That kind of death would be momentarily terrifying, but then mercifully quick. A different sort of horror awaits the unlucky man close enough to get bitten, but strong enough to survive. Then you become an accursed werewolf yourself.
It’s England, 1891. A widowed nobleman (Anthony Hopkins) lives on a baronial estate with his younger son, who’s planning to marry soon. But, tragically, the prospective groom is slaughtered by a mysterious ravenous beast, and the townspeople are sore afraid, so the grieving fiancée Gwen (Emily Blunt) writes the estranged older brother, Lawrence (Benecio del Toro), begging him to return home and to help find his brother’s killer.
Lawrence, enjoying considerable success as an international stage actor, happened to have been in London, playing Shakespeare in a theater there, and so he reluctantly returns to the sprawling, palatial, but gloomy household of his youth. He and his father, estranged for years, can barely speak to each other without some form of chiding, guilt, recrimination, retribution, or verbal sparring, and it doesn’t get any better. Anthony Hopkins, for his part, plays irascible agreeably, obsequious to the point of menacing.
Lawrence foolishly goes out to chase the beast, and, much to his chagrin, becomes one himself. Gwen tries to love him back to sanity, but that’s about as likely as … talking the devil into repenting. The townsfolk, convinced that the devil is indeed roaming the countryside during full moons, come out in force — not with pikes and pitchforks, but real rifles and pistols, which don’t seem to do much good unless loaded by, you guessed it, silver bullets.
Throw in some gypsy lore, some dark, violent chase scenes, and some jump-out-at-‘em fright sequences, and you get … a new werewolf movie: not exactly modernized, but, at least, a re-telling for a new generation.
RONALD P.SALFEN is pastor of Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.