VIDEO: Wolfen (1981)

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After an awesomely successful Kickstarter campaign, the Fear Fan is back! This time, he’s reviewing the lesser-known 1981 film Wolfen. What do you get when you take a a police procedural, Native American mysticism, and a feral, nude Edward James Olmos, and put them in a blender? We have no idea, but we’re about to find out!

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  • Derek Johns

    Glad to see this video, I’ve missed your reviews.

    • fearfanforever

      Thanks, Derek! I missed making them, and now that I’ve got functioning equipment, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me!

      • danbreunig

        Sweetness. Have to admit though, Wolfen wasn’t one I anticipated for the return of Terra Obscura. It’s not a forgettable movie, just simply…forgotten, mostly. (A lot of my faves are the same.) It’s nice to take a look at occasional lost classics and losers outside of anything with Freddy’s or Jason’s names attached to them, like you indicated. Glad to see you back in fine form, Fear Fan!

  • Zorha

    You’ve outdone yourself FearFar. I nearly spit out my Pepsi not once, but three times!

    As for the actual movie, I think the mystical powers the wolves display and lack of coherent explanation really dilute any memorable impact the film would have had. I remember rewatching it a few months ago on Netflix, and forgetting the feral nudity and mysticism angles entirely again. All I could remember (despite the recent viewing) was a subpar detective story coupled with mundane explanation of feral wolves running around an urban area,

    I noticed the new Pacific Rim poster, which also has one of my favorite OST’s.

    • fearfanforever

      Great! Spit takes are a method of measuring my success that I hadn’t yet considered. Still, whatever works, right?
      Pacific Rim has a GREAT soundtrack! A few of my fellow Boothers have actually said that they like to put it on as ‘getting shit done’ music.

  • TheScottCSmith

    Welcome back, Leslie! I saw “Wolfen” back in the 80s but barely remember it. I think even then I believed it to be about werewolves. Which isn’t surprising considering that “The Howling” was released a few months before it, and “An American Werewolf in London” a month or so afterwards. It clearly was lost in the shuffle.

    • fearfanforever

      True! It’s kind of interesting that we had three different films so close together that dealt with the subject of wolves, but in such different ways.
      Kind of makes you lament the creative stagnation you have to deal with these days.

  • DeanD

    FearFan! FearFan! FearFan! FearFan!

    • fearfanforever

      Lol, thanks for your enthusiasm!

  • April

    Welcome back. Great late Christmas present!

    • fearfanforever

      Good to be here, and merry late Christmas!

  • Funky Dynamite

    Wow, that was one hell of a review. Glad to see you back, Fear Fan!

  • CBob

    Great to see you back. I always really enjoy your stuff. Funny for seeing this movie pop up, as I’d only very recently just seen it for the first time myself.

    The “Predator” thing is super, SUPER obvious. My thoughts while watching the movie was that the POV scenes in Predator must have been deliberately copycatting or “visually quoting” Wolfen since the camera work and music feels almost identical. Seriously, just swap the solarization filter effect for a thermal cam effect and they’d be indistinguishable.

    I actually looked up whether Horner did the music for Predator, as he has a rep for recycling his compositions across multiple scores (you can clearly hear a sample of what would become the battle theme from Star Trek II in the clip you used), but no, it was a different guy.

    During the stakeout sequence, the “night vision scopes” are hilariously very clearly just gaffer taped to the M-16 grab handles Red Greene style. Makes them completely useless for aiming, but the protagonist does fell like the kind of guy who’d ghetto something like that out of sheer laziness.

    Speaking of which I do honestly really like how the protagonist is kind of run down and middle aged instead of a pretty 20-something (I liked “The Fog” for this too). We don’t see nearly enough variation in horror movie protagonists IMO. It’s kinda like how “late 20’s/early 30’s brown haired, brown eyed white guy” is the standard template for video game protagonists.

