of decent fun that will keep you entertained for a few hours you could pick a lot worse than this.

Wolf Manor is out on DVD and Digital Download on 9th January.

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