Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Wolfman – Review

Wolfman – Review

Jul 10, 2010

reviewed by Skot
directed by Joe Johnston, 2010
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“It is said there is no sin in killing a beast, only in killing a man.  But where does one begin and the other end?”

This is the question presented by the 2010 remake of The Wolfman, starring Anthony Hopkins, Benicio Del Torro and Emily Blunt.  It is asked near the beginning as well as at the end of the film.  It is a question that permeates many horror films, the werewolf sub-genre most especially.  It permeates them implicitly, if not explicitly as in this case.

Horror is one of the most relevant and important genres of film and literature for our times.  Horror and fantasy and science fiction, all forms of speculative writing, permit artists and scholars to consider subject matter that fits readily into no other format.  Each age wrestles with its own philosophical questions and ethical dilemmas.  Rational discourse is not the only, perhaps not even the best, way to address some perplexing issues.  Here is where the arts and the faculty of the human imagination can be of use.  One age-old question that has never been more relevant than today has to do with human nature.  How shall we define what it means to be a human being and what is our relationship to other people, to the natural world, and to God?

Understanding the nature of man is a prevalent undertaking in the horror genre.  What is the essence of humanity and how do we differ from the animals?  Likewise, what is the definition of a monster?  What do human beings look like beneath the surface?  We present ourselves as civilized beings, rational, and self-controlled.  But is that an accurate depiction of what we are like or just a clever facade?

Christian theology considers human nature to be corrupt.  It is not evil in essence, but it has fallen and been thoroughly tainted.  This fallen nature manifests itself in the evil acts we commit.  Ideas of tabula rasa and progressive improvement do not apply to the wolfman.  Jesus warned us against being whitewashed sepulchers, structures that are clean and bright externally but which only house decay.

The plot of this version of Wolfman is unoriginal.  It is set in Victorian England.  The 1941 original was in Wales.  Dangers are always found in the marginal places, on the frontiers.  England or Wales, a terrible creature is marauding the countryside devouring whomever it finds.  Gypsies are somehow involved.  There is a family curse.  A man changes into a wolf and back again.  The monster can only be stopped with silver bullets.

Lawrence Talbot is a man at war with his inner-being.  He finds himself cursed.  Like St. Paul, he continually does things he does not want to do (Cf. Romans 7).  The Freudian interpretation would see the chief character’s inner-wolf as the man’s repressed sexual frustration, his desire for his deceased brother’s fiancee and his adversarial relationship with his father.  Other interpreters will see the classic struggle between the two natures of the the Christian, the Old Adam and the New Man.

Unquestionably, the Wolfman is evil.  The beast inside must be killed.  It cannot be reformed or rehabilitated.  If it is not destroyed, it will destroy.

Robert Louise Stevenson also mined this ore with his novel, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”  The same man exhibited two personalities.  One of them civilized and self-controlled.  The other barbaric and dangerous.  Freud would perhaps call these the super-ego and the id.  Which personality was the truest representation of the one man?  In the end, they could not be separated.  Hyde had to be destroyed.
The Wolfman (2010) demonstrates once again the philosophical and theological importance of this much maligned genre of fiction as a metaphorical narrative.  Some things are best said in metaphors.

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2 comments

  1. Bradley Carver /

    I actually kind of enjoyed this remake, although some of the werewolf effects could have been better.

  2. Ron O. /

    I actually missed seeing this in the theater. But now that it’s out on DVD, I’ll probably pick up a copy at some point. Although, from what I’ve been hearing from alot of fellow horror fans, it’s one of those re-makes that about half satisfies. Meaning that it has its very few shining moments.

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