Werewolves and vampires are popular these days thanks to things like the Twilight movies and HBO's True Blood but that doesn't mean that everything containing a vampire or a werewolf that comes down the pop culture pipeline is good, or even interesting. Case in point? Wolf Moon, a low budget straight to video werewolf movie directed by Dana Menie now available for your viewing pleasure on DVD from Lionsgate.
The movie follows a guy named Dan (Chris Devvichio) who is a bit of a longer. You know the type, he wears sunglasses a lot and doesn't seem to fit in much, but unlike most real world loners, he's an attractive, even buff, young man. This brings him to the attention of a cute small town girl named Amy (Ginny Weirick), who soon falls head over heels in love with loner Dan, completely unaware that, gasp, he's got a family curse to deal with. Can you guess what the curse is? I bet you can. It's the curse of lycanthropy and this curse is the real reason that Dan has been wandering around like a grouchy lame-ass David Banner from town to town all this time.
At any rate, poor Amy is in love with a werewolf. When the locals in the small town find out about this, they're none too happy and things get even more complicated when Dan's dad, a guy named Bender (Max Ryan) and the man who gave him the curse in the first place, shows up to take care of business his own way.
Maybe it's a coincidence that this movie borrows from the Twilight movies here and there or maybe it's not, maybe it is actually a cheap, lame knock off of those Hollywood blockbusters. Who knows, and who cares. Wolf Moon really isn't worth thinking about all that much. The plot is predictable and uninspired and the acting no better. There are a couple of okay effects scenes that earn the film its R-rating for bloody violence, but they can't save the picture. Neither can the presence of cult favorites Sid Haig (well cast as a crazy farmer), Billy Drago (not so well cast as the town sheriff) and Lin Shaye (Haig and Drago also served as co-producers, which explains their presence in the picture). They add very little aside from the novelty that their cameo's obviously carries with it and the movie wouldn't have been any worse if they'd been left out of it.
The film is also pretty choppy in how it's edited. There are very drastic shifts in tone throughout the film, as it bounces back between a melodramatic love story and a fairly standard werewolf versus small town lynch mob horror picture. This can and does pull the viewer out of the film, just as you start getting into the romance aspect, boom, the film shifts to horror film territory and just when the horror film territory looks like it could be going somewhere, boom, it's back to the melodrama. As such, neither aspect winds up being handled all that well.
The gore scenes are handled fairly well and are stronger than you might expect them to be, but ultimately the film can't really decide what it wants to be or where it wants to go. The marginally entertaining aspects of it get bulldozed by the editing problems, the sporadic acting, and the clichés that riddle the script. The film isn't the worse of Lionsgate's low budget straight to video cheapies released in the last year or two, but it's not exactly a high water mark in independent horror filmmaking either.
Wolf Moon looks like the low budget straight to video release that is on this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The film looks okay for what it is but shimmering is definitely a constant and noticeable issue. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or nasty edge enhancement but black levels do sometimes get a little bit murky and muddy looking. Skin tones generally fare well enough and color reproduction isn't half but, but this isn't the most polished of films and it's not the greatest transfer you've ever seen either. It's passable, at times bordering on good, but not always consistent.
The sole audio track for the feature is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, though subtitles are provided in both English and Spanish. There isn't a ton of rear channel action here though some good channel separation is noticeable in the front of the mix. Generally levels are well balanced and dialogue is easy enough to understand. It won't floor you with its awesome sonic power but it gets the job done.
Extras are pretty slim on this release though aside from some trailers (one for the feature and a few unrelated spots) Lionsgate has supplied a commentary track with actor Max Ryan and co-writer/director Dana Mennie. They talk about how they set about trying to give the film a western feel, how they tried to do this in a style that was different from the Hollywood norm, and what it was like shooting out in the sticks. They discuss character development and how and why the performances were done in such a way as to accentuate that, and of course, talk about the different co-stars and collaborators who worked on this project with them. It's not really going to change your mind about the film or really school you in the art of filmmaking, but if you dug the movie and want to know more about it, it'll serve that purpose.
Wolf Moon is pretty horrible stuff. It's not well made, nor is it well acted, nor is it exciting, scary, tense or interesting. It's pretty hard to think that even the most ardent werewolf movie fan will find much of value here. Lionsgate's DVD looks and sounds as good as it needs to and it does offer some added value with the commentary, but the feature itself, while not the worst film ever made, is rather dull and remarkable only in how unexceptional it really is.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.