directed by Michael Wadleigh
(Orion, 1981)

If you want a horror movie to scare the stuffing out of you, get Wolfen. It will terrify you, make your heart pound, make you hold your breath and send chills up and down your spine.

One of the world's richest men, his wife and his bodyguard/driver are mutilated in New York City. Detective Dewey Wilson (Albert Finney) is assigned to the case. He is teamed with an international mutilations expert, Rebecca Neff (Diane Venora), who assures him that people in every part of the world had reason to kill Vanderveer.

The coroner, Whittington (Gregory Hines), has other ideas. He finds an animal hair and brings his close pal, Ferguson (Tom Noonan), a professor of biology, into the investigation. Fergie immediately identifies the hair as wolf hair, although he cannot specify which type of wolf.

As body parts pile up, Whittington finds a pattern in several major cities, while Dewey makes a Native American connection and gets the low down on shapeshifting from a Native American steelworker, Eddie Holt (Edward James Olmos).

If you discuss this movie, the camerawork quickly becomes the topic. Wolfen utilized spectacular camera effects and angles. The "wolf's view" is scary as heck; it alone is enough to make your pulse pound, but when coupled with the music, it becomes terrifying.

The details of the special effects are shocking. For example, the close-up of a severed hand shows the finger compressing the trigger but, as the hand relaxes, it releases the trigger and the thumb lets the hammer move into the cocked position. That tiny detail is chilling! So goes this movie, chill after chill.

The cast has plenty of big-name veterans and the acting is superb. Gregory Hines commands undivided attention and takes the lead with his secondary role. He was perfectly cast as the coroner and meshes very well with Finney. Although Venora played her part well, there is a lack of chemistry between her and Finney. That part would have been stronger if cast differently. The two simply do not click.

It is interesting to see the Native American angle, especially the high-steel work. The final shot is most spectacular. I would love to have a wall mural of that scene. Thus, the photography must have been extraordinary.

Someday, Wolfen will be considered a horror classic and a pioneer in werewolf photographic manipulations. For now, simply consider it a must-see, super-scary movie!

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

2 August 2008

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