Thursday, December 28, 2006

[1981] WOLFEN: The other movie by Michael Wadleigh! It's not exactly a werewolf picture--the wolves here are these ancient godlike creatures that only the Native Americans remember and respect. Like Edward James Olmos' character, who's the only person who can clue cop-with-a-past Albert Finney onto what's been killing people in a very bombed out and desolate version of New York City. There's this amazing scene where we first meet EJO's Eddie Holt and Finney has to climb up to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge to meet him and they're both really up there on the top of the bridge. And Finney looks terrified and Olmos is calmly walking about without a harness and I really hope it didn't take them too many takes to get that shot because it looked like it was excruciating to film. Wadleigh sort of overuses the steadicam point-of-view shots--we almost always know where the monsters are, so there's not much reason to be afraid unless you scare easy (like me.) But I think that was intentional--Wadleigh wants us on the monster's side, to understand why they're killing both old Dutch New York aristocrats and homeless people, and he does do that pretty well. Some of the other murders--the wolves' rationale was less convincing, like when they killed a zoologist who seemed like one of the few people in the film who was on their side. Other negatives: way too many fake scares, too much of the "Native Americans equal nature undespoiled" hokum. But overall it's a quite fine account of the conflict between civilization and the eroding natural world that still wants to survive. It just takes up the natural world's side as much as it does civilization's, and is a more interesting picture for giving us the point of view of the "monsters." So: not hugely terrifying, and way too intelligent to be exploitation (despite the occasional gore.) A very different horror picture.

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