Directed by William Brent Bell
Written by William Brent Bell & Matthew Peterman
Starring A.J. Cook, Brian Scott O’Connor, Sebastian Roché, Simon Quarterman, Vik Sahay, Stephanie Lemelin, Brian Johnson, Oaklee Pendergast, Camelia Maxim, Alexandru Nedelcu
Find out more about this film here!
My site. My rules. I’m putting WER into my countdown for 2014-2015 at the #7.5 spot mainly because it wasn’t until last night that I saw the film and because it works as a wonderful double feature to watch with my #7 film LATE PHASES as both tell original and entertaining takes on the werewolf story. WER is not your typical werewolf film. It doesn’t have a transformation scene, per se. Instead, it feels more like a LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL WEREWOLF UNIT episode.
When an American family vacationing in France is massacred by what at first seems to be a wild animal, further investigation points to Talan Gwynek (Brian Scott O’Connor), an eccentric local cursed with Porphyria, a disease where the body is covered with thick hair and his teeth are extremely long and pointed. Talan lives in the forest with his mother and is a local outcast, so the police immediately target him for the crime. Lawyer Kate Moore (A.J. Cook) has been assigned to Talan’s case with her ex-boyfriend/forensics expert Gavin (Simon Quarterman) and her overprotective investigative partner Eric (Vik Sahay). But the deeper Kate and her team investigates this case, the more it points towards something more supernatural is at play here. The investigation uncovers a plot to take the land Talan’s family lives on as well as deep and dark secrets that his family has kept. Is there a giant animal loose in France mauling everything in its path or is Talan cursed with a bloodlust that peaks at the light of the full moon?
Before WER, William Brent Bell made the found footage flick THE DEVIL INSIDE (a film I have yet to see) and has since unleashed THE BOY and its sequel BRAHMS: THE BOY II. He also has completed ESTHER, the prequel to the extremely disturbing THE ORPHAN. So the guy has been responsible for some decent mainstream horror through the years. While clips of WER might lead you to believe it is a found footage film, it is quickly made evident in the opening moments that it is not as the film starts out from the first person POV of a handheld recorder, but then shifts to the perspective of the wolf from deep in the woods stalking the family. At first, this annoyed the hell out of me, as it breaks the found footage rules right off the bat. But soon I learned that while it may look like a found footage film as almost every scene is made with a handheld and shaky style, but that’s just the style Bell chose to make this film in. At times, this faux found footage style is annoying as the camera is rarely steady at all from beginning to end, but I found the story to be so engaging that I was able to look past it.
The story of WER is extremely engaging. Using the multi-platform format by interspersing news reports to intro the story before the film adopts a more conventional cinematic approach, the is quickly caught up to the initial crime, the capture of Talan, and the steps taken to take him to trial for the crime. While these events might be most of the movie for some, all of this is taken care of in the first few minutes. What we see is a police investigation and a crime drama play out as the cops and the lawyers gather information on the case. This includes a few red herrings, some interesting interviews that reveal as much about the accusers as those who are accused of the crime, and some great investigation moments that you don’t usually see in horror films. These scenes felt much more at home in something like CSI or LAW & ORDER and it makes this film feel much more distinct than your typical werewolf film. WER places the myth of the wolfman in a modern light, utilizing modern representations of the law, the public persecution by the media and mob, and the forensics detective work that scientifically dissects the genre. It’s a fresh and topical way to look at the tried and true werewolf genre and probably one of the more original werewolf films you’ll see.
All of the performances are wonderfully done. AJ Cook is great as Kate, the passionate and sympathetic lawyer who believes the gentle giant Talan is innocent. Seeing this story unfold through her eyes provides a legal POV that still has belief in right and wrong. It’s a POV that unravels as the natural world gives way to more supernatural things and it’s fascinating to see her react to all of it. It doesn’t seem like much CG was used in making Brian Scott O’Connor the gigantic and monstrous Talan. He is a mammoth sized man with hands as big as catcher’s mitts. I don’t know if you can fake this guy’s massive size and presence in every scene he is in. He delivers a dynamic performance as the shy and introverted gentle giant as well as the rampaging beast many believe him to be. This is a physical performance that couldn’t be accomplished by many actors, but O’Connor is fascinating in every scene he is in. His performance is one of the most iconic wolfmen that has ever graced the screen.
WER is an all-around amazing film. Full of surprises and twists, I honestly had no idea where this film was going to go next. It’s a complex tale, told with real world sensibilities. Along with LATE PHASES, WER is one of the best modern day werewolf stories you’re ever going to see. Fantastic, yet simple effects, brutal kills, and a creative take on a genre in desperate need of a revival, WER is simply one of the best werewolf films you’re going to see.