Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Run with the pack: WOLFEN(1981)

One of my fondest memories as a teenager remains my frequent trips to downtown Atlanta(GA) to watch movies at the Omni theater. This theater was part of the Omni, which included a sports arena, restaurants and gift shops. Afternoon movies cost only .99 cents and among the films I watched at the Omni theater were Alien(1979), Scanners(1981), The Thing(1982), Prophecy(1979), Halloween(1978), Jaws 2(1978) and the first three Friday The 13th movies. I also managed to watch another movie for the first time there: Wolfen, a film directed by Michael Wadleigh and based on a 1978 novel penned by Wesley Strieber entitled The Wolfen.

The film's story: veteran New York police detective Captain Dewey Wilson(played by Albert Finney) is tasked with solving the brutal murders of a wealthy business tycoon and his wife in a NYC park, the wounds on the victims consistent with those resulting from an animal attack. Wilson works with a police profiler and medical examiner in trying to identify the killers. Initially suspecting terrorists, Dewey Wilson soon realizes terrorists have nothing to do with the murders, the methodical detective subsequently turning his attention to a group of native American(Indian) laborers. Dewey Wilson's investigation leads him to the doorsteps of an old, abandoned and dilapidated church where the police detective encounters a seemingly invincible, ages old supernatural force of incredible power and ferocity. (no other spoilers)

Observations: Wolfen, because of its title, has often and understandably been labelled as a "werewolf" movie. In fact, the ancient and malevolent force in this movie and the cause of the mayhem and murder is not a werewolf(or werevolves) although it is connected to wolves. The DVD cover for this film, which features a snarling wolf, is certainly evidence of that.

The cast in this movie is quite good. Albert Finney is effective as the world weary, hard boiled, gruff but dedicated police detective "Dewey Wilson". I also liked Gregory Hines as the quirky but equally dedicated medical examiner pal of Dewey Wilson who helps convince the dour police captain that there's something more to the murders than meets the eye.

Director Michael Wadleigh uses very engaging  "POV"(point of view) camera shots to depict what the "wolfen" creatures see as they prowl the streets of New York city's slums while stalking their prey. The POV shots are very similar to the thermography POV effects used later to depict the alien predator's POV in Predator(1987) and Predator 2(1990).

The full reveal of the "wolfen" doesn't take place until near the end of the movie which is also a major plus for me. The score by James Horner is deliberate, melancholy and often majestic, a fitting component to a movie which not only touches on the origins of these mysterious creatures but also goes into great and often gory detail to showcase their savage attacks on their victims.

The gore in Wolfen(1981) is moderate and just enough to remind those watching this movie that the 'wolfen" are much more complex and dangerous than a collection of roving wild dogs.

I haven't seen this movie for sale anywhere on Blu Ray yet. It will in all likelhood get a BD release sooner than later. Wolfen(1981) was first released to R1 DVD back in 2002. I own the 2002 Warner Home Video R1 DVD which features this movie in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio.

I highly recommend this horror movie for fans of this genre!

The film's trailer:

Click the link to see the Wolfen(1981) R1 DVD(Warner Home Video) for sale at Amazon: WOLFEN(1981) R1 DVD