Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sands of Time: Werewolf Hunter

Being a character actor, you can get cast in a broad number of films.  Take today's example: Julian Sands.  He's starred as the villain in a kung-fu film (The Medallion), been in a Dario Argento film (The Phantom of the Opera) and even been in serious dramas (The Killing Fields).  Hell, he's even starred in a movie with talking and Angela Lansbury (Heidi 4 Paws)!  Speaking of random, here he is as the star of a 2004 horror film based on a real-life Spanish serial killer in the late-19th Century.  Sure- why not?!?  I made at least one reader happy when I mentioned in a segment called 'Poor Bastards of Cinema' a while back, but had to admit that I had not seen the whole film- just the intro on Chiller.  Well, I have rectified that, so here is the review.  Get out your collection of dead girls' jewelry for my review of...
The film begins with some random death, Julian Sands and a bird getting killed for no reason.  Oh, you want context?  Well, Sands is one of the few people that can write...apparently and takes down a man's dying wishes.  About halfway through, he fakes the whole thing, goes with the woman and her kid and they die.  This seems completely unrelated to me- what about you?  After the credits, we meet our main cast.  They include a nun/mother, a young girl who never talks and a chick who really wants to be Scarlet Johansen.  Let me just pause for a minute to check IMDB to see how well that worked.  *One minute later*  It didn't work out well.  Anyways, the town they live in is under siege by rampant gangs of wolves that are killing people.  Yes, wolves- nothing else.  I get that they're scary-looking, but they aren't the devil!  After a bit, the woman and the young daughter move to a new town with Sands, leaving the adult girl behind.  She takes it badly.  Out in the woods, the woman goes off to bathe in her old-timey underwear while, Sands is alone with the girl. Yeah, she dies, but only after they kill another bird.  You guys hate birds and wolves, don't you?  By the way, the woman dies too & we see Sands wake up in the woods naked and covered in mud.  Hmm.
Back in town, our heroine is just getting used to living alone when she gets some bad news.  It gets a little more manageable when Sands returns to help her out.  Of course, by help her out, I mean fondle her in a dress and rub her down in a bathtub.  Wow, you're nice and creepy there, Sands.  Although, as a counterpoint, boobs.  Eventually, she is given a necklace that is actually the one that the sister had.  For a serial killer, you sure have a bad memory!  He also has a collection of the stuff, making things look really bad for her.  She had to be thinking- 'God, someone shoot me!'  Thankfully for her, someone does just that- although she wasn't the target.  The shooter turns out to be a weird, bald man who is trying to protect her from Sands killing her.  Just to note: your method sucks!  Eventually, she ends up in a wagon that's on fire before the man saves her.  Now armed with the truth about Sands, the young woman goes on the trail to find him.  The mystery man from earlier gets caught as well, confessing to killing people alongside Sands when they were both werewolves.  The film also treats us to a transformation sequence that has zero impact on the film.  Thanks, guys.
Now that we have a strong heroine, let's do something with her!  Alongside the investigation team, the woman tracks Sands down, following every lead and finding the bodies left in his wake.  Yes, people can have 'wakes' too!  They finally catch him in a field during a scene that's oddly-funny.  He looks over at her, has an 'oh shit' look and runs.  They catch him and take him for trial.  Fortunately for him, a crazy doctor is obsessed with proving that people can lose control.  Thank you, silly sub-plot that finally amounts to something!  After listening to Sands talk about the murders while in a field, he is convinced that Sands' killer is a victim of lycanthropy.  Of course, he means that Sands 'thinks that he is wolf,' as opposed to actually turning into one.  I got your 'junk science' right here, mister!  This whole thing angers the woman, who struggles to decide how to handle it.  She confronts Sands in his cell and has a realization: Sands is insane.  There's no point in killing an insane person because...she just stabbed him, didn't she?  He dies.  The End.
This actually pretty good.  The story is interesting at times, the setting is strong and, of course, Sands is great.  He really makes the role work, alternating between charming and intense.  He nails all of the creepy aspects very well.  The other actors are a mixed bag.  The doctor is good, but the other killer tries a bit too hard at times.  I can't stand to see grown fat men cry either.  Unfortunately, the title is a bit of a tease, as there are no werewolves here.  Seriously, why did they put in the 'transformation' scene if it literally never happened?  It's just like 'let's put it in the trailer- why not?!?'  The movie does drag a bit at times because Sands takes time away from it.  This builds up his return well, but he's still missed.  If you can accept that there are no wolves, you can enjoy this period horror film.  If not, you're missing out.  Oh well.
Next up, I finally watch and review the prequel to a famous Takashi Miike film.  Oh wait- this is actually the prequel to the prequel.  Stay tuned...


  1. I was wincing when I saw the title come up on the reader, but I am glad you liked this one dude, I thought it was very well made and a complete shock considering the DVD art!

  2. Yeah, it surprised me a bit too. There's not enough Sands in it though. I stand by that.