Stream to Scream: “NIGHT WOLF”Columns,Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
As many fright fans already know, FANGORIA offers a great selection of gruesome movies, old and new, for free at our Hulu channel. To give you a better idea of what’s available, FANGORIA is taking in-depth looks at some of the channel’s terrifying titles with Stream to Scream. Today: Jonathan Glendening’s NIGHT WOLF!
For better or worse, the werewolf film will always pose a challenge to modern filmmakers. With some of the most definitive titles in the subgenre coming decades prior, contemporary werewolf movies require some kind of conceptual ambition in order to stand out. With studios eschewing practical makeup and SFX in favor of CGI, many modern day transformation sequences appear wholly unbelievable and lifeless.
Which is why Jonathan Glendening’s NIGHT WOLF (a/k/a 13HRS) is a bit of a surprise, subversively offering a simple, albeit familiar, set-up with some genuinely impressive practical SFX work. While the narrative doesn’t break new ground in pitting young partygoers against a werewolf, there is still enough wit about NIGHT WOLF that keeps both the horror and the story from dipping into mediocrity. Its characters aren’t nearly as memorable as the SFX, but NIGHT WOLF at least offers a healthy respect to the genre while simultaneously operating against expectations.
NIGHT WOLF begins rather unassumingly. Despite learning her family’s private lives are in shambles, a young woman returns home from an extended stay abroad to find her family and friends partying. However, after discovering a dismembered body in the guest house, the group finds themselves under attack from a bloodthirsty werewolf. Trapped and with few resources to fight back, the group form a strategy to escape while learning the true nature of the beast.
The film is not particularly terrifying, but what it lacks in genuine scares the film makes up for in intensity and story. NIGHT WOLF incorporates a more realistic take on the man vs. wolf scenarios, and to watch the film subvert conventions around every corner makes it all the more exciting. The narrative is also impressive in many ways, exploring a much more interesting family dynamic. And while the werewolf make-up is worth championing, the film does stock up on some shocking gore effects as well, which helps craft the horror elements in lieu of building suspense.
With a solid script from Adam Phillips, director Jonathan Glendening succeeds at balancing necessary werewolf tropes with engaging visuals and superb action. Of course, one would think this success is also aided by the presence of Tom Reeve and Romain Schroeder, two of the producers behind equally practical werewolf film DOG SOLDIERS. Yet Glendening and cinematographer Jordan Cushing definitely offer the production value needed to sell the film, especially when it comes to NIGHT WOLF’s creature and gore reveals.
While the characters are simply underwritten, credit must be given to the performances at hand for raising the material. As our lead, Isabella Calthorpe is exceptional, embracing all sides of her character and even the demands of the genre following a great second act twist. The supporting cast is quite good as well, with special mention going to an understated Peter Gadiot and a multifaceted Gemma Atkinson. And you’re eyes don’t fool you: HARRY POTTER alum Tom Felton appears as one of the more loudmouthed of the group, and brings a certain charisma to his unsurprisingly short time in the film.
Overall, armed with awesome practical SFX and a clever narrative, NIGHT WOLF is a contemporary werewolf film worthy of your attention. While the first act leaves much to be desired, the second and third act are such subversive, bloody fun that it’s in the rearview by the time the wolf arrives. So while the mechanics of the film are basic, NIGHT WOLF is an all-around surprise and proof that convincing practical monsters aren’t dead just yet.