Universal Pictures recently released a fabulous boxset that paid tribute to the classic monster films of yesteryear. Among the pictures included in the set was "The Wolf Man," starring Lon Chaney, Jr. Universal has tried many times to create a film that would have the same lasting impact. John Landis's "An American Werewolf in London" has achieved cult status, but nothing else has come close. The troubled production behind Joe Johnston's 2010 remake probably tarnished the reputation of the werewolf more than enhanced it. It's a reputation that needs polishing in today's culture where the werewolf exists as a buff and shirtless pretty boy rather than a primal creature. There was talk of the studio rebooting "Wolf Man" yet again, which leads us to "Werewolf: The Beast Among Us."
"Werewolf" is set in a little village in Transylvania where the citizens are plagued by a feral beast. Folks are slaughtered wholesale under the light of a full moon. Luckily, an intrepid band of hunters arrive to collect on the handsome reward the desperate villagers offer. The group is led by Charles (Ed Quinn), an American gunslinger whose parents were killed by a werewolf. He is joined by the debonair knife-thrower Stefan (Adam Croasdell); the beautiful, flamethrower wielding Kazia (Ana Ularu), and the boastful, eyepatch wearing Hyde (Steven Bauer).
Although the movie opens with the hunters and a prologue detailing the origin of Charles, the lead protagonist is actually Daniel (Guy Wilson), the earnest apprentice to the town doctor (Stephen Rea, who previously hung out with werewolves in "Underworld Awakening"). Daniel is eager to join the hunters in order to protect his mother, Valdoma (Nia Peeples), and girlfriend, Eva (Rachel DiPillo). Soon, they find that the creature they are stalking is no ordinary werewolf. It is faster, stronger, and smarter than the ones they've faced before.
"Werewolf" doesn’t have any connections to either "Wolf Man" films though it does borrow from both as well as elements from another great monster flick, "Jaws." There's a sequence where Charles propositions the townsfolk in a similar fashion to Quint. In a clever scene, Daniel disembowels a corpse and uses the intestines as werewolf chum. When that fails, a nonplussed Charles makes an obvious nod to Roy Scheider by saying, "We're gonna need bigger traps."
Therein lies the main problem with "Werewolf." It simply mixes together elements seen in more familiar films, instead of building upon werewolf mythology. There's nothing new to be found. It doesn't help that Charles is dressed in a wide-brimmed hat and trenchcoat reminiscent of Hugh Jackman in "Van Helsing," another failed attempt to resurrect Universal's monsters. The tone veers between action and horror with a heavy emphasis on the romance between Daniel and Eva, both of whom are as bland as bland can be. The screenplay tries to inject an aura of mystery by making the audience guess the identity of the werewolf. Too bad the answer is fairly obvious before the end of the first act. At least, the special effects are decent and not as laughable as other direct-to-video features.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The picture quality doesn't suffer from the flat digital look of many low-budget movies. The transfer is pristine with a muted color palette and rich black levels.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The sound is mostly centered with plenty of bass during the action sequences. Dialogue comes in crisp and clear.
The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary track with director/co-writer Louis Morneau and producer Mike Elliott. The track begins with the participants mentioning how the title of the picture hadn't even been decided yet. From there, they provide a wealth of details about the shoot, including filming near the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler and sharing the sets with a Gerard Depardieu movie shooting simultaneously.
Making the Monster (9:23) is the standard EPK-style featurette that takes us behind the scenes of the film.
Transformation: Man to Beast (6:13) looks at the special effects used to create the werewolves.
Monster Legacy (3:58) is a quick piece with the cast and crew discussing their favorite Universal monster movies.
Rounding out the extras are a collection of deleted scenes, a DVD version, and codes for Digital Copy and Ultraviolet versions.
The werewolf has taken a cinematic beating over the last few years with some real bombs like "Blood and Chocolate," "Skinwalkers," and "Red Riding Hood," not to mention the franchise that shall not be named. Despite featuring Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, and Emily Blunt, "The Wolfman" was a critical and commercial flop. If a blockbuster with two Oscar winners couldn't get the job done, there's not much hope for a straight to video movie without any big stars. Skip "Werewolf: The Beast Among Us" and watch "Brotherhood of the Wolf" or "Dog Soldiers."