With a new year comes a new format for No-Budget Nightmares. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the rating system I put together when I first started writing for Daily Grindhouse. While I thought it would be fun and silly, the reversed rating (meaning, the lower the better) ended up just being confusing for infrequent readers who would skip right to the bottom. Similarly, no-budget directors – who are generally reliant on word of mouth – couldn’t really cite a “two skulls out of five” as something positive.
I’ve also never been entirely comfortable with an out-of-five rating system in general. I spend an inordinate amount of time writing my reviews for these films – ’cause I’m kind of an idiot — and trying to summarize the nuance(?!) of that writing into a number is simply maddening. Instead, I’m going to simply attempt, however fruitlessly, to summarize my review with a single sentence at the end. It might not be as sexy as having FIVE STARS ***** plastered on a poster but, heck, it’ll do the job.
So let’s talk about WOLFCOP. Regular readers of the site might know we were early supporters of the film’s concept, as well as director Lowell Dean‘s attempts to pursue the Canadian CineCoup “prize” of a million dollars in financing. Basically, CineCoup is a contest where Canadian indie genre filmmakers can compete for financing (and eventual national distribution) for their concept. Considering how rare it is for Canadian films to get any theatrical attention at all, this had the potential to be a huge deal for directors looking to break out of the straight-to-DVD/digital cycle that most find themselves in. The campaign was aided by a terrific concept trailer which impressively showed what the concept — rural Canadian cop get turned into bad-ass, crime-fighting werewolf — might look like. Dean and his crew handily won the contest, and WOLFCOP became a reality.
Does the final product live up to that initial trailer? Frustratingly, the answer is both yes and no. Werewolf horror comedies have a (no pun intended) strong pedigree, but those expecting A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN SASKATCHEWAN are going to likely be disappointed by a film that trades more in goofy comedy and outrageous gore than any genuine thrills. It’s still a fun, and surprisingly attractive, package, but doesn’t quite live up to the crackerjack concept.
One of the film’s biggest failings is its lead, with Officer Lou Garou (like Loups-Garous, French for werewolf) being so unpleasant that all of the pre-werewolf portion becomes a humorless slog. It doesn’t help that Leo Fafard brings little charisma to the role. Things rightfully pick up once the hapless policeman gets attacked by cult members and wakes up with a pentagram carved into his chest, and the first Lycanthropic conversion is a humdinger. The practical effects — by Emersen Ziffle, who worked with Lowell Dean previously on 13 EERIE — are extremely well done, and while slightly more cartoonish than the work in standard-bearers like AMERICAN WEREWOLF or THE HOWLING, it definitely fits the tone of the film.
Dean really gets to show his chops during the film’s multiple action scenes, which mix lashings of gore with many, many puns — usually spouted by our hairy hero. There are plenty of bloody face-rippings and decapitations, so gorehounds will be in heaven. Oddly, the film’s final action scene is by far its worst, with some iffy gunfire effects mixing with choppy editing to turn the climax into a bit of a dud. Even the colorful look of the film — and much credit has to go to cinematographer Peter La Rocque — goes out the window for these final moments, which focus more on dull, snowy exteriors.
During the non-werewolf sections the supporting cast has to pick up a lot of the slack, and both Amy Matysio (as Garou’s fellow officer Tina) and Sarah Lind (as ridiculously attractive bar-owner Jessica) do fine work in less flashy roles. Jonathan Cherry, so excellent in GOON, tackles the rest of the comic relief and his sidekick character helps add a little mythology to a film that tends to toss many of the traditional werewolf tropes out the window.
While not always able to live up to the promise of its own bat-shit concept, WOLFCOP overcomes a bland hero to provide plenty of bloody action for discriminating werewolf fans. While not yet the next big thing in horror-comedy, director Lowell Dean joins the ranks of the mini-revolution of Canadian genre directors — The Soska Sisters, Jason Eisener, Astron-6 — who have been making waves over the last several years. With WOLFCOP 2 rapidly approaching, here’s hoping Dean can hammer out the dents and give a fully satisfying followup.
IT WON’T HAVE YOU HOWLING WITH LAUGHTER, BUT WOLFCOP STILL DELIVERS THE GOODS.
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