“Wolfkin” is bursting at the seams with potential, but it fails to offer enough tension, horror, and meaty development to satiate genre fans.
Wolfkin is a 2022 Drama/ Horror form Luxembourger director Jacques Molitor which centres on single mother Elaine (Louise Manteau) and her son Martin (Victor Dieu) as they struggle with Martin’s increasingly volatile emotional outbursts.
Seeking answers for the cause of Martin’s sudden violent urges, Elaine decides to visit the estranged family of Martin’s father in the hopes of finding a resolution or an explanation hidden deep within the family gene pool.
Martin’s surviving blood relatives are filthy rich and live a life of luxury, seemingly both welcoming and mistrusting all at once.
Martin’s grandparents are ecstatic at the arrival of their grandson, whereas Martin’s uncle Jean (Jules Werner) struggles to hide his simmering disdain for the boy and his mother.
The family is a rather cliched, eccentric, oddball group of characters who hide their insidious motives beneath a veneer of money and privilege and uphold bizarre familial traditions.
Much of the potential lure and mystique of Wolfkin is squandered in Molitor’s choice to include the word ‘wolf’ in the film’s title.
Wolfkin tries to ape the formula of films like Ginger Snaps by using the notion of Lycanthropy as an allegory for puberty and adolescence.
However, what made the horror elements of Ginger Snaps so powerful was the mystery surrounding the bizarre changes that befell Ginger; was it just her hormones, or did a worse fate lie ahead of her?
In Wolfkin, the film’s ‘twist’ is spelled out, which crushes any potential for a more visceral and shocking impact.
In one scene, we see Martin restrained against his will in a straitjacket whilst a comical Hannibal Lecter mask obscures his head. Imagine how powerful this scene could have been had we not been given the Lycanthropy context prior.
I notice a current trend amongst Indie Horror films wherein a filmmaker will take a movie monster or a supernatural trope and use it as a vehicle to tell a more grounded, human story.
This approach worked very well for After Midnight, which was rich in layers of emotional subtext and symbolism. But I believe that Wolfkin fails in this approach due to how utterly uninteresting and one-dimensional the human characters are.
Martin’s worrisome habits and ‘violent’ tendencies are very vanilla, and young Victor Dieu has a lackluster air about his performance at times, negating any emotional resonance with him from the viewer.
Louise Manteau stuns as an isolated mother struggling with her son’s behavioral issues.
Her nurturing nature can fall away within seconds of someone threatening her son, and her emotional pendulum is impressive during particularly demanding scenes.
There are a lot of conflated ideas within Wolfkin, but there are elements that work quite well, such as the creepy, coercive behaviors of the grandparents, who seem over-enthusiastic in their approach to interacting with Martin. These interactions feel more like transactions, and their desperate attempts to soothe him feel more akin to coercion than to love.
A Stepford Wives air permeates Wolfkin. Much like Elaine and Martin, we are made to feel like outsiders peering into lives that seem orchestrated and falsified for an audience. We cannot trust this rich family where even the maids are complicit in the family’s secular ways.
We get some heavy-handed commentary about the dangers of extreme religious thinking coupled with the creepiness of archaic traditions found within isolated families. However, the impact is not long-lasting due to the director’s fluffy approach to Horror.
I felt like there was no sense of danger or urgency when I watched Wolfkin, which is a shame as there is potential here for a ripe, tension-filled ride if only the script were a little less sleepy.
Wolfkin would benefit from taking more risks. The script was very tame considering its ambitious subject matters, and I became bored with the family drama and impatient for some Werewolf action, which I felt was promised but was never fully delivered.
If you enjoyed Mike Nichols’ Wolf and find yourself craving a more grounded, human-driven Lycan movie, then Wolfkin may scratch that itch: just be ready for more bark than bite.