Dino Wolf (2011)

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dinowolfs - Dino Wolf (2011)Starring Maxwell Caulfield, Steven Lee Allen, Dawn Ann Billings, Kristen Howe, Gil Gerard

Directed by Fred Olen Ray

We’ve had a Dinocroc and a Dinoshark so why not a Dino Wolf?

Technically speaking, though, it’s not really a dino wolf. It’s really a genetically engineered dire wolf. The dire wolf was a large, vicious, predatory wolf that went extinct back in prehistoric times. Technically speaking, again, it’s not quite a dire wolf either. The experiment that brings it back to life tossed in some human DNA, resulting in a creature that is more werewolf than dire wolf. No shape-changing or full moons necessary; it was born a wolfman and will die a wolfman. The dino wolf looks exactly like a werewolf that I think is supposed to run around on all fours but really appears as if the actor in the suit is squatting most of the time.

With an emphasis on practical special effects over computer animation, Fred Olen Ray should be applauded for going this route with his latest creature feature. Had this been a Syfy movie, the monster would have been a fully computer-generated dire wolf and probably wouldn’t have looked anywhere near as realistically ghastly as this monster suit does. Yeah, it’s obviously a werewolf suit, but it’s a damn good one.

Even the blood and gore make-up and effects are also practical.

Much like the monster, the movie itself is something of a mutant hybrid: a 21st century melding of 1950’s monster movie aesthetics with 1980’s horror movie sensibilities. It’s shot like a present day Syfy movie. The plot isn’t that far removed from an atomic age monster movie (the ending is straight out of The Thing from Another World). It’s also a gruesome slasher-styled bloodbath a la so much of 1980’s horror.

Surprisingly, especially when you consider this is the same Fred Olen Ray who has churned out a plethora of late night Cinemax softcore sex flicks in recent years, there is a distinct lack of T&A you would expect from a movie such as this. You’ll get some titillation; you just won’t get any tit.

Dino Wolf opens like gangbusters, wasting no time showing us the beast escaping its confines and reducing several people to a bloody pulp. The moment that wolf suit reared its wonderfully ugly head, I knew this was a film after my own heart.

Then we’re introduced to Maxwell Caulfield as an anal retentive small town sheriff in a diner ordering his daily breakfast. This uptight officer of the law is so meticulous how his food is positioned on the plate is every bit as important as how it is cooked. He is so observant he deduces immediately that something has happened to a local citizen because this regular patron of the diner isn’t seated where he typically sits each day.

A werewolf suit monster on the rampage and an idiosyncratic hero cop with an almost Sherlock Holmes-ian attention to detail; the opening ten or so minutes of Dino Wolf had me thinking I was in for something really special. From there out it became less and less special with each passing moment. For the sort of movie it is, it really isn’t that bad of a movie, I still couldn’t help but come away feeling a tad underwhelmed. Those opening scenes crackled; the rest tends to fizzle.

The first problem is the inclusion of too many main characters. Caulfield gets such a strong introduction and then gets lost in the shuffle of one-note scientists and government agents, the young deputy desperate to save the ex-girlfriend he still pines for from the creature chasing her for most of the movie, and all the random victims introduced just long enough to establish their existence.

Part of the problem stems from the monster itself. Not the suit. I loved the suit. I have no complaints about the look of the monster. My issue is with how it kills. The body count may be quite high, but once you’ve seen it tackle someone to the ground and maul him to a bloody pulp, it gets old after you’ve seen it again for the seventh, eighth, and ninth time. In one scene it pinned someone to a tree as it slashed him to ribbons; that’s about as inventively staged as these kills get.

When I read that Roy Kynrim’s SOTA Effects created the outstanding dire werewolf suit, it was quite ironic to me because the carnage in Dino Wolf reminded me very much of the monster kills in Kynrim’s own gory creature feature, Cemetery Gates, a few years back. Even more ironic is how I seem to recall the repetitious nature of those kills being my biggest gripe with that film as well.

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2 1/2 out of 5

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