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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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