Can 'Wolfman' Destroy Vampire Fever?

CNN News Wire | 2/16/2010, 9:17 p.m.
Until Taylor Lautner beefed up and began walking around shirtless in "New Moon," there wasn't a chance in the underworld ...

" was intentional," the 43-year-old said. "We wanted to bring the story to the 21st century, at the same time, we wanted to stay truthful to the original."

"The Wolfman" maintains the mythology that has captivated fans of the genre for decades, delving into "what extent human beings are animals, to what extent we're civilized and to what extent you can repress animal instincts," co-star Hugo Weaving said.

Even the effects needed to be different. Instead of relying on CGI, as other werewolf films have in recent years, "The Wolfman" kept it classic by bringing in venerated makeup artist Rick Baker to use more practical special effects on Del Toro. (Baker is no stranger to creating wolfmen; he also did the makeup effects for the groundbreaking "American Werewolf in London," which earned him an Oscar.)

That doesn't mean the practical effects haven't been augmented with CGI -- this is 2010 -- but the combination of the two creates a character that's "more iconic wolf man versus what they've done in 'Underworld,'" said film critic Todd Gilchrist.

Most important, "Wolfman" stays true to the heart of the mythology. Being a werewolf isn't a lifestyle or a source of power; it's a frightening, inescapable curse that renders the afflicted unable to control their actions.

"In 1981, with 'The Howling' and 'American Werewolf in London,' the people who were the beasts didn't have any self-loathing about their werewolf affliction," Schager said. "If it's not a terrible thing to become a werewolf, and he's in control of himself and is not a rampaging beast, what becomes scary about it?"

Nothing at all, which is why Gilchrist believes that werewolves haven't gotten their pop culture due: They're not obviously frightening anymore.

"The way that these horror movies were done in the '30s and '40s was very effective, because there was an unknown visual landscape for horror. Audiences hadn't seen these creatures, which is why they were much more susceptible to being scared by them," Gilchrist said.

But by now, audiences have "seen so many different kinds of beasts that kill people, not to mention the technological sophistication needed. Can you really make a movie about a guy who's dressed up as a wolf in 2010?"

Add to that the lack of versatility in werewolf movie plot lines, and Gilchrist doesn't predict a burst of wolf movies or HBO television shows.

"The vampire movies in the past year are all different. 'Daywalkers' and then 'New Moon,' those couldn't be more diametrically opposed," Gilchrist said.

But werewolf movies tell more or less the same tale, he said.

"Some of them were maybe more empowering, some were more tragic, but they're all pretty much the same," Gilchrist said. "There's going to be perennial interest in werewolves as a movie property, but it's not going to launch a trend."

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