Vic’s Review – “Wolfen” (1981)


What’s it About?

A New York cop investigates a series of brutal deaths that resemble animal attacks.


Directed by Michael Wadleigh

8 out of 10

By Vic

Vic’s Note:  (3/23/2013)  I have decided to change my rating of “Wolfen” from 7 to 8 and I wanted to thank because upon reading his review I felt that “Wolfen” indeed needed the rating increase. Thanks!

A high end, state of the art, protection agency along with the NYPD blames the horrific deaths of an uber- rich land developer and his wife on urban terrorists. Little do they know the actual criminals behind it all are a pack of mythic, bad ass, super wolves that live in the South Bronx. Bullshit, you say? Nah, it’s not. It’s the plot to Micheal Wadleigh’s 1981 horror thriller Wolfen based on the novel by Whitley Strieber.

It stars Albert Finney as the hardened, semi retired police captain who is displeased about being on the case but is attracted to the police psychologist played by a very capable and likeable Diane Venora. Gregory Hines steals just about every scene he is in portraying a hip but smart medical examiner. And he sports an afro that has it’s own zip code.

I find that this film does work on many levels but it’s hard to peg where the story wants to solidify. It has all the cliche horror manipulations but it provokes thought from the viewer. There is native american Indian folklore to consider since a suspect played by Edward James Olmos considers himself to be a shapeshifter. There is a subplot involving Wall Street terrorists and there is animal rights guy that claims “people kill people, not wolves.” Wrong. This film was probably a steadicam operator’s nightmare since it is used every time we go into wolfvision. It become dizzying at times but is still effective.

There is some gore but not anything your average 12 year old can’t handle. I liked the film’s mood though when it evolves toward the discovery of the wolves hunting but yet protecting their turf in the Bronx. Hence the murder of the land developer. Wadleigh exudes carefully placed character interaction and mystery to propel the story to it’s rather bloody but somewhat timid ending.

The effects are a bit dated and Finney and Venora have zero chemistry. This doesn’t really bog down Wolfen. It’s still pretty cool watching the wolves hunt their prey and when we eventually see them we are not at all disappointed. The wolves are beautiful yet very fierce looking and they do not want humans encroaching on their territory. So there you have it. Wolfen is a smart, horror pop film from the early 80’s and it still has legs. It just won’t make you always howl at the moon after a few re-visits.

Enjoy the gallery below!

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    • Thanks! It’s an older one. I may have been a bit hard on it but I still dig it very much.

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