Reviews

'Night Wolf': A Familiar Genre Romp Through the Dark

When Sarah returns home she gets more than she bargained for: monsters!


Night Wolf

Director: Jonathan Glendening
Cast: Isabella Calthorpe, Tom Felton, Gemma Atkinson, Joshua Bowman
Distributor: Lionsgate
Rated: R
Release date: 2012-04-24

You can tell a lot about a movie by the trailers that play in front of it on a DVD. Take Night Wolf for example. The parade of previews on the new DVD from Lionsgate all fall into a similar vein: low-grade horror, involving a monster of some sort, full of lots of blood and actors you’ve never heard of and don’t recognize.

Night Wolf (aka 13 Hrs, aka 13 Hours) has a leg up on these movies because you know at least one of the actors involved. Tom Felton, Malfoy from the Harry Potter films, shows up for a while. He’s not the star—he plays a horny, half-wit sidekick—but it’s something, and the movie can definitely use any boost it can get. Night Wolf isn’t a bad genre romp, there simply isn’t anything at all to separate it from the herd of monster-themed horror. From the set up, right on down the line, it just isn’t anything special.

Sarah Tyler (Isabella Calthorpe) hasn’t returned to her familial Scottish estate since running away from a bunch of drama. Eight months ago she swapped the gloomy isolated woods for the bright lights and fast city living of Los Angeles. Things have changed in her absence—the house is in shambles, there are money problems, rumors of infidelity between her mother and stepfather, and all of her siblings and partial siblings are wasting their abundant small-town free time partying, doing little else. Oh, and when Sarah shows up she finds her 13-year old brother in the midst of his first real high. That’s indicative of what’s been going on.

Director Jonathan Glendening (Strippers vs. Werewolves) spends roughly 20-minutes on set up then goes for it with gusto. A storm hits, the lights go out, and a mystery creature shows up and starts hunting down your characters. Like I said, there’s little to differentiate Night Wolf. There's gore, chases, and frantic scenes where the crew tries to figure out exactly what the hell it is that’s picking them off and tearing them apart. The title obviously makes you think werewolf, but Glendening does good job keeping the monster hidden and that minor mystery alive.

There's no one really worth rooting for in Night Wolf, and that’s a problem. Sarah is as close as you come, but even she can be an off-putting jackass who says hurtful things to her friends just to be mean. Everyone else is a hopeless case. Except for Doug (Joshua Bowman, Revenge), he’s dreamy. That’s the full extent of his personality, but it’s better than Gary’s (Felton) constant sexual innuendo, no subtly here; Stephen’s (Peter Gadiot) pathological bullying; or Emily’s (Gemma Atkinson) ditsy blond genre stereotype. You can’t invest yourself in anyone.

With little originality to make it stand out, the one thing Night Wolf does manage to pull off is a decent twist. Not only is it a solid turn, but it's set up well, and actually earned within the script. That’s both refreshing and appreciated in a day and age when so many films pull a sudden surprise out of a hat without doing any work at all for the privilege. Still, there’s nothing earth shattering, here, and if you pay attention you’ll figure out what’s coming, but that knowledge doesn’t necessarily diminish the effectiveness of the move.

The Night Wolf DVD boasts “A producer of Dog Soldiers.” Not producers, mind you, A producer. The film definitely doesn’t measure up to Neil Marshall’s werewolf creature feature, in budget or Marshall’s action chops, but it works okay. Night Wolf is short (85 minutes), fast-paced, and to the point. It doesn’t waste much time getting down to the business of chasing attractive young adults through a creepy mansion in the dark, and you can appreciate that. Entertaining enough for what it is, it's nothing special, and it's difficult to recommend this film to anyone but die-hard horror fans. You’ve seen it done, and you’ve seen it done better, but you’ve also seen it done so, so much worse.

Just as how you can get a good idea of a movie from the trailers on the DVD, you can also paint a picture of a release’s expectations by the bonus material. From appearances no one expects much out of Night Wolf, or at least minimal thought and effort went into this package. Apart from some trailers for other Lionsgate movies and some subtitle options, there aren’t any extras on the Night Wolf DVD.

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