Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Brotherhood of the Wolf

2001's The Brotherhood of the Wolf was a film that I'd been meaning to watch since, well 2001, but somehow I just never managed to see it. I even rented it from Blockbuster a few years back, but somehow didn't watch it before I had to return it. So I was looking for some new horror films for my Halloween season Fright Flick Festival and I stumbled across a copy of Brotherhood for four bucks. Watched it last night and was very impressed.
It's a hard movie to describe, not really a horror film, though it certainly has elements of horror and it is not a movie for the squeamish among you. It's kind of a historical/horror/kung-fu/spaghetti western/romantic/political thriller. I'm not kidding.
The French film is very loosely based on a historical event. In the mid-1700s the French province of Gevaudan was terrorized by a savage beast (or beasts) that was never identified or captured. Reports vary but over 100 victims were supposedly killed by the creature over a three year period. The killings stopped on their own and the beast of Gevaudan vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared.
Director Christopher Gans took this story and used it as a springboard for his homage to all the genre films he loved as a kid. Gans is apparently a huge fan of Hong Kong wushu films. Thus we have anachronistic martial arts fights, featuring real life martial artist Mark Dacasco playing an American Indian, sort of Kato to the film's 'hero' Gregoire de Fronsac, (Samuel Le Bihan) a royal taxidermist to King Louis XV, sent to capture the beast. As I noted there are also references to spaghetti westerns of the 'Fist Full of Dollars' type, to samurai films, to Italian horror movies and to other genres. The movie's time period and overall dark tone give it a nice Solomon Kane vibe too. It also features Monica Belluci in a small role and Monica is hot.
The movie is beautifully and stylishly photographed with many of the camera tricks that fans of John Woo have come to know. The special effects are very good and the fights scenes are seriously fun. The only real problems I had with the film were the ending, which is rather muddled, and that the movie is long and tends to be slow moving in between the action sequences. Watch it anyway. It's worth sitting through the slow parts to get to the good stuff. I watched the English dubbed version and the dubbing was very good. Next viewing I'll probably try it in French with English subtitles. I'll definitely be watching it again. The 2010 Halloween Fright Flick Festival is well underway.


lk said...

I saw a show on History channel about the beast(s) of Gevaudan a few weeks ago. They made a good case that the beast was one or more cave hyenas, and a less convincing one that they or it were tame and controlled by the guy who supposedly killed the beast. Well it's the History Channel, there has to be a conspiracy. But the hyena idea was fairly compelling, considering the historical descriptions of an animal that bit through bone, which apparently a hyena has the jaw strength to do, and a wolf doesn't.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Brotherhood of the Wolf offered a similar conspiracy theory, though their explanation of what the beast was was a bit more imaginative. I don't recommend this one for you, as it's pretty gory and there are some rough scenes of what looks like an actual wolf hunt.