review by myles gibbons
The Adrian Panek-directed Werewolf follows a group of orphans having been freed by soviet forces from a concentration camp. Abandoned and left to fend for themselves, they live in fear of the now-feral SS Alsatians that were freed from the same camp. Panek expertly straddles the line between several genres such as horror, psychological thriller with elements of a coming-of-age tale. Panek’s grasp of tension in horror and the pervading sense of hopelessness throughout the film make this film an uncomfortable watch.
The characters are horrendously tortured by Nazi forces, starving and turning on one another for food. The actors in Werewolf despite their youth are deft at handling their characters and playing into the suspenseful nature of the narrative, making us feel their every hardship. Even when going at each other’s throats you can’t help but empathize.
I found myself wincing many times throughout the film at the sheer brutality of the violence and gore. While Werewolf fails to show restraint when it comes to violence, never does it feel gratuitous. Every sequence is beautifully choreographed, striking a balance between horror and heart pumping suspense. The closest sensational comparison I can make is to the velociraptors-in-the-kitchen scene from Jurassic Park. There are also shades of Lord of the Flies to the narrative with a group of adolescents being abandoned without adult influences, allowing for chaos and immaturity to play a part in the story.
Werewolf is a slow suspense filled film that handles sensitive topics without being preachy or moralizing. Calm, experienced direction elevates this film and script from what could be a belligerent, heavy-handed moralizing metaphor to a tense mixture of genres bolstered by great performances by young actors. Danger and unease dog, pun intended, every frame of this film. Certainly not for the faint of heart but worth the price of admission.
Werewolf is currently screening in the Irish Film Institute.