Wer (2013)

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*. This is a film that might have been something special. A legal thriller with an international flavour crossed with a werewolf story, all told via the now familiar “faux-documentary” melange of different video styles, from shaky cam to CCTV security video to news coverage.
*. Maybe it’s the mash-up of styles that doesn’t work. I’m not sure if you can make a good movie that jumps around so much between the different formats. You need time to adjust.
*. This confusion as to what direction the movie is going in follows through to the presentation of the werewolf. For the most part he’s just a big hairy guy with super strength. We see his shape starting to shift under his skin in what seems to be a prelude to a transformation scene, but then there is no transformation. He just stays a big hairy guy. He can apparently drop to all fours and run at 70 miles per hour, but this doesn’t involve any change in form either. It’s like the producers weren’t entirely sure they wanted him to be a werewolf, or even what they wanted him to be.
*. I thought they might be trying to make some sort of social or political point about him at first. Talan Gwynek is a Romanian immigrant (which is where the film was actually shot) and apparently his family are on the outs with the locals because they’re sitting on land that’s slated to be a depository for nuclear waste. The American lawyer who comes to his defence is some kind of human rights specialist. So things are set up to come at us with a Message. But in the second half of the movie all of this is dropped.
*. The confusion might have also infected the cast. None of the performances here strike me as being very good and I think it might be because the actors seem lost much of the time. I wonder if they were being asked to improvise a lot. A number of the scenes have the look of rough takes where they’re rehearsing.
*. Brian Scott O’Connor plays Talan but he doesn’t have to do much since the character remains a cipher. Even in human form he’s just a looming presence, his face concealed behind a curtain of dirty locks. We don’t have any sympathy for him and he’s without any psychological interest.
*. Werewolf movies are hard because, as with zombies, the audience knows the drill. I think that a big problem here is that there are no twists or new spins given to the material (the medicalization of lycanthropy has always been part of the genre), so that we’re all out ahead of everyone else. Much of the first half is quite slow moving, and the second half settles into a lot of conventional situations. There are even a bunch of corny jump scares (though I did like the dropping arm in the morgue).
*. The ending, by which I mean the climax and not the epilogue, is very bad. Very, very bad. The improbabilities keep mounting as the movie chugs along until we hit a veritable crescendo of unbelievability. Really, you’re going to have to try hard not to laugh.
*. I hate to say any movie that I don’t find morally objectionable is all bad, so I’ll just repeat that I did like the jump scare in the morgue and I also liked the homage to Un Chien Andalou (as dramatically pointless as it was). Aside from those two moments, I thought this was pretty much a failure in every regard. Some hopeful critics online seem to have seen in it a promising sign of life in the werewolf genre. I think they were kidding themselves, and not paying enough attention to what else has been going on. This is definitely one to be missed.

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