“Scream of the Wolf” has all the ingredients of a solid horror film, but the magic gets lost in the mix, and the end result is lackluster.
A revivalist gothic horror film, Crimson Manor, is in the last throes of filming. Holed up in a country mansion, tensions are running high. The cast and crew should have finished production by now, and a looming threat of eviction hangs over them, twinned with the classic ‘Thesp’ behavior of returning genre star Oliver Lawrence in the lead role.
Just to add more drama, the Producer has invited the chief reporter from Phantasmagoria Magazine to visit and complete an in-depth set report in order to drum up industry buzz.
With looming deadlines, a barely competent crew, and a star who doesn’t want to act, it suddenly becomes a desperate fight for survival against an unseen terror set against a full moon.
I really, really wanted to like Scream of the Wolf (aka Wolf Manor).
UK-made horror, a cast of incredibly well-known actors from British TV, and a director with some genre success under his belt seemed like a formula destined for success. I wasn’t hoping for high art. But I was hoping for something that would go full throttle and approach the level of a highly rewatchable film like Dog Soldiers.
Unfortunately, we don’t reach those heights.
What we do have is an early and obvious nod to An American Werewolf in London, which is far from a bad film to emulate when making a werewolf horror film.
In the opening sequence, a reporter and assistant pull up to a pub called the Blue Moon, which is populated by the offspring of those from the Slaughtered Lamb — at least in spirit.
I did enjoy how the Horror expert single-handedly upset the landlord (played by British Sitcom royalty John Henshaw), who offers directions to the location of the film set, only for the reporter to talk over him, trotting out comments about staying on the path. At this point, you knew he was absolutely going to be torn to shreds.
Once on the set, Scream of the Wolf director Dominic Brunt, along with writers Joel Ferrari and Pete Wild, does an excellent job conveying the absolute boredom and stress involved with making a movie, especially a vampire movie that seems to be very derivative and tired in execution.
As it progresses, we make our way into the house itself, where we are introduced to the minimal cast and crew, which includes some well-worn tropes: a large boy producer, a nervous director, a perpetually drunk lead actor, and final girls who are just that bit more resourceful and stronger than their male counterparts.
The trouble is, once we are introduced to our cast of characters, we can more or less plot their future movements in the film, including their redemption or demise.
One of the biggest problems with the film was the erratic tone.
Scream of the Wolf didn’t quite know what it wanted to be. As a comedy, the jokes didn’t land. And the moments of horror were dealt with too quickly to build any real tension or genuine frights.
The cast does attack the material with aplomb.
James Fleet (of Vicar of Dibley fame) really does well as Oliver Lawrence, the classically trained actor with a penchant for booze and little or no consideration for his fellow cast and crew. The Producer, Peter (played by Stephen Mapes), is lairy, loud, and also concerned with himself only. Of the crew, Fiona (Thalia Zucchi) comes across as being strong-willed and intelligent.
The scenes with the Beast are handled very well, keeping to POV shots and shadows until it’s time to reveal the full effect. There is no transformation scene, and the Beast resembles the villain from The Night Flier in appearance. The makeup is pretty good, and the practical effects are also well done; we just needed more of them.
The various set pieces come and go without surprise, and there is a nightmare sequence that is explained post-credits to provide some of the story’s background. The climax just seems to happen (no spoilers here), and then we are done and dusted.
My main complaint with SCREAM OF THE WOLF is not necessarily that it was bad. Rather, it was just completely unremarkable, which I think is criminal when it comes to genre fare.
To its credit, it is well shot with decent effects and some great performances. But viewers are given nothing new to chew on. It fails to either go through the throat in terms of the horror or supply any real laughs to qualify this as an entertaining horror-comedy, though that could just be a matter of personal taste.
Was I not planning to write a review, I would have forgotten Scream of the Wolf the moment the credits rolled. And that left me howling in disappointment.