The Warner Archive August 27, 2019 rerelrease of its January 2015 Blu-ray of the 1981 Albert Finney horror film "Wolfen" provides another bite of the apple (no pun intended) as to this urban neo-horror film.
A highlight of this release is Blu-ray greatly enhancing the innovative cinematography of a surprisingly bright and sunny New York. Archive builds on this in a back-cover liner note that discusses what primarily distinguishes this movie from similar fare of the same era. "Using a steadicam camera and Louma crane to simulate the predators' perspectives, director Michael Wadleigh ("Woodstock") achieves a remarkable blend of New York City mystery and menace not captured on film before."
The following standard-def theatrical trailer for "Wolfen" includes a look at the aforementioned artistic POV while highlighting the early '80s horror-film vibe of the movie.
The concept of a man in wolf's clothing ripping apart an over-privileged and over-coked '80s Manhattan stereotype appeals to the primal aspect of each of us.
We also understand the psyche of alcoholic disgraced police detective Dewey Wilson (Finney) being called in because he has the right stuff to crack this high-profile tough case. We further are not surprised when he is teamed up with brilliant and emotionally stable police psychologist Rebecca Neff (Diane Venora) and ends up in her bed.
Ironically, the still enjoyable and creative "Wolfen" stumbles in its execution, There are too many (and too long) scenes of the titular creature stalking his prey. On top of that, this one is a bit too talky and stoic for this genre, No one seems to be especially emotionally involved in figuring out whatdunit,
Much of this likely is due to "Wolfen" literally playing to an audience raised on "wolfing out" involving more frantic pursuits and general mayhem. The typically lower production values of those films also contribute to that fun.
Having said that, Finney and a cast that includes Gregory Hines as a dedicated coroner all play their roles well. They never go to the other extreme in terms of over-emoting.
Related depth and commentary nicely provide relevant framework for all this. The yuppie scum (who pays the ultimate price for not having a chance to see the original "Poltergeist" movie) with roots that seem to date back to New Amsterdam days is most likely targeted due to a planned development on land of importance to the descendants of the folks who sold the island for $24 and a handful of beads.
We also are reminded that Native American culture has a long history that emphasizes the close relationship between man and beast. This is especially so in arguably the best scene of "Wolfen." One spoiler is that Wilson likely regrets not having a rolled-up newspaper and or a snausage with him.
The well-executed (and believable in context) climax is another highlight. Wilson and Neff have returned to the real scene of the crime and are about to become Alpo. Quick thinking in the form of a symbolic act provides a possible out; the lack of a sequel makes it possible that that gesture is too little too late.
As the above musings indicate, the tricky balancing act that "Wolfen" attempts is a modern werewolf tale in the context of a more traditional '80s murder thriller. The result is the film reflecting the principle of compromise in that everyone gets enough to be happy but not enough to be ecstatic.