Sometimes a movie comes along with a title that makes me say to myself “I need to see that”. Coupled with the awesome art on the DVD case Wolfcop had me sold without question. This instant, unquestioning enthusiasm with little to go on has lead to some fantastic surprises, but also a great deal of disappointments making a quick sale on a great title alone (Osombie?). The basic premise of Wolfcop is pretty self-explanatory, but to be clear it follows Lou, a slacking, alcoholic policeman in a small Canadian town, who has some sort of curse put on him that turns him into a werewolf. The newfound power he has when transformed prompts him to begin a crusade against the local gang leader, as the titular uniformed “Wolfcop”.
There’s a strong tone of a deliberately “cult” movie here, with fantastic practical effects defying the $1 million budget, red & blue lights painting every second shot like something straight out of the 80’s & a script overflowing with wolf puns that does a reasonable job at balancing the level of groans and laughs. Depite a short runtime just shy of 80 minutes however, it seems to go by very slowly when much of the film feels far too polite for it’s sleazy, gory ambitions. It was such a recurring problem for me that I actually started to wonder if it was some play on Canadian stereotypes against the loud, brash American standard for such movies, but whenever the tough-talking police chief chastised Lou, or his over-achieving colleague put him down a notch, no matter how harsh the words were, the delivery felt like the characters immediately regretted what they’d said. Even when the brutal gang leader stabs one of his cronies’ eyes out he looks and sounds like he’s about to apologise profusely for calling him nasty names. It all takes away from the gritty, trashy feel it seems to be emulating. Whether the result of a poor cast, or a deliberate decision it really didn’t work for me, and detracted from what could have been a fun, bolshy script.
All is forgiven in the action scenes, though, however far and few between they may be. I’ve already mentioned the effects but fuck it, I’m going back to them. They’re genuinely very good, and not in a condescending “well, they did a good job with what they had” way; I was surprised to see how low the budget was after seeing the quality & screen time of the all-practical effects. We get more than one “transformation” scene, each focusing on different aspects of Lou turning into a werewolf. The first glimpse we get, showing a certain body part transforming, will have at least half of the audience wincing in agony but is the first example of multiple gruesome visual gags that rival Peter Jackson’s early horrors for inventiveness and hilarity. The brilliant pacing of this handful of high-energy scenes is about enough to nudge this movie into being worth a watch when elsewhere there’s very little bite not much to get excited about.