Most werewolf movies are firmly planted in a world of fantasy. Curses and gypsies and ancient poems "explain" the lycanthropic phenomenon. But what would a werewolf movie based in science look like? And what if that was crossed with a police procedural type story? It would probably look a lot like Wer, a movie that tries very hard, but doesn't fire on all cylinders.
The film is told in a mixed found footage and straight narrative, shot shaky cam style, and it opens in rural France with a horrific attack on a young family, with the father and young son being killed outright, and the mother grievously wounded. Hulking Talan Gwynek (Brian Scott O'Connor) is soon arrested for the crime, his large size and the dense hair covering his body matching the brief description from the only living victim. Kate Moore (A.J. Cook), an idealistic young attorney, steps in to defend him, believing him to be wrongfully accused. She is assisted by an expert on animal attacks, and her former lover, Gavin (Simon Quaterman) and computer expert Eric (Vik Sahay). Together they try to figure out what is really going on, which may involve dodgy land deals, murder, and obscure diseases.
Gavin believes that Talan suffers from porphyria, and would have been too weak to have committed the vicious attack, and this is the main line of their proposed defense. Of course, things don't go quite as planned, not least because the detective in charge of the investigation, Klaus Pistor (Sebastian Roche) may have reasons of his own for Talan being convicted of the crime.
The central question of the film becomes whether Talan really is a werewolf, and if so what exactly that means. In theory this sounds like a very interesting approach to the werewolf genre, but in practice it's a bit dull and plodding. Make no mistake, the production is of high quality, the effects quite good, and the performances superb. O'Connor gives off a quiet menace, and a sense of barely restrained violence whenever he is on the screen, and Cook plays the perky and hard driving attorney to perfection. But not enough seems to happen. The reveals aren't exciting or unexpected, and the scares are too minor and spaced too far apart to keep up the appropriate atmosphere for the film to work.
There are a number of decent jump scares, and some exciting sequences, such as when Talan freaks out during his medical examination, and these are all well executed. Even the CG blood splatter was good enough to not take the viewer out of the moment. But these individual sequences and scares aren't well connected, and are separated by boring relationship drama, or dreary research, or just slow moving whatever. And the climactic battle between Talan and another character, which I won't name to avoid spoilers, isn't particularly climactic. Wer has a lot going for it, but can't manage to pull it together into a coherent and enjoyable whole. Rent it.