By C. Michael Forsyth
My friend Sean, a horror aficionado with an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, recommended “Werewolf: the Beast Among Us,” and he didn’t steer me wrong. I really enjoyed this fun, twisty B movie.
Shot in Romania with excellent production values, it’s in some ways a throwback to the old Hammer films. No automatic weapons, no sweet and glittery monsters. Some might call this anachronistic, but I dug the old-fashioned good-versus-evil battle.
The movie, set in the 1800s, features a band of werewolf hunters for hire that comes to the rescue of a town plagued by a lycanthrope. Alarmingly, the creature strikes even when the moon isn’t full! They’re aided by a young man desperate to save his village from the unstoppable beast, which has slain dozens. It’s “The Magnificent Seven” with werewolves – a high concept I just love.
The team is led by Charles (Ed Quinn), a taciturn American gunslinger, and each of the mercenaries has different quirks and specialties. My favorite is the sexy girl bounty hunter Kazia who wields a crossbow and wears a bite-proof corset. There’s also the suave, unflappable Englishman Stephan, who sports a vest full of throwing knives. Steven Bauer (Al Pacino’s right-hand man in “Scarface” and almost unrecognizable here) is aboard as the grizzled, beer-swilling Hyde.
Action and gore abound and there’s a mystery too. Which villager is the beast? Could it be the youth himself? His mother, who always appears to be missing when the attacks occur? His girlfriend? Her reclusive, wealthy father?
Day to day life in a town besieged by a werewolf is depicted with entertaining realism. In one memorable scene, the beleaguered town doctor (Stephen Rea from “The Crying Game”) is deluged by victims – and mercifully puts down a bitten farmer to spare him from the curse.
SPOILER ALERT – SPOILER ALERT – SPOILER ALERT
The identity of the werewolf isn’t too hard to figure out – the culprit practically has “lycanthrope” stamped on his forehead. But there are some clever red herrings, including the suspicious town constable who turns out merely to have epilepsy. (It might have been prudent for him to warn fellow villagers, “I foam at the mouth from time to time, so please don’t shoot me.”)
Although it’s the most surprising twist, I didn’t really like the revelation that Stephan is a vampire – I preferred him as a cocky dandy. I mean, when Charles recruited a vampire didn’t it occur to him that the guy might TURN OUT TO BE EVIL???
Likewise, the ending in which Charles takes on the werewolf as Stephan’s replacement seems a bit dubious. Having a monster on board didn’t really work out all that well. And wouldn’t the new recruit be a little reticent about killing other werewolves?