Movies Now and Then: Del Toro and Goldblum’s Creatures Offer Thrills and Chills


Published February 18, 2010

“The Wolfman” (2010)

Joe Johnston’s remake of the 1941 horror classic is certainly a respectable effort. Most of the physical elements give it the atmosphere one would expect from a period horror film. Unfortunately, a plain script and an overbearing use of modern scare tactics render the film less enjoyable.

Benicio Del Toro, as the man cursed by the werewolf, and Anthony Hopkins, as his father, give interesting performances as two men with horrid pasts. Del Toro begins the film as a cautious (and somewhat monotonous) surveyor of his childhood haunts, becoming more active when the transformations begin to occur. Hopkins speaks his lines in a disinterested manner, waiting until the right time to let his madness reveal itself.

Neither character has a chance at staying sane anyway, given their bleak surroundings. The estate designed by Rich Heinrichs (“Sleepy Hollow”) features plenty of horror-classic staples, including stark candlelit hallways and miles of foggy forest. All that is missing is the black-and-white photography to heighten the mood.

Actually, the horror in this movie needs to be toned down, if anything. It relies heavily on gore and an unnecessary amount of surprise shocks (including at least two uses of the false alarm that distracts a character before the real fright emerges). These flourishes are more annoying than scary, leaving the viewer to cover his ears in preparation any time the music stops.

Perhaps the violent jolts are meant to distract the audience from the film’s other shortcomings. The werewolf’s design is fairly laughable, and the screenplay is lacking in interesting dialogue. The best moments go to Hopkins and Hugo Weaving as a suspicious inspector. The movie loses much of its verve whenever they are not onscreen, giving us instead the trite utterances of Del Toro and the rather bland Emily Blunt.

“The Wolfman” is a visually pleasing film, thanks to the creepy production design. It is much less distinguished verbally, save the moments with Hopkins and Weaving. The simple script and excessive scare tactics prevent this film from being anything new or memorable.


If you like “The wolfman” then try…
“The Fly” (1986)

This science-fiction story also concerns the transformation of man into creature, but one devised by technology instead of the supernatural. Jeff Goldblum plays a scientist whose matter teleportation experiment goes wrong when a fly gets caught in the same pod as him. The resulting fusion gradually morphs Goldblum into a human-fly hybrid.

Goldblum’s change is covered by astonishing and almost nauseatingly believable makeup and puppetry. These Oscar-winning effects never falter, and have proved to be an influence on many subsequent science-fiction and horror movies such as “District 9.” These effects, however, only do half the work; Goldblum’s remarkable body language gives the unmistakable impression that his new natural instincts are overcoming his humanity.

The film does have a fair bundle of flaws. As previously stated, the makeup effects may be too convincing, and perhaps director David Cronenberg shows more aspects of the transformation than are necessary. The screenplay keeps the plot moving, but it does so a little too quickly (Goldblum and Geena Davis’s romance seems instantaneous). Even with these reservations, “The Fly” is an impressive production, providing a haunting implication of the dangers of playing God.