I enjoy deeply gothic, drenched in blood, horror films as much as
the next person, but the French blockbuster "Brotherhood of the
listing) is sorely lacking in finesse. It zooms when it should
zag and ducks when it should leap. It's an incomplete film that took
Europe by storm, but will have a more difficult time finding interest
this side of the pond.
In 1765, during the reign of Louis XV, a vicious beast is roaming
the French countryside looking to dine on women, children and the
men who try to stop it. The country is gripped in fear, leaving the
king to send for two men, Fronsac, a scientist (Samuel Le Bihan)
and his Iroquois blood brother, Mani (Mark Dacascos, of "The
Crow" television series), to put an end to the menace. But as soon
as the two men get close enough to the beast to destroy it, they
learn that this creature of terror has become the least of their
Though mostly a scare flick, "Brotherhood Of The Wolf" also
includes moments of high-flying martial arts. Mani is a character
trained in kicks and leaps, and this furnishes the film with a
slightly silly, Hong Kong superhero mood. Maybe a novelty in the
film's native France, the kung-fu felt like leftovers to me. In this age
of "The Matrix," "Charlie's Angels,"
and all the Asian films reissued by Miramax lately, it's hard to get
excited watching people flying over each other, delivering body
blows, while an overactive sound effects crew sells the hits. Not
that it's unappetizing to watch, as you can clearly see the Sergio
Leone/Tsui Hark effect director Christophe Gans is going for, but
the fight moments seem out of place with the rest of the picture. I
wanted more of the men hunting the beast, trying to deconstruct
this urban legend with a body count, not endless, annoying
slow-motion scenes of them fending off angry mobs one by one.
Yet, even with these scenes of violence, Gans is unable to
carefully sustain the energy level equally throughout the film. When
the action stops, a heavy narrative takes its place to explain just
what is going on, and what will happen next. These scenes are
needed to complete the story arc, but they slow the film
considerably, unable to siphon the volcanic fury of the beast
segments, or even the cheesy slap-fighting of the martial arts. At
140 minutes, this uneven mood weighs down the potential for
blistering fun that "Wolf" promises in the opening reel.
Director Gans certainly has a deep-focus eye for the period. "Wolf"
is nothing if not completely lavish in both set and costume
designs. Meticulous without ever overcompensating, and grimy to
the last grain of dirt, "Wolf" doesn't falter when it comes to its
technical achievements. He even manages (with the help of the
Jim Henson Creature Shop) to find a fully realized creature in the
terrorizing beast. A mixture of CG and puppet, the beast looks
great, and doesn't appear like the overproduced creatures of
recent American productions. Gans keeps the beast shots to a
bare minimum, thus amping up the terror. The beast sequences
are the film's best, since they are the only moments of pure
cinema in the film. Gans impresses with his painstaking attention
to terror, and with a little less baggage next time, could easily
make a film that will blow the genre out of the water.
It's tough to understand if "Brotherhood Of The Wolf" should be
taken seriously. It is delivered with a straight face, yet contains
moments that will most certainly elicit laughs. Walking that kind of
tightrope is tough, and while "Wolf" is an interesting mix of genres,
I can't honestly say that it's altogether successful.
Filmfodder Grade: C