Review: Werewolf – The Beast Among Us

As I stated way back in 2013 when I did a retrospective of The Howling franchise, werewolves are my favourite monsters in basically any medium. Hell, they’