The horror genre took a big leap backward when computer-generated effects took over from prosthetics and animatronic monsters.  Werewolf: The Beast Among Us, a C-grade Universal Studios rehash, makes this abundantly clear with its baboon-like lycanthrope bounding through a central European forest and maiming villagers to less-than-thrilling cinematic effect.  Unoriginal and unlikely to do much for the theatrical fortunes of furry monsters, Werewolf is still far from being a total loss.

Though plainly rooted in Universal horror tradition, Werewolf also borrows from that other venerable genre of golden age Hollywood, the western, with the plot revolving around a bounty and Ed Quinn playing his beast hunter as a Wild West gunslinger.  Also part of the motley posse are tough broad Kazia (Ana Ularu), mannered annoyance Stefan (Adam Croasdell), and – though the group only accepts his assistance reluctantly – newsboy-capped whippersnapper and medical student Daniel (frequently shirtless Guy Wilson).  Party Machine‘s Nia Peeples, meanwhile, displays her cleavage capably as Daniel’s mother.

V for Vendetta‘s Stephen Rea brings a haggard air of a life lived painfully to his part as Doc, Daniel’s mentor and the man who must deal with the mounting heaps of corpses as the werewolf attacks increase.  Rea has the best and most interesting face and presence of any of the actors, and could have enhanced the film still further had his screen time been extended at the expense of the broader, less individual characterizations.

The action sequences are adequate, but marred by hyperkinetic camera work and such gimmicky moments as the hackneyed following of a bullet in close-up as it makes its way toward its target.  Because Hollywood has yet to produce a convincing and truly frightening creature via computer animation, periodic recourse is had to lurid shots of nicely realized gore and guts to keep the audience alert.  None of this would have been necessary, however, had the script amounted to something more than recycled ideas, and if director Louis Morneau had borne in mind the infallible Val Lewton formula for suspense, in which shadow and suggestion rather than show are of greatest importance.

2.5 of 5 possible stars.  ICA’s advice: watch I Was a Teenage Werewolf again instead.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Werewolf: The Beast Among Us is:

6. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  A village bigot suggests that, rather than going after the werewolf, the people ought to be hunting “stinking gypsies”.

5. Racist!  Notwithstanding the above, Werewolf perpetuates the positive gypsy stereotype of ancient, arcane wisdom.  Also, one character (a gypsy?) embodies the unwashed, dishonest archetype of the bandoliered Mexican bandit of yore.

4. Feminist.  More than one woman must violently assert her dignity when a man rudely puts his paw on her.

3. Anti-vigilante.  Thuggish villagers more than once shoot innocent people in error.

2. Class-conscious.  Daniel’s rich girlfriend’s father fires a warning shot to make clear the lad is unwelcome.  From the moment the cocky vampire Stefan calls Daniel “peasant boy”, his comeuppance is inevitable.

1. Secularist/anti-religion.  The spiritual paraphernalia of monster combat are absent, with lycanthropy characterized as a biological contagion rather than as a curse.  Daniel, in a moment of intense stress, picks up a book (probably the Bible) briefly but throws it to the floor in despair.  Christian symbolism is utilized, however, with a werewolf suspended from a tree in a sympathetic monster-as-martyr crucifixion pose.  (As in the classic I Was a Teenage Werewolf, a young man’s monstrous adolescent angst is exacerbated and manipulated with unwholesome ambition by an older, morally corrupt authority figure.)

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