Saturday, December 22, 2012

Werewolf: The Beast Among Us – review

Director: Louis Morneau

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

My friend Gabriel told me about this film and suggested that it might qualify as an honourable mention due to the brief appearance of a vampire. In actuality the character revealed to be a vampire is in the film throughout and so, whether we know it or not, a vampire plays a large role in this and thus it gets a review. I am also going to spoil the vampire related reveal – sorry.

The film itself carried an air of a SyFy original but it is actually a Univeral 1440 – the home entertainment wing of the more famous film studio. Of course this gives it a certain pedigree and when one thinks of the setting, and how to explain it, I guess we could say it is in a similar universe to that of Van Helsing set in a not quite steampunk era, a Victoriana where hunters have flame-throwers and Gatling guns.

Rd Quinn as Charles
After seeing the slaughter of a mother and father and the killing of the wolf by son Charles (played as a child by Stefan Iancu and as an adult by Ed Quinn, True Blood season 2) we cut forward in time and he is part of a group of elite werewolf hunters. They hear tell of a village under attack by a werewolf of unusual properties. Firstly the wolf transforms over the three nights of full moon rather than just the main night. As they hunt it they discover that it displays intelligence, seems to hunt evil men and the gypsies nearby warn that if it is not slain by the solstice moon it will develop the ability to turn at will.

Stephen Rea as Doc
A young man named Daniel (Guy Wilson) lives in the village and works with Doc (Stephen Rea, Interview with the Vampire & Underworld Awakening), the town doctor, whilst waiting to get into medical school. He has studied the victim’s corpses, been involved in euthanasia of the bitten (there seems to be a revenant/returning dead aspect to the curse as well – needing head shots and flame throwers to dispose of, but I couldn’t catch the word they used to describe them.) And you know what, that’s all I intend to tell you about the werewolf story. Rather let us look at the vampire…

Adam Croasdell as Stefan 
There is a character who wears a set of silver fangs when hunting werewolves but (as well as seeming an unconvincing and inadequate hunting weapon) he is not our vampire. That honour falls to a suave, if somewhat creepy, hunter called Stefan (Adam Croasdell). His nature is not revealed until the end of the film, though he is involved in some acrobatics that, with hindsight, might have hinted. Sunlight doesn’t bother him, nor are animals afraid of him it seems. Like the werewolf he gains power on solstice night.

showing fangs
He reveals that he has been hunting vampires for 100 years (and it is also hinted that Charles knows of his nature). His interest in Daniel’s love Eva (Rachel DiPillo) takes a more sinister twist (rather than just creepy) when we realise what he is. Impalement through the heart is the only way to kill a vampire and that is about all we get. However he is a constant character through the film and the ‘twist’ feels natural enough rather than a Deus ex Machina.

The film itself isn’t too bad. The effects are okay, there are plenty of mutilated bodies as this beast does kill and kills often – though it is primarily aftermath we see. Ed Quinn exudes cool as Charles, Adam Croasdell is clearly having great fun as Stefan and Stephen Rea is always a joy. But… all that said it does have that SyFy feal I mentioned, a cheapening of the whole affair. The technology idiosyncraities I could definitely live with and, overall, I found it above average… it was just… that feel of SyFy managing to leave an unfortunate trace of a bad after-taste in the mouth.

5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK


Fangfan408592 said...

Was curious about the vampire mythos in this one. The werewolf's victims sometimes turn into ghoul-like foaming creatures that need to be decapitated. They are referred to as "verdilaks." The vampire is also labled a "verdilak," though his behavior and appearance bears no resemblance to the lesser ghouls. Found this confusing. Any thoughts?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Fangfan408592 , thanks for commenting.

The entire idea of the almost zombie or ghoul like victims was indeed perplexing. I struggled to catch the word they were using, if verdilak then it is a specific type of vampire - though why the werewolf would create them is unknown - though we should note the Slavic lore that a werewolf might become a vampire on death and this might have a been a variation on that.

The verdilak is a variant of vourdalak - these featured in the story the Family of the Vourdalak by Count Alexis Tolstoy.

The vourdalak are more intelligent than what the film displays in respect of the ghoul like creatures, but prey on family and loved ones and so are probably more restricted geographically (and in terms of feeding) than Stefan who can wander the land and chow on however takes his fancy.

Perhaps the film makers were using it as a collective name for undead creatures?

My take on the killing methodology was that it was a head shot which was needed, rather than full decapitation. This would be more akin to modern zombie lore than vampire lore as a head shot won't necessarily stop a vampire (in many films and books) and full decapitation is necessary (Of course there are plenty of films where the vampire can survive without its head as well).

All in all I realise that this isn't a definitive answer as only the scriptwriter would be able to tell us what he was thinking. However, I think that the overarching name for the undead is the best fit given the evidence.

Unknown said...

Sorry for the delayed response. My recollection was it was the unique nature of the titular werewolf (cursed at birth rather than by bite) that spawned the "verdilak" ghouls i.e. a typical run-of-the-mill lycanthrope would not have this "ability." Based on the appearance and nature of the two ghoul verdilaks we see it is hard for me to believe that the refined Stefan ever was one of them. He seems to be of a
separate undead species.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

hey Scott, thanls for the comment and don't apologise.

I totally see where you are coming from, of course the problem is that the film doesn't tell us.

Your theory, of course, is valid though one wonders whether the hinters had seen the phenpmena before

Kron said...

This is an old post, but I have some thoughts on the verdilak/vourdalak/vampire and werewolf connection. It seems that the film implying that people who are bitten by a werewolf and live become werewolves themselves. People who are bitten by a werewolf and die come back as vampire/ghoul/undead. As for why the hunter character behaved differently, most of the verdilak we see in the film are only a few weeks old, and he claims to be over a hundred. Maybe intelligence is a matter of age or feeding on enough humans? Either way, I think the film is trying to say they're all the same creature just created under different circumstances.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

This is also a valid idea Kron. Happy to receive a comment no matter how old the post :)