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What’s it About?

A defense attorney begins to suspect that there might be more to her client, who is charged with the murders of a vacationing family, than meets the eye.

“Wer”

Directed by William Brent Bell

How is director Bill Brent’s horror crime thriller, “Wer,” not more well known? More of a household name? Well, it could be for any number of reasons but in the grand scheme of things, I think the film is going to gain even more  momentum through word of mouth and good praise down the line. The movie is from 2013 and like many diamonds in the rough that are little known, the movie is both equally impressive and captivating.

Despite that, the movie still continues to be over-looked and missed, even by genre fans who gravitate (mostly through no fault of their own) to other hokey, cliche ridden and trite outings. “Wer” succeeds in making the beasties in the film, which are werewolves, scary and aggressive again. Something that has been way overdue and sorely missed.

Brent, who helmed the universally panned “Devil’s Due,” and his writer Matthew Peterman (Stay Alive) manage to piece together a very perilous movie at breakneck speed with danger and mystery lingering in just about every frame. The film, which appears on the surface, to be a found footage film, is more like a precarious exercise in the latest cinema verite tactics that is emulated to no end. But done here to good effect.

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An American family vacationing in France is horrifically mauled by what appears to be a wild and treacherous animal. The sole survivor is the wife and mother of the deceased (Stephanie Lemelin), who is left terribly scarred and disfigured by the attack. French Police Captain Klaus Pistor (Sebastian Roche) is brought in to investigate the murders as the crime gets frenzied national and international attention (There are sufficient talking head moments, here).

Pistor believes that the murders may actually be the work of a powerfully insane man and not an animal.  They eventually find a suspect that may match the forensic evidence found on the victims and the crime scene. They bring in loner Talan Gwynek (Brian Scott O’Conner). Talan is a very large, tall and hairy individual who apparently suffers from a debilitating genetic dis-order, which gives Talan a wildly and beastly visage that many fear.

Public defender and Attorney Kate Moore, played by A.J. Cook, is brought in with her team to defend Talan, who appears to have been unable to realize and carry out the mutilations. Along with Kate, there is an old flame named Gavin (Simon Quarterman of The Scorpion King) and Erik (Vik Sahay of Chuck). Gavin is tied to Kate and there is some tension between him and Erik, who has a bit of a sordid history of his own which Gavin discovers, to use later, for his advantage. First and foremost, is the investigation and Kate is determined and passionate about proving the shackled and imprisoned Talan innocent of the ghastly attacks on the young family.

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Bell pulls no punches and approaches the investigation like a very capable crime thriller that leaves no stone un-turned. There are meetings, procedures, autopsies and even interviews with Talan’s mother (There is a land dispute subplot here as well that involves Mrs Gwynek and Captain Pistor). Gavin tries to prove that Talan suffers from a rare type of dis-order that affects the person, in a violent way, during the cycle of the full moon. Bell smartly uses, news clips, surveillance, video recording, internet grabs and several POV sequences to tell the story in an interesting and linear way. But, as it’s heart there is a creature feature to be had and Bell delivers. The set up of “Wer” is just the icing on the cake. Bell kicks the suspense and tension right into overdrive and presents a very visceral, inventive and satisfying monster flick.

After a discovery is made towards the last act of the film, “Wer” stays consistently interesting, brutal and very well paced. The movie becomes part “The Fugitive” and part “Wolf.” There is an exceptional chase sequence in the city involving Talan and 2 dozen Police Officers, which is refreshing to watch especially with this type of movie. The action set pieces are well cut and flow nicely while keeping overt gore to a minimum. Something that was very reminiscent of the recent found footage movie, “Afflicted,” which also took place overseas.

Now let’s get to the “werewolf” part of this movie. (The word is only used twice, I believe). It is very well done, and even if the finale concentrates more on the action and trying to reconcile Talan’s and Gavin’s eventual fates, the movie by then has done a commendable job. “Wer” makes the mythology about werewolves very real and solid, displaying the respect it deserves. It deftly makes you forget you are watching a type of found footage film with some great practical make up FX and little to no CGI to muck things up. Just about every scene in “Wer” is concise, creepy and threatening, much to our joy.

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It is a well acted and presented thriller that makes so many subtle winks and references for fans of the genre while not having every character going around delivering hokey “werewolfisms.” “Wer” never insults our intelligence. The character arcs are nicely wrapped up with Gavin being the one character that changes the most, throughout. His menace comes right through even when initially introduced as a passive and quirky personality. This, in turn, makes all of the performances gel, especially between O’Conner and Cook who have a significant chemistry and when they are both on screen the suspense is through the roof.

So, in closing, gang, “Wer” is definitely worth your time and I tried to keep most of this review spoiler free. There is a lot to enjoy in this movie which helps to revert the werewolf film into a compelling, forceful and symbolic little indie horror. It does indeed make them scary again with this convincing and sometimes weighty approach. Enjoy!

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