With all the cinematic attention vampires and zombies have gotten over the years, I've always been surprised that werewolves has never sparked the public interest. Sure, there are notables out there like Silver Bullet, Ginger Snaps, Dog Soldiers (you do not want to start a conversation with me about a certain Benicio Del Toro...project.), but contemplate this for a moment: before the Mormon-abstinence-telenovela that is Twilight burst onto the scene, the werewolf movie that most often came to mind for your average American under the age of 40 was Teen Wolf. Now I like Teen Wolf, a lot, I own the double-feature DVD with Teen Wolf Too, I even have a t-shirt like Stiles' that says "What Are You Looking at Dicknose," though truthfully that's more of an Always Sunny thing at this point, but I digress; the point is, there aren't a lot of great werewolf movies out there, and what there are are always low-budget. Hollywood should wake up, make a good old-fashioned werewolf pic, without setting it in a good old-fashioned era. Or making the werewolf some dreamy teenage boy. Or making the werewolves somehow subservient to vampires. Or painting them as pack animals. They are not. And they are not glamorous either, nor well-trained or pleased with their condition. Lycanthropy isn't a privilege, it's a curse. America's youth would do well to remember that.
Anyway, none of this has anything to do with The Beast of Bray Road, except that said film is indeed about a werewolf, a reportedly true one at that. Set in rural Wisconsin, the film starts as all good horror films should: with a pretty girl in a stalled car on a lonely stretch of road in the middle of the night. The requisite forest chase by a partially-seen snarling beast ensues. Screams, ripping flesh, and there's your beast - a cross between a werewolf, a bear and a critter - plus only half of the pretty lady. Bitchin' opening.
Well, this death sends a ripple of panic through the small town the lady hailed from, a bucolic hollow full of eccentric characters like tourism-hungry deputies, scandal-seeking budding bloggers, wanton floozies and all their customary small-town bullshit - remarkably like the setting and resulting feel of True Blood. I honestly caught a lot of similarities, despite this film being nearly six years old - all as seen through the eyes of a local sheriff (Jeff Denton), the standard-issue relocated big city cop with some brooding secrets.
Suspects are investigated but nothing pans out, and meanwhile the bodies keep coming, along with sightings from disreputable sources, leading the townsfolk to rather quickly and without much debate decide it must be the Beast of Bray Road. The scene where the legend was explained was my one problem with the script. I really don't like obvious exposition, and that's all this was. But it was mercifully brief, and truthfully the only (minor) flaw in what I thought was an otherwise great script. The other thing I had a problem with last night - the fact that the other law enforcement officers were actively and intentionally dropping the word "werewolf" to the press in order to drum up tourism - this morning I woke up really liking, I don't know why, it just strikes me the day after as pretty funny, and a believable adjustment to the crooked-cop scenario.
Anyway, from here it's basically cat and mouse: the beast kills, the cops get closer, and so on and so on until there's the final confrontation. As I'd like to keep this a relatively spoiler-free site - the point is to get you to watch the movies, after all - I'll just say that I thought I knew how it was ending, and when I figured out I was wrong, they dropped it on me before I could re-figure, another compliment to an excellent script.
So speaking of the script, it was written by the fantastic Leigh Scott, who also edited and directed the film. I've mentioned Mr. Scott here before, he's worked quite often with The Asylum (Frankenstein Reborn, The Hitchhiker, Transmorphers), and his newest film, The Witches of Oz, got a mention in this blog's first Outside the Walls entry. This was by far my favorite of his films to date. The script, as mentioned a few times, was excellent: it built suspense well, even with a full-reveal of the creature in the first five minutes, it scared you, made you laugh, and the characters - even the minor characters - felt fully fleshed out and were inhabited by capable actors at every turn. Denton (King of the Lost World, The 9/11 Commission Report) comes across as the beefy, jowly lovechild of Zack Braff and Dax Shepard and plays the role with the same sort of dry humor as those idiots, only more subtle, not out for amusement as much as he is diffusement, which isn't a word, but I think you get the gist. Other standouts include Sarah Lieving (the documentarian from Monster and E. Roby's oversexed sister in Pod People) as the sultry bartendress and love interest of Denton's Sheriff; Thomas Downey (Shapeshifter, Ballistica) as the Indiana-Jones-esque cryptozoologist; and Andy Lauer, best-known as "Charlie" on "Caroline in the City," as an abusive asshole.
Bottom line, this film was a lot of fun and a good scare, the result of an outstanding script and charged performances, and, of course, the sharp eye of Leigh Scott. It's my kind of werewolf movie.
This review is dedicated to the great state of Wisconsin.
these notes originally posted 9/25/2011
these notes originally posted 9/25/2011