    • fearfanforever

      Glad you enjoyed it! Yeah, the Predator thing is obvious, but I’ve always loved the effect, so I can’t complain. Actually, it would be interesting to see what they could do to represent the wolf’s-eye-view if they did a more modern version. Perhaps, switching from a lower definition to a higher one?
      And yeah, there’s also a hint of Aliens in that same clip! Silvestri did the music for Predator if I’m not mistaken. Good score, but I like what he did with the sequel even better!
      You’re basically right about the horror protagonist being boiled down to a stereotype these days, but that’s always been the way. I think writers sometimes make the main character a blank slate so the audience can identify with them more easily. I call it ‘survival of the blandest’.

      • CBob

        I think it’s part of the reason why Horror movie sequals tend to more and more treat the monster/villian as the protagonist as they go along, and go though actual protagonists like cookies. Once the heros become disposable and the villain takes over as the de-facto protagonist, that’s kind of where the series starts to devolve away from horror. The audience starts to move to the villain’s side, and his/her/it’s victims start to become “creative kill” fun instead of scares.

        This plus the fact that the villains are often deliberately exotic (to enhance their monsterness) actually IMO forms a proof for the idea that audiences will identify most with the character who is the most interestingly developed, not the one who is superficially closest to them. The villian needs to be a strong presence, but striving for a Batman/Joker balance will make the films in general stronger, keep them more on track tonally, and encourage filmmakers (and more importantly studios) to create non-generic protagonists.

        The examples I can think of would be Evil Dead and Alien franchises, both of which have consistent protagonists. Though these are not great examples: both characters are made memorable more by their respective performers than their development. Evil Dead shifts from horror to comedy, but even with Evil Ash in play, the audience is kept on the “good guy’s” side because good Ash is engaging enough to keep it balanced. Ripley relies for the first few movies heavily on the Alien’s facelessness, only starting to get really substantial right before disappearing as the franchise diverted into crossovers and prequals. But while she was there she was the anchorpoint keeping the monsters from completely taking over as the “hero”.

        …I guess that’s just a long winded way of saying horror films are no exception to the “character driven is better” rule, and the refusal to rise to that has long been one of the cultural problems keeping the genre down IMO.

        • fearfanforever

          Excellently said, and absolutely right!
          Speaking of non-traditional main characters and people who get a decent amount of character development, I’ll be taking a look at the Saw series one of these days, not to long from now.

  • Cristiona

    Good to see you back, Leslie. I was… vaguely familiar with this movie, but it’s good to see a more detailed look. It certainly sounds like it would be worth tracking down to see. I quite like the “Predator vision” it seems some of the fight scenes were in.

    • fearfanforever

      Good to be back! I do give it a pretty strong recommendation. At first, I didn’t quite know what to make of it, but it’s really grown on me.

  • Barbllm

    I think my favorite part of this film is the weirdly colorful “wolf-vision” cam they use in some shots. Always thought this was one of the more cerebral horror films of the 1980s.

  • Thomas Stockel

    Welcome back, FF! A great review, and you’re right about the music. James Horner was most assuredly The Man back in the day. I used to own the Aliens soundtrack on cassette and I would play the hell out of it in my car.

    • fearfanforever

      It’s on my iPod, and I do the same!
      Ripley’s Rescue makes for great ‘getting where I want to go in a hurry’ music.

  • Nick LasVegas

    please review some more godzilla movies

    • fearfanforever

      I’d love to, and with the new Godzilla film coming out, I might want to take a look at something from the Millenium series since I’ve already done Showa and Heisei Godzilla films.

  • Bart_Fargo

    Hate to nitpick, FF, but that’s a bull-roarer, not a didgeridoo.

    • fearfanforever

      I stand corrected! Thanks Bart!

  • edharris1178

    Ah, the 1981 wolf film most folks forget about. Great to have you back, man. I dig this film too, great Albert Finney performance.

    • fearfanforever

      Absolutely! Nice to be back, Ed!