Greetings my lovely Necropolites. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge fan of the classic Universal horror monsters. They played a huge role in making me the horror fan I am today. So when I stumbled across House of the Wolfman, I actually got pretty damn excited. I mean, look at that movie poster. It just screams loving tribute to the golden days of horror, right? Not to mention that Ron Chaney, the grandson of Lon Chaney Jr., plays Dr. Bela Reinhardt!!! That was also a big deal to me. Well, does this movie live up to the classics I love? Allow me to give you my thoughts.
The story is as follows: five people are invited to the castle of Doctor Reinhardt, who for some reason feels the need to recite the bios of everyone invited as soon as they arrive, including name, age and a little background info. The guests learn that they are actually chosen as potential heirs to the Doc’s estate and research, and it will be determined who wins by a process of elimination. However, it’s not very long before they realize that something is off about the whole thing. The Doctor’s servant Barlow is a large, ugly, mute who tends to just stand around and stare when he’s not following the Doc’s orders. Not to mention the guests learn fairly quickly that they’re being spied on through the use of the classic “paintings with false eyes” trick. So after some investigation, it turns out the five guests weren’t just picked for having their own special talents, but they all share a connection with each other. In what way are they connected? Hahaha, like I’d tell you. You’ll have to watch for yourself to find out.
I wanted to like this movie. I wanted to like it sooo bad. But there were two major issues I had that was just impossible to ignore. The first is the acting. My God the acting. There were a few points where things weren’t all that bad. The old woman did a decent job, and of the five guests I found the character Reed to be the most tolerable to listen to. The dialogue itself wasn’t that terrible, but the problem is that damn near all of the line deliveries were absolutely atrocious. And there was a lot of dialogue in this movie, which really didn’t help matters. And don’t tell me that their acting was supposed to emulate the acting back in the day. If you do I will laugh in your face. Yes, every now and then in the old days you would see an actor overacting or really hamming it up, but overall the acting was top-notch given the movies and roles they were working with. So don’t even try that with me.
The biggest disappointment was Ron Chaney. I was so stoked to see his name in this, but his performance was laughable. And I’m sorry to say it (as Lon Jr is one of my all-time favorite actors), but Ron did not get the family acting ability passed down to him. I wasn’t expected an award-winning performance from the man, but wow was I disappointed.
*SPOILERS AHEAD* This is where I get into the other issue I had, which I feel I have to mention because it might make the difference between some of you watching or skipping it. Absolutely nothing exciting happens for the first hour of the movie!!!!! If you’re looking to see any of the monsters on that poster, you can forget it until after the hour mark. And the movie is only 75 minutes long (approximately 72 if you ignore the end credits), which leaves you roughly 12 minutes of the monster reveal. And some of that is spent cut away from the monsters to our heroes. Even though you know the Frankenstein Monster is involved, he’s not even mentioned until he actually appears on-screen, and Dracula just appears out of nowhere and might as well have said “Hi guys, can I join in the fun too?”
Whew, sorry. I don’t usually talk about the negatives first, but I really had to get that off my chest right away. Now, on to the positives.
The sets and atmosphere in HotW really does copy the look and feel of the classics, and I liked that it was also filmed in black and white. There were a number of background objects that referenced the classic Universal movies, and it was fun to find them and identify which movies they came from. Another thing is that the Wolf Man/Frankenstein confrontation turned into a pretty entertaining few minutes, it was just too bad you have to wade through a lot of crappy performances to get to it. And I gotta hand it to the makeup department, I really liked how the monsters looked. I thought their look did justice to the original monsters. And the late Michael R. Thomas was a really good-looking Lugosi-esque Dracula, probably the best casting in the whole movie. Too bad he was only in it for a few minutes.
This has been probably the biggest disappointment of all the movies I’ve watched so far this year. It had so much potential, and it really appealed to my love of Universal’s classic monsters. But it was wasted by a severe lack of acting talent. I don’t go around saying I want this or that remade often, but I feel if this was remade with a more seasoned cast, it would really stand out as a great movie. Also, it would have been nice to see glimpses of the monsters somewhere in the first hour. I didn’t need all out sightings, just something to let us know (besides the strange footprints found in the castle grounds). I would have like to see Dracula involved more, either working with the Doctor, or at least having a good reason for going to the castle and showing quick shots of him making his way there. I dunno, maybe Mr. Thomas wasn’t feeling well or he passed away during shooting, but as I said before I think he was the best casting of everyone, and i would have like to see more of him.
Well, that’s all I think I have to say about it. if you think you can get through the first hour to get to the good stuff, then more power to you. Otherwise, I’m very sad to say, avoid House of the Wolfman. If you love the classics (have I used that word enough yet?) like I do, this will most likely disappoint you. Until next time, it’s good to be back. Rest in peace.
Macabre Rating: 1.5 out of 5 tombstones.