Let’s bark at the moon.
The Curse of the Werewolf is another Hammer Classic, and like most werewolf films, it leaves a bit to be desired.
Our primary protagonist is Leon, who is born with the werewolf curse after his mother is raped by a deranged and humiliated man. The horrid circumstances of his birth made him have a monstrous side, and his parents do their best to contain the curse and help Leon find love.
Let’s start with the good. The film looks great. There is a lot of care into the dusty sets and each location has a distinct feel to it. Despite primarily being filmed indoors, the different locations have a lot of life to them.
The acting is pretty good, too. We have a lot of great characters and each one is memorable in their own way. Shooting this more like a tragedy than a horror film allows us to root for Leon as he falls in love and tries to find his own way. We have a well-told tragedy/romance that fits well into this style of film.
The most interesting aspect of the film is the conditions under which the monster is born. The horrid violence towards the mother (Yvonne Romain) who is only referred to as a servant girl creates a literal monster. The idea of sexual trauma (and forced birthing) creating a sort of genetic curse is interesting. Redoing this sort of theme today would yield some interesting results (I think). It isn’t pleasant to watch these scenes, but I thought about the notion of a curse and what Leon’s animalistic violence meant more in this situation than almost any other werewolf film.
However, as I said, the film feels like it is wanting for something more. There isn’t any cheese here (something Hammer tends to do well) so we have a better made film than Brides of Dracula, but one that isn’t as fun. I know that probably sounds weird, but the good ideas here aren’t enough to carry it through.
Despite an interesting set-up, we are rarely given any look at the creature, and the violence within the film becomes more situational than anything reacting to a curse. A little more method to the madness would have helped signify the importance of the situational monster-creation.
Perhaps the biggest flaw is that the film suffers from several tedious moments. The pacing goes from snail to roadrunner with nothing in-between. We end up with dragging moments of exposition to then have major decisions slung passed us without much discussion.
Werewolf films seems to suffer in some way or another. The relatively recent Wolfman had some promise but ended up being hammier and slower than interesting and scary. Here we have some great ideas that don’t go anywhere other than a rushed conclusion. I am not sure what it will take to truly give these creatures a film worthy of the lore, but this one is better than a lot. I think it is worth a go, but know it has its limits.