The Wolfman: A Howling Good Flick

The big added element that was much less prominent in The Wolf Man of 1941 by Lon Chaney, Jr. (which was not the first "Wolfman" picture but is still the best) is the daddy issues Lawrence Talbot has been carrying with him since he was a boy. As the dad, Anthony Hopkins doesn't much look like Del Toro but has the creepy authority of a man who demands to be obeyed. Yet Hopkins doesn't overplay his hand, maintaining an aura of solemn mystery about just what haunts this fellow in his crumbling wreck of a country pile.

I could have done without the now-obligatory-in-every-blockbuster scene of political allegory -- Lawrence gets committed to a mental hospital in London where he undergoes a kind of waterboarding, as though we're supposed to think that al-Qaeda's animals should be treated a little more humanely -- but the transformation sequences are fully convincing, and shot through with agony as Lawrence's bones grow and creak. Okay, so there is something a little silly about a familiar actor's eyes being visible in a face that becomes thickly covered with shag carpeting, but the way the wolfman flings himself in every direction with no objective except ripping into everything in sight is pretty cool.

The Wolfman has some subplots, such as one about a zealous Christian minister who preaches that the creature has been sent from hell, and a love story develops between Lawrence and Gwen. But the movie doesn't seriously make the case that the religious types are wackjobs for being threatened by the marauding animal, or that a love affair between a he-beast and the local lovely has much of a chance to work out.

It's a monster movie done the old-fashioned way -- with no apologies.