DVD REVIEW: WOLFCOP / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: LOWELL DEAN / SCREENPLAY: GARY DAUBERMAN / STARRING: LEO FAFARD, JONATHAN CHERRY, AMY MATYSIO, SARAH LIND / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 13TH
It’s a brazenly simple premise: alcoholic cop turns werewolf and becomes a local hero to the small town where he lives. Like Hobo With a Shotgun and Machete, the boozy grindhouse aesthetic lives on in WolfCop, a brilliantly distinctive low-budget destined-for-cult horror film. When wino small town cop Lou Garou begins to develop lycanthropic tendencies after a night in the woods gone awry, a new breed of law enforcer is born or bred, rather. As that synopsis might suggest, WolfCop is barking mad.
Of all the horror greats, few enjoy as patchy a filmography as the poor werewolf. For every American Werewolf in London, Dog Soldiers or Ginger Snaps, there's a Cursed or Howling III: Marsupials. Does this relatively low-budget Indie horror bulk up the good stuff? Or is it just another stinking dog's dinner of a film? Director Lowell Dean certainly gives it his all, imbuing WolfCop with the appropriate sense of manic energy, grime and sleaze.
Much of the film's success is owed to lead actor Leo Fafard, who makes up what he lacks in acting chops with an impressive bit of stubble and sympathetic hangdog demeanor. Playing poor put-upon Lou, he makes for a great classically underdog protagonist (reminiscent of a certain Bruce Campbell) and a lovely counterpoint to the violent rage of his WolfCop alter ego. Fafard is well supported by a cast of relative unknowns, but he and his hairy lead leave viewers in no doubt as to whom the film belongs to. As the WolfCop emerges like a hairy Hulk, it's like a dog marking its territory by pissing all over the nearest lamppost. Or, in this case, thrashing the local criminal element.
It takes a while for the story to kick into gear, but when it does it's well worth the wait. A number of gory, enjoyably practical physical transformation scenes prelude the main event (not as good as American Werewolf, but what is?) before WolfCop lets loose his inner Judge Dredd to terrorize those who might get in his way. This he does in wonderful style.
And yet, for all of its pomp and verve, it feels as though there's something vital missing from WolfCop. Its story seems a little half-baked, with the mythology not supported by the quality of the filmmaking or the writing. It's too slow in places, with an awkward pace and lack of rhythm. It's not funny enough to make a good comedy, nor scary enough to be a successful horror film. As a hybrid of both, it manages to salvage something, but it could have been so much more. Much of this is due to the constraints of the low budget – the finale's sense of ambition is massively outweighed by its lack of funds- subtler performances and tighter writing would have better served some of it. The WolfCop costume doesn't look great either, but we can forgive that one.
WolfCop is a great idea, well executed but sorely lacking in key areas. It's not quite the dog's bollocks, but at least it tries.