Curse of the Wolf (2006)
Starring Darian Caine, Brian Heffron, Todd Humes, Len Kabasinski
Directed by Len Kabasinski
Len Kabasinski makes BAD movies. I absolutely hated his first cinematic undertaking, Swamp Zombies. It was the quintessential "do it yourself" zombie film, a.k.a. DIYZ. During the all-too-long running time, Len goes on to make every mistake that a DIYZ can. The resulting hodgepodge is a parade of "Friends of the Director" actors in goony situations utilizing bad acting within poorly filmed scenes. Toss in a porn star/wannabe horror starlet, and we have the celluloid equivalent of the Hindenburg: a big hot air ship just waiting to go down in flames.
So, when I went to see Kabasinski’s new film, I had absolutely ZERO hope that it would be any better than the previous endeavor. I knew only two things about it as my fat ass found my seat in the screening room: a) it was a film about werewolves, and b) it was said to play the subject straight, no cheap laughs. Cautious optimism was in the air but held at bay by the languishing memory of the last time my brain danced the Kabasinski.
Curse of the Wolf is the story of a young woman who discovers a cure for lycanthropy. She treats herself and then tries to leave the pack of werewolves she belongs to. She finds herself on the run, relentlessly chased by the pack. Imagine trying to leave the mob, but Don Corleone mumbles with fangs and whacks with his claws. Len Kabasinski describes it as a chase film, and for the most part, that's how the whole thing plays out. Kabasinski keeps the whole thing moving fairly well. There is a unique extended sequence before the credits that sets it all up, but what this sequence did best was wash away my fears that this was going to be a retread of the disaster I sat through a year earlier. I found myself impressed at the difference in the quality of this film versus Swamp Zombies, and I began to think that maybe I would be proven wrong.
As the movie progressed, I noticed that Kabasinski had grown in more ways than one. Not only was the story much more compelling, but so were the effects. For the most part the bloody effects were well executed. Sometimes they were very effective and sometimes not, but the ones that hit their mark were excellent, particularly one very gooey transformation scene that made me recall the excellent metamorphosis from Romasanta, but with a touch of anger where painful beauty once stood. It works, just in a much different manner.
Speaking of effects, one must discuss the werewolves themselves. When Len uses a minimalist approach to shooting them, a la Dog Soldiers, where we get quick glances or well shadowed shots, the makeup effects are good. Unfortunately, we get some brighter, longer looks at the makeup later in the film, and all this magic is ruined. I wish Len would have stayed with the prior approach as the later wolves look like cocker spaniels with Spanish moss hanging off of them. The effects do little to detract from the film when they happen to not work; it is just unfortunate they could have not been a bit better.
When the pack is onscreen, the movie is harmless fun, but when they fade to the background, we enter the doldrums. We begin to lose control of what's going on. A bit more focus on the plot and less attention to needless character subplots would have served this film better.
For example, Len Kabasinski casts himself in the film as a character named Stick, a local something or other who seems to be good at fighting. For some unknown reason we get an overdone segment where Stick becomes the focal point. This is the slooooooooooow point in the film, almost to its severe detriment. The sequence slams on the narrative brakes so hard, the film almost flatlines. Take it from a critic who had to watch this at 1:30 in the morning, when adrenaline is the only thing keeping you awake: The sudden loss of all momentum is akin to instant narcolepsy.
One could come to think that as I write here, attacking the film’s effects, plot, and pacing, that I didn't like it, but remember how I began this review? I told you that Len Kabasinski makes bad movies. I told you I have zero hope of him breaking away from this. I would have loved nothing more than to report to you that this all held true, but I cannot.
Damn you, Len.
I enjoyed the hell out of this film. Despite its shortcomings, Curse of the Wolf forced me to have fun. It was a pleasant surprise. A shift in the wind ... And I think I know why:
I began this by telling you Len Kabasinski makes bad movies, and that holds true even now. I will not go out on a limb and say that Curse of the Wolf is anything but what it is: a bad movie, but a bad movie with some style. Len loves action films, and his overlying movie mantra is "Bullets, Blood and Boobs". Len knows he makes bad movies. He seems unapologetic about it, and for that I cannot hate him or his latest ware. He is passionate abut the genre and has stuck with it for two outings thus far. So he makes bad movies ... Who cares?
Someday Len Kabasinski will make great movies.
I just hope he doesn’t kick my ass before that time comes.
3 out of 5
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