In 1941, Universal Studios released the horror film, The Wolf Man, depicting the tragedy that befalls men when the animal inside is unleashed. In 2010, Universal partnered with Relativity Media to recreate the 1941 classic.
The Wolfman is far darker than the original. Where once random chance turned Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) into a werewolf, fate turns his modern remake, Lawrence (Benicio Del Toro), into the stuff nightmares are made of.
In The Wolf Man, Larry Talbot returns home to visit his father after spending years away from home. While there, he meets a town beauty, Gwen (Evelyn Ankers). When he tries to defend one of Gwen’s friends from a werewolf, he is bitten. In turn he becomes a werewolf himself. Not long after, it becomes apparent that both his human, and animal side, are after Gwen.
In its 2010 reboot, Lawrence Talbot, a Shakespearian actor and the second son of Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins), is returning from a long absence in America to Talbot Castle in Blackmoor, England. But from the start the film’s focus is much darker. Lawrence is returning because his elder brother’s body was found mutilated by a terrible beast–the third finding of its kind. He returns to a castle laid waste by time, adorned with the heads of African beasts, trophies of Sir John’s. Upon arrival he meets his late brother’s fiancée, Gwen (Emily Blunt), who he slowly falls for. But his investigation into his brother’s death, and a bite he sustains when trying to find the raging creature haunting the forests nearby, reveal a darker side to himself and his past–from which he can’t escape.
Remakes are wonderful case studies of changing culture. In early decades of film, black and white reels depicted for the first time the strange tales of werewolves, vampires, mummies and Frankenstein’s monster. And while a viewing today fails to shock, the creative vision and, in The Wolf Man’s case for example, the story originality are still apparent.
Today’s Wolfman takes everything to the next level. Horror has ceased to be horror in the classic sense, when audiences were terrified by the look of the beast they saw. Today’s culture is desensitized to such images, and horror now focuses on excessive blood and gore to convey its horrific messages. Filmmakers also use quick movements to scare audiences now. Wolf Man and Wolfman are a perfect example. In the remake, werewolves tear the insides out of their victims, rip limbs off of bodies and maul their victims in bloody displays that are never suggested, always shown.
The storyline also takes a darker route. Where a detective in Wolf Man only suggests that Larry should be examined psychiatrically, Lawrence is admitted to a psychiatric hospital–the same hospital he was placed in after seeing his mother’s dead body as a child. In the hospital, doctors “treat” him through various torture methods.
But Universal remained true to certain aspects of its first vision. English fog abounds in both films, and Wolfman is so drained of bright colors (blood red is the most vibrant, as the grass is a pale green and the sky is ever filled with clouds darkening the sun and hiding the full moon’s light) that the film retains an almost black and white feel. In addition, with all the digital effects used to create convincing werewolves, the faces remained surprisingly similar to the original Wolf Man werewolf face.
Wolfman boasts a strong acting talent. Hopkins plays the estranged father well, though Del Toro would have done better to focus less on his American accent and more on his acting. Both let a darker side flow through them very convincingly.
The film was strong, with good dialogue and well-constructed imagery. One of the most intriguing changes from the original was the addition of Inspector Abberline (Hugo Weaving). Abberline seems more fascinated with the wolf man idea than intent on killing the creature, at least at first. This fascination comes from another case that Abberline worked on, the Jack the Ripper case–the violence of which paralleled that of the wolf man. In the end, the investigation brings Abberline closer to the wolf man than he ever thought he’d be, and his final expressions let audience members form their own opinions on his thoughts about it.
Of note is a comment that Blunt’s character makes in the film: “It is said there is no sin in killing beasts, only in killing a man. But where does one begin and the other end?” Stories of terrible murders abound. So at what point does a person cross over into something monstrous, capable of committing such crimes? And what drives them to that point? It comes after being fueled by something other than the autumn moon, to be sure.
One such criminal, the late serial killer Ted Bundy, gave a final interview to psychologist Dr. James Dobson the day before his execution in 1989. He talked about a key factor that led him down his violent path: pornography, which some call a harder addiction to break from than cocaine. In that interview, Bundy warned about the dangers of hard-core pornography. While he took full responsibility for his actions, his addiction pushed him down the terrible path. In his interview, he claimed he felt like possessed when he murdered his victims. Further, Bundy said, “I’ve lived in prison for a long time now, and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence. Without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography–deeply consumed by the addiction.”
While views on pornography abound, in Hollywood there is really only one view openly portrayed: it’s not a big deal. Even the protagonists of films such as the American Pie movies enjoy pornography, and the women in the films could care less. But a recent study by the Family Research Council shows that pornography damages families in non-violent ways as well.
Whether you believe the last words of a serial killer is up to you. But while Hollywood is inspecting a plethora of social issues, it might do well to examine pornography too.