Wolfen (1981)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Creature Film, Police Detective Film  |   Release Date - Jul 24, 1981 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This attempt to crossbreed visceral shocks and social commentary has ambition to spare, but is too muddled in its approach to really work. The key problem with Wolfen is that it burdens its plot with tons of details and messages that crowd the other aspects of its storytelling. David Eyre and Michael Wadleigh's script never successfully integrates the film's horror element into its police procedural plot line, thus making the film's scary moments feel like afterthoughts, and struggles to work in a lot of social commentary on subjects like the homeless, America's treatment of Native Americans, and the negative effects of urban renewal. As a result, the film suffers from an awkward sense of rhythm as it struggles to juggle all this material. Even worse, the preponderance of plotting and messages in Wolfen leaves little room for characterization. Albert Finney and Diane Venora struggle to breath life into their sketchy roles, but simply don't have enough to work with. Only Edward James Olmos manages to make an impression with his intense work as a wily Native American activist. On the plus side, Wolfen benefits from solid technical credits. Gerry Fisher's cinematography captures the grimy and glamorous sides of New York City with equal aplomb and James Horner's thunderous score adds a much-needed creepy atmosphere to the proceedings. However, no amount of technical slickness can make up for the Wolfen's muddled storytelling and it can only be recommended to werewolf movie completists.