Film Reviews

Wolfen, the Citizen Kane of Werewolf Movies

“My goal is to update weekly” is a direct quote I posted on Facebook regarding this blog.

Then I started watching Battlestar Galactica.

I’m almost done, so I am again striving to meet the (somewhat realistic) goals I’ve made for myself.  Here’s my review of Wolfen, which I meant to post over a week ago.  It’s a bizarre one, guys.

The Film:


Where to Watch:

SearchOhio that shit; alternatively, buy/rent from Amazon or stream elsewhere

The Premise:

Someone or something is brutally murdering the people of New York City.  Albert Finney is the totally retro detective who investigates the murders and stares into a lot of mirrors.  Inevitably, there are wolves, conspiracies, and cults explained by a young Edward James Olmos (Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica!).

The Uncondensed Version:

Our movie opens with the demolition of a building in a really rundown part of the Bronx.  Then we get footage of these Native American guys (one of whom is EJO) standing on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Apparently this film was revolutionary because of the camera technique used to see from the predator’s perspective, which is part thermal camera, part acid trip.  I just found it really distracting and it made me question if this is really how wolves see.  Has there been any scientific research about how wolves see?  (Nobody had better ask me this at the ref desk.)

So anyway, when we have our first murders, they are trippy as fuck.  For whatever reason, the governor and his wife have their chauffeur drive them all to Battery Park at 4 in the morning.  Because they’re dumb.  In true horror movie fashion, the black guy is the first to die, but the governor and his wife follow shortly after.

a woman in an evening gown walks towards a car in the park, the image and colors distorted
This is the way wolves see you before you DIE.

We finally meet the detective, Albert Finney, who is all ‘70s glam in this movie, when he goes to investigate the murders the next morning.  He is eating something the entire time, which is incredibly distracting.  He is also eating a COOKIE while he watches the autopsies being performed.  It made me never want to eat a cookie again.  For about 3 minutes.

a man with curly hair pushed back by a headband holds the receiver of a payphone next to his ear
Note the headband.

Then we meet a criminal psychologist who will be working with Albert Finney.  They go on a date, which I thought would only end in tears, but is actually not a catastrophic mistake.  In a move made specifically to garner the interest of librarians (read:  cat ladies), the psychologist has a cat!

At this point I started to lose interest because I wanted to see some fucking werewolves, so this may not be the most accurate plot synopsis on the web.  There’s an eco-terrorist group the governor’s niece is involved with called the Götterdämmerung (seriously, is it a requirement to mention Götterdämmerung in every bad movie?).  I think the assumption is that they’re somehow involved, but Albert Finney continues to investigate.

He talks to EJO, who kind of fucks with him by pretending to be a werewolf.  EJO gets naked, runs around the beach, and does some pretty wonderful crazy eyes as part of his “transforming” face.

a shirtless man looks around him intensely, wide-eyed in the dark
This makes me wish Adama were secretly a werewolf.

One of the werewolves FINALLY appears after an hour and a half; it’s just a black wolf.  HIGHLY DISAPPOINTING.

Then EJO and the other Native American guy explain the Wolfen, who are a really old group of wolves with special abilities and may or may not be gods.  This is when the movie gets really philosophical and pushes an environmental message that comes out of nowhere with lines including:

“Reality is just a state of mind.”

“To them, you are the savages.”

“In the end, it is all for hunting ground.”

“You don’t have the eyes of a hunter.  You have the eyes of the dead.”

This is some heavy shit for a werewolf movie.  Albert Finney seems to agree, as he just kind of slowly unravels for the remainder of the film.  He stares into fragmented mirrors A LOT and thinks about wind chimes.  He also repeats series of words to himself, such as “territory, terrorism, terror,” and thinks about demolition, urban renewal projects, and loss of land.  The last 20 minutes of this film is basically just Albert Finney repeating words to himself.

a sweaty man's face is distorted in a mirror
Fragmentation. Broken society. Koyaanisqatsi.

When Albert Finney, the chief of police, and the psychologist go outside one evening, it’s foggy, atmospheric, and suddenly…wolves!  EVERYWHERE.  The police chief gets murdered, then his car explodes for no apparent reason.

a man in a suit holds a police radio in his car, looking in terror at the wolf behind him in the backseat

Now Albert Finney REALLY loses it.  He’s just kind of sitting in a corner holding a wolf pelt, occasionally repeating random words to himself.  The Wolfen are watching; they break through the glass to kill him and the psychologist.  Albert Finney aims his gun at one of the wolves, then lowers it and empties the bullets.  He then destroys the scale model of a new development, and the police arrive, opening fire.  The wolves suddenly VANISH.

Last lines of this film really drive home the environmental message of this movie:

“In arrogance man knows nothing of what exists. There exists on this earth such as we dare not imagine; life as certain as our death, life that will prey on us as surely as we prey on this earth.”

The Critique:

This is the Citizen Kane of werewolf movies.  Or at least it wants to be.  It was also sort of trying to be a film noir, so it resulted in a lot of shots of characters walking along alleyways in the dark, which became a bit tiresome.

There are so many wind chimes, reflections, and repetitions in this film that I didn’t find particularly effective.  The movie ends as it began—with a demolition.  The writer/director probably loved that this reinforced the cyclical nature of our existence, the inevitable destruction that accompanies our way of life, the damage we bring upon ourselves and our environment over and over again, but I didn’t think it was that clever.

A werewolf movie is the last place I would have expected the message to overwhelm the story, but it did.  I anticipated terror and werewolves, and this film didn’t deliver.

My biggest takeaway from this film is that BSG is always relevant.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther2/5 Pink Panther heads

It would probably be 1/5, but I threw in a bonus Pink Panther for EJO running around naked.

I thought this movie would click for me at some point, but it never really did.  It was just really strange and pretentious.  Plus I wanted werewolves!  Footage of wolves ≠ werewolves.

FDR, American Badass is coming up, I swear to god.

Film Reviews

Iron Sky, Or: Moon Nazis Are Coming

The Film:

Iron Sky

Where to Watch:


The Premise:

Nazis who have been living on the dark side of the moon since 1945 decide the time is ripe to re-conquer the Earth after President Sarah Palin-alike sends a mission to the moon as a publicity stunt. A war between the Space Nazis and Earthlings ensues.

A man with shaggy hair and beard stands in front of a wall, holding up a sign that reads "Moon Nazis are coming!"

The Uncondensed Version:

The film begins with the failed mission of an American shuttle landing on the moon. When the astronauts landed on the dark side of the moon, they inadvertently trespass on a secret Nazi base. The first astronaut is shot, the second is captured, and the space shuttle is destroyed with a rocket launcher (Would a rocket launcher work in space? This is an important question to me).

The Nazis take the astronaut to their headquarters, which is A GIANT SWASTIKA-SHAPED BUILDING. How has no one noticed this??? Is this a commentary on the American space program? I just wasn’t expecting political commentary from a bad movie.

A swastika-shaped building stands above a moon crater.

Now we get a little Nazi backstory. Renate is just the little Nazi who could. She teaches the children the Nazi ways of peace, unity, and love because she believes so goshdarn hard. If she’s guilty of anything, it’s believing too much in making the world a better place/Nazi propaganda. The future führer, Klaus, is played by Günsche from Downfall, aka the Nazi Who You Are Uncomfortably Attracted To (a role usually reserved for Ludwig Müntze, who at least has the decency to be a fictional character). Things on his wish list include babies with Renate and the death of the current führer.

A blonde woman in uniform gestures emphatically in the foreground, while a man in uniform looks on, hand resting on the head of a taxidermied wolf.
(I’m sorry, but he just looks so good standing next to a taxidermy wolf.)

Back to James, the second astronaut.  James is African-American, so the Nazis, led by a man who looks suspiciously like Einstein, perform experiments on him to make him white. Einstein-alike is also working on a secret Nazi super-weapon, the Götterdämmerung (seriously). It turns out the device can be powered by IPHONES, so the Nazis’ strategy is to get James to bring them iPhones, and, essentially, “take me to your leader.” This really begs the question of how their cars and technology have not evolved since the 1940s (they have fucking space zeppelins, I swear to god), yet they have survived on the moon for 60+ years and have managed to create a super-weapon powered by iOS. I KNOW…it’s just a bad movie, but still. I would appreciate some consistency. Also, none of the Nazis need helmets or space suits on the dark side of the moon. That just bothers me.

So anyway. James, Klaus, and Renate go to Earth to find iPhones and meet the President. Then Renate falls in love with James and has to learn a hard lesson about neo-Nazis and Charlie Chaplin.

Meanwhile, the movie gets even more political as President Sarah Palin-alike reveals she has orchestrated the moon landing as a publicity stunt. But it hasn’t boosted her ratings as she had hoped. What will give her that ratings boost? Starting a war, apparently. I wonder where she will ever find a group of warmongers who are almost universally despised by the American people with whom to do battle.

Surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly), Klaus and Renate meet the President, quickly becoming key figures in her re-election campaign.

A woman with a beehive hairstyle and glasses is featured on propaganda posters that simply read "Yes!"

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin-alike’s campaign manager(I think?) becomes obsessed with Klaus, but he doesn’t really care about her since she’s not a Nazi. Though she does a pretty great/actually funny parody of the Hitler rant scene from Downfall (coincidentally, she is played by the Jabberwocky from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland [which became too unbearable even for me]).

A woman in a high-rise building speaks angrily, a cityscape at night behind her.

Finally, there’s a war between the Earth and the Moon Nazis, which is going pretty well for the Earth until the Götterdämmerung is revealed to be a huge Nazi UFO/space warship. The movie ends pretty much how you would expect it to, though I won’t reveal every detail because THIS MOVIE IS ABOUT THE JOURNEY. And the moon getting nuked.

The Critique:

Overall an excellent bad movie. Not as good as Nazis at the Center of the Earth, but better than expected. I should never have suspected a film about space Nazis would be less than spectacular.

Some of the humor and quirkiness were actually effective rather than falling uncomfortably short as they do so frequently in bad movies. The strong sociopoilitical critique worked quite well, bringing environmentalism, nuclear weaponry, and the Republican Party under scrutiny, albeit largely for comic purposes.

The major disappointment of this film is, of course, the complete absence of Hitler. Surely colonizing the moon would require decades of planning. How did the Nazis utterly fail to bring Hitler with them to the moon??? I feel it’s just inconsiderate in this day and age to make a bad Nazi movie without the presence of Hitler or at least an explanation of his absence. I knew in my heart that the Götterdämmerung wouldn’t be Robot Hitler, but I was still extremely disappointed that Hitler didn’t appear in this movie, in robot form or otherwise. Coincidentally, I believe this is the only context in which I am legally permitted to express dismay at the absence of Hitler.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther4/5 Pink Panther heads

What should I watch next? I’m thinking FDR: American Badass, but I’m willing to take suggestions for my Bad Movie Bucket List here.