Howling at the Moon

With his natural look of brooding menace, Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro is preternaturally perfect as The Wolfman in this stylish remake of the 1941 horror classic. Produced by del Toro, who has admitted to being a lifelong fan of the original, the emphasis of this slick fright flick is on the inability to escape one’s fate, which here means one’s father.

Upon news of the gruesome slaughter of his brother Ben, Shakespearean actor and prodigal son Lawrence Talbot returns home to the man he once fled, an eccentric and remote recluse played by Anthony Hopkins, who marries the odd assuredness of his Van Helsing character with the spry ferocity of his role in Zorro. Talbot, who has lost his mother and now his brother by what he must reason is a family curse, investigates by entering the gypsy grounds Ben frequented on a night when he should have stayed in.

Joe Johnston, whose earlier works include October Sky and Hidalgo, directs with atmospheric attention to fog and candle light, all the dank touches in dank taverns that make for an affecting gothic. His brings the horrors on quick and leaves his audience haunted.

If The Wolfman suffers from a heavy reliance on special effects, the picture is also honorably attempting to explore the pathos of a genuinely doomed man. Any audience that comes to see demonic shape-shifting and feral bloodlust will also experience outright pity for the lonely man beneath the beast.

By Roberto Ontiveros