Thursday, December 3, 2009

'Curse of the Wolf' shows common problems with low budget films

Curse of the Wolf (2006)
Starring: Renee Porada, Todd Humes, Leon South, Brian Heffron, Alex Bolla, Pamela Sutch, Darian Caine, Lanny Poffo, and Kylie Deneen
Director: Len Kabasinsk
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Dakota (Porada) is a reluctant werewolf who finally finds a way to suppress her bestial nature and monthly transformations and starts a new life in the city. When the leader of the werewolf pack she used to belong to (Humes) decides she needs to be forced to accept her true nature and starts targeting her newfound friends for death, she allies herself with an enigmatic nightclub owner (Poffo) and his more-than-capable bouncers/enforcers.

"Curse of the Wolf" is one of countless low-budget. barely above amateur-level productions where I can see the heart and excitement of the filmmakers and actors in every scene, but where I ultimately have to give it a bad rating because heart and love of a project is not enough to make a good movie.

Although the film suffers from a myriad of technical problems (the typical bad sound recording of the modern low-budget film, day-for-night shoots so blatant I haven't seen the likes since Amicus closed up shop, and a complete absence of color correction), the biggest problem here is with the editing. I think if the editing had been tighter in ust about every scene, the stagy, hammy acting of the performers would have come across a little less stagy, a little less like each actor was politely waiting for their fellow performers to finish their line before they started theirs. (Of course, more rehearsal time on the part of the actors might also have gone a long way to solving this problem.)

Another problem is that EVERYONE in the picture is acting as if they are playing to the very back row of a very large theater, except for Darian Caine, who is about right and who therefore seems like she is sleepwalking through the movie. I'm not sure if this was an intentional approach on the part of the director--there are many moments in the film that put me in mind of old horror movies from the likes of the aforementioned Amicus, Hammer, and American-International--or whether it was inexperience that failed to reign the actors in. I suspect it's the former, because the lines delivered by Todd Hume in his role as the werewolfpack leader Michael would sound fantastic if coming from the likes of Christopher Lee or Charles Gray (as they appeared in the 1960s), but they don't work quite so well coming from him because he doesn't have the presence to back up the over-the-top drama with which he delivers each line.

Things aren't all bad, however, The fact that the film made me think of some of my favorite horror movies and classic horror film actors says alot about the underlying quality that peeks through the generally bad execution of this film. It's also laudible that writer/director Len Kabasinski managed to make a somewhat successful werewolf movie on a very tight budget. (The werewolf parts are pretty well done, so long as allowances are made for the universally bad editing.)

Kabasinski also understands how to place the camera when filming fight scenes. The camerawork during the many fights in the film is some of the best I've seen in movies of this vintage and of this level of budget. There are a few places where the actors are under-rehearsed and therefore they either telegraph or anticipate blows (thus revealing the fight is staged), and the fight scenes suffer from the same lax editing that the plagues the entire film, but this is one area where Kabasinski displays real talent. He clearly has a flair for making horror movies with a martial arts/action flavor to them.

And while I'm covering what's praiseworthy about the film, I should mention Brian Heffron, who takes an amusing turn as a rather gross comic relief werewolf character in this flick. He does a good job in a fairly well-written part. It's too bad several of the gags are spoiled by the weak editing.

(Yes, I know I've harped on the editing in this film, but I think it really is what kept this film from getting a 4 or maybe even a low 5 rating.)

Werewolf films seem to be the hardest type of horror movies to do right... and with a little more care and money, I think this one could have be counted among those few. Actually, I think the topic of werewolves might be something Kabasinski should consider returning to the topic down the road. He continues to improve as a filmmaker, so I think he could eventually bring us one kickass werewolf film even if he continues to shoot on a shoestring budgets.