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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Wolfman

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service


Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro star in the action-horror film "The Wolfman."
Alternately spooky, savage and silly, "The Wolfman" (Universal) entertains by rendering the trappings of lycanthrope lore with first-rate special effects and actors willing to feast on the material. A remake of the 1941 monster classic "The Wolf Man," it strikes a tone that might be described as "visceral camp."

The amount and kind of violence displayed is in keeping with the fear-inducing context. Though not for the squeamish, displays of the titular creature's bloody handiwork rarely feel gratuitous and help keep the picture hovering somewhere between art and pulp.

Unafraid to exploit cliches of the werewolf subgenre, director Joe Johnston cuts to the cloud-shrouded moon and inserts howls with abandon. In general, his approach suggests a desire to satisfy horror aficionados and novices alike. That the protagonist's transformations from man to beast are so convincing is a bonus for everyone.

Sympathy for Lawrence Talbot, played by Lon Chaney Jr. in the original, is heightened by Benicio Del Toro's performance. Not only is Del Toro a feral actor, but the humanity of his characters never fails to come through. Following his brother's mysterious, brutal murder, Lawrence—a famous stage actor—returns to his ancestral home in Broadmoor, England. The year is 1891.

Strewn with leaves and cobwebs, Talbot Hall is a slate-gray pile occupied by his eccentric father Sir John (Anthony Hopkins in masterful fettle). Also in residence is Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), his brother's grieving fiancee.

Lawrence vows to discover who or what dismembered his late sibling. Many villagers believe the Gypsies encamped nearby are to blame. Inspector Abberline (Hugo Weaving) of Scotland Yard suspects Lawrence is the lunatic responsible for the attacks, which continue.

The (presumably Anglican) vicar of Broadmoor is depicted in an unflattering light, leading a vigilante posse against Lawrence and delivering a fiery sermon about the terror confronting the village. Yet he proves to be more prescient about its malevolent source than the medical establishment, represented by the staff at a London asylum who subject Lawrence to sadistic treatments (for which they pay dearly).

The movie contains frequent episodes of moderately graphic violence, including fleeting images of human entrails, decapitations, and severed limbs; an instance of partial upper female nudity; several references to prostitution; and one use of profane language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film & Broadcasting.



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All Saints: The earliest certain observance of a feast in honor of all the saints is an early fourth-century commemoration of "all the martyrs." In the early seventh century, after successive waves of invaders plundered the catacombs, Pope Boniface IV gathered up some 28 wagonloads of bones and reinterred them beneath the Pantheon, a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods. The pope rededicated the shrine as a Christian church. According to Venerable Bede, the pope intended "that the memory of all the saints might in the future be honored in the place which had formerly been dedicated to the worship not of gods but of demons" (<i>On the Calculation of Time</i>). 
<p>But the rededication of the Pantheon, like the earlier commemoration of all the martyrs, occurred in May. Many Eastern Churches still honor all the saints in the spring, either during the Easter season or immediately after Pentecost. </p><p>How the Western Church came to celebrate this feast, now recognized as a solemnity, in November is a puzzle to historians. The Anglo-Saxon theologian Alcuin observed the feast on November 1 in 800, as did his friend Arno, Bishop of Salzburg. Rome finally adopted that date in the ninth century.</p> American Catholic Blog Touch can be an act of kindness when someone is dying. If you visit a sick person and find that you are at a loss for words, reach out and touch her hand.

 
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