Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Leonor Varela, Jason London, Robert Picardo, Griff Furst, Steve Reevis, Edrick Browne
Directed by Todor Chapakanov
If the oil company gobbling up Louisiana land in Monster Wolf is in any way reflective of real-life oil company practices, it’s rather easy to see how the BP oil spill occurred. Oil company explorers happen upon this odd little archway construction on the ground that looks like a Stargate for Smurfs; a blue flame flickers atop this unusual construction; common sense should tell these professionals that a blue flame typically denotes the presence of natural gas and they could potentially blow themselves up if they go drilling and blasting in the area. They do so anyway without a single cause for concern. Luckily for them there was no natural gas. But they do set loose a supernatural wolf of Native American legend that uses tooth and claw to accomplish that which Al Gore cannot with PowerPoint presentations.
Robert Picardo (the holographic doctor from “Star Trek: Voyager”) is an oil exec with a permanent scowl on his face going door-to-door to convince the remaining citizens of this small town to sell their property to his company. When they say no, he reacts almost threatening. He treats every living thing around him with this same how-dare-you attitude. He’s such a cartoonish caricature I found myself disappointed he wasn’t adorned in a top hat and a cape so that he could end every scene making a theatrical exit like a silent movie fiend.
Wild animal mutilating your crew? Old Native American defiantly opposing your corporate takeover of nature’s bounty? Time to call in a DMX look-a-like with braided goatee and his team of professional mercenaries. A quizzical recurring comment amongst these hired guns is that if you screw up, you’ll get sent to the Philippines, which I guess must be like the “Island of Misfit Toys” for incompetent assassins. If that’s the case, everyone on this team should have already purchased a one-way ticket to Manila.
Blade 2‘s Leonor Varela is a local gal who moved away to become a big city lawyer and is now back because Picardo believes the locals he’s still trying to persuade to sell out will be more likely to do so if they’re dealing with a native. She quickly takes kindly to her old redneck boyfriend with an aversion to jury duty (Jason London) as she becomes increasingly disillusioned with her current employer. It won’t be long before this tattooed big city lawyer comes to remember how much nicer life is in a small Southern town where locals gift you with a basket of pastries to console you after your home is invaded by a monster wolf.
Speaking of that incident, not sure how bright this lawyer gal is. The phantom wolf magically appears inside her house, and her first inclination is to call up her ex-boyfriend to come rescue her. You’d think her first phone call would be to her daddy – the sheriff, you know…the guy with the guns in command of other guys with guns who you would think would be more helpful in dealing with a wild animal in your home. Then again, this is the Deep South; a redneck with a shotgun probably is the best way to go when a wild animal runs amok in your bedroom.
Monster Wolf is a fairly straightforward cliché-a-thon that wraps itself up in highly convenient third act character revelation that sure comes in handy when trying to send an eco-terrorist wolf monster back to its spiritual nature preserve. It’s also pretty watchable. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it pretty good, but it is certainly watchable in a nothing-better-on Saturday afternoon matinee sort of way.
Director Todor Chapkanov keeps the pace breezy and bestows the nighttime scenes with a spooky illumination missing from most atmosphere-deprived Syfy broad daylight monster movies. Wolf attacks are presented with flashy editing that allows for better use of practical monster prosthetics, though there are too many instances of spotty computer effects to dampen the effectiveness of certain moments.
It helps that Monster Wolf periodically lapses into abject silliness. The legend of the phantom wolf is recounted with an animation sequence so worthy of an episode of “Reading Rainbow” it should have been narrated by Levar Burton. How often do you see a large wolf transform into a bolt of lightning to blow up a helicopter? My favorite…
SPOILER: Legend says that killing the wolf requires a sacrifice – a life for a life. Varela’s character sacrifices her life to send the wolf back to its magic archway; yet, paramedics successfully revive her to ensure a happy ending. Once again the white man gives the Indians a raw deal.
2 1/2 out of 5
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