A Canadian-produced TV movie consisting of a little bit of narrative between myriad shots of wolves running through wilderness, Hybrid is cheap, uncaptivating horror. This is part of the Maneater series of DVD's, but I hope it isn't representative of the quality of the rest of the movies. No people are eaten in this pseudo-werewolf film, and the first mauling takes place two thirds of the way through the total running time. All of Hybrid's shortcomings epitomize what happens with low-budget films, and its poor treatment on home video make this a disc you'll want to avoid.
The story begins with Dr. Hewlett (Justine Bateman), who works at the Olaris Medical Research Facility. She has successfully transplanted various organs between animal species, and she's ready to try doing so with humans. Meanwhile, Lydia (Tinsel Korey), a young woman of Native American descent, finds an injured wolf on the road and tries to get it treatment. Wolvie wolves. Finally, Aaron (Cory Monteith), who works at a water treatment plant-- which for some reason has barrels of combustible materials in it-- loses his eyesight while trying to rescue a coworker from a fire. Their stories intersect as Aaron agrees to be the first human subject for Dr. Hewlett. He is given the wolf's eyes, and they allow him to see again, but they also start to change his behavior. Soon, Aaron is on the run, aided by Lydia, and the Olaris security forces are hot on their trail. An old, wise man helps Aaron understand his predicament through Native American beliefs.
And we see some shots of wolves.
The problems with Hybrid abound. While much of the stock dialogue is completely worthless anyway, there seem to be a few parts, in longer takes, where the actors genuinely stumble over their lines, but the scene is allowed to continue. The hand-to-hand combat is performed by non-stunt people, and it shows, being completely unconvincing and lacking in visceral energy. There are a couple of stunts that obviously required real stunt people, and they're pretty cool, but the cutting still makes it obvious that part of the stunt was faked, whereas in a big budget movie the stunt would have been shown all in one take. Wolves. One can also see that the lighting from shot to shot does not match up within certain scenes. Shot outside, the sunlight just didn't cooperate.
As Aaron takes on more and more of a wolf's characteristics, he begins to have heightened senses and to crave the hunt and the meat that a wolf does. His eyes, one of the only effective visual gags in the film, glow a deep yellow. But Monteith's physicality is unimpressive. He does not convey an animal instinct with his movements, and the "transformation" aspect of the film comes off as laughable (he never actually transforms into a werewolf). If only Toshiro Mifune was born 65 years later and in Canada.
As Aaron changes, we repeatedly cut to his mind's eye, which is showing wolves. In packs or alone, we simply look at them. A lot. Over and over again. It gets to the point of being ridiculous, and, combined with the bad dialogue, makes you wonder why the filmmakers didn't simply aim for straight camp on purpose.
On the up side, Aaron does beat up a male softball team in a restaurant. I guess we know what Canadians think of men who don't play hockey.
Wolves...I Mean, The Image
Easily the most surprising part of this DVD, the picture is actually pretty good. Though it appears to have been shot on mini-DV, the image rarely falls into that "this looks like home video" quality that so haunts the format. (Let me mention that I couldn't find for sure what the movie was shot on on the internet.) I don't know if this was accomplished in post or on location, but the cinematography by Barry Gravelle looks very rich, with good black levels, and there are no artifacts to speak of. Let's go with post. The 1.78:1 image matches widescreen TV's perfectly, and it is, surprisingly, anamorphically enhanced. The wolves look pretty good.
The audio consists of only one track, which is English 2.0. The closing credits mentioned 5.1 programming for the film, so it's really annoying that it doesn't actually exist on the DVD. The stereo is all right, but it isn't great. The base isn't deep enough, but it would only be useful for the rare gun shots fired in the film or the two shots where Aaron rides his motorcycle (or during the soundtrack's rap songs). The music by Terry Frewer sounds fine, consisting largely of driving beats and some Native American chanting. The wolves howl. A lot.
The Special Features
There are absolutely no special features on Hybrid, as this is as bare-bones as any DVD can get. The disc starts with a trailer for the Maneater series that plays automatically, but that is the only thing that even resembles a special feature. There is only one audio track, and there aren't even any subtitles.
Some Final Thoughts
Like wolves? We've got them! Shots of wolves running! Shots of wolves howling! Black wolves! White wolves! Wolves somewhere in between! They've got more shots than a frat party! If you like wolves, Hybrid is your movie!
If not, then this is just poorly done semi-horror. If you want to see something good involving lycanthropy and Native American mysticism, check out the "X-Files" episode from season 1 called Shapes. Considering the lack of bells and whistles on this disc, it gets a much deserved "Skip It." More wolves.