Flicks & Folios – Film Review: Wolfen

Take a solid cast, add a solid script”?drop in stark visuals and shake well. This is the formula for Wolfen“?a creepy 1981 film that opens with a jogging former police detective (Albert Finney), who eats crappola food, “because it settles my stomach.”

Finney’s boss phones after a wealthy developer and his wife are both torn to shreds in a New York City park. The beginning, as they are attacked, is done extremely well with no dialogue and peculiar visuals. Like the film Tremors, the camera reflects the evil attacker by running low to the ground and adding infrared and heat sensor-like visuals. We need no explanation to understand the point:this isn’t human.

The attacks are handled in a manner that leaves the gory details for our own imaginative minds. Translation: for all of you who like to see the gross details, find another movie!

After the attacks Albert Finney is back on a case, which is big news. The mayor is at the site with a few other big wigs and needs the details. The police boss, Tom Noonan puts Finney back on the job and never does that cliché yell and tell them to hurry up nonsense that so many film cops do.

Let’s mention the great American hoofer, Gregory Hines as Whittington, doing an impressive job as the coroner in this story. He shines in a low-key performance:no dancing either. He helps to add in details of the attackers as we go and eventually joins Albert’s character in the hunt for the beastly creature.

I need to mention, for all Miami Vice fans, the performance of an almost unrecognizable Edward James Olmos, as Eddie Holt. Edward plays a North American native who appears to know more about these creatures or creature than he’s willing to share. Or does he? Anyone who loves male nudity”?step up. Edward peels before the camera and we don’t angle up to his chin! Ok, it IS dark but we can still see things. A necessary point is made by Edward’s character that finally resolves the mystery and stops the attacks -for now. The smartest of the creatures went underground long ago:when white man came into their territory. They kill to protect their land and their own.

Suddenly Finney’s character, Dewey, understands what the beasts are doing. Illogically, the creatures attack and find a way to get into a skyscraper :and they don’t use the elevator! Ok, I’ll ignore that problem. The wolves arrive and snarl menacingly. A white one stands before them”?the leader? It is with some black buddies. Apparently there is no racism in the wolf world. As the standoff begins Finney empties his gun of bullets and puts it down. He smashes the developer’s scale model of the grand and glorious project set to rebuild the south Bronx area that the wolves “own.” Apparently the wolves would rather not see pristine buildings on their land. The slums are just fine with them.

When the murders are tied together the movie makes sense. I just don’t like the problem with some of the “how they do it” details.

Gerry Fisher’s cinematography is so exceptional it must be mentioned. Also, I was absolutely blown away that Communion author Whitley Streiber penned this film. I imagine a lot of you may not know his “UFO kidnapping” book but it’s amazing that he’s done such a great job on this film… a tricky genre to write.
This film came out the same year as The Howling and another famous Werewolf-y type film”?I forget the name now. This film set itself apart by being about wolves, and doing a really trippy job with the cinematography and stellar performances. Enjoy.

Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).

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