Universal’s remake of The Wolf Man suffered from two major problems: its CG-heavy wolfman transformation scenes came up short, and it was so dull even the cast seemed constantly on the edge of falling asleep. However, a franchise is a franchise, and there’s more money to be made, so someone at Universal decided the best course of action would be to continue The Wolf Man story with a direct-to-disc sequel that has literally no connection to the previous film. Other than the software they used for the werewolf transformation scenes, anyway. One of the best parts of The Wolf Man was its ending, setting up a sequel in which a werewolf would terrorize Victorian London. Sorry to say that’s not exactly the sequel Universal has delivered.
Unlike The Wolf Man, Werewolf: The Beast Among Us takes place in a world where werewolves are not just known to exist, but a sort of natural disaster like hurricanes or ice storms. A small Eastern European village is being plagued by a particularly picky beast that seems to be smarter– and more vicious– than any previous werewolf that has rolled through town. The town coroner (Stephen Rea) is being kept much busier than usual dealing with the piles of bodies, and his young assistant Daniel (Guy Wilson) is getting more experience than he probably bargained for. As word gets out about the town’s misfortune, bands of werewolf hunters visit to offer their services.
Daniel believes he can assist the hunters, but his mother Valdoma (Nia Peeples) and his girlfriend Eva (Rachel DiPillo) want him to stay out of harm’s way. The werewolf hunters don’t take Daniel seriously anyway, and the dashing Stefan (Adam Croasdell) even makes a play for Eva himself. While the hunters try to figure out a strategy to hunt the beast, the townspeople grow restless and begin throwing anyone even vaguely suspicious in jail, including Valdoma. Daniel tries to join the hunters again so he can prove his mother is not the wolf, but the truth behind the attacks and the beast itself puts Daniel and the monster hunters in a very difficult position. Can they team up to save the town from a monster lurking in plain sight?
Right away, there’s one huge difference between Werewolf and The Wolf Man: an emphasis on action. The film opens with a werewolf siege of a small cabin, and the story line is punctuated with frequent action sequences. The wolf doesn’t really look any better than it did in The Wolf Man, but its somewhat unreal, slick look makes a lot more sense in a direct-to-disc film than a big-budget spectacular. The practical effects are gruesomely effective, and the gore level in general is higher than expected for a major studio release. As effective as the blood and action set pieces are, the cast is mostly faceless, the werewolf hunters in particular defined by their weapons (Stephen Bauer’s quickdraw artist, Ana Ularu’s quasi-steampunk flamethrower). Werewolf: The Beast Among Us is just a few steps up from a SyFy Original, but it’s undeniably a lot more fun than The Wolf Man. If you’re looking for some fast-paced werewolf fun, you could certainly do worse.
Universal released Werewolf: The Beast Among Us on Blu-ray and DVD on 9 October 2012. Special features include deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a feature-length commentary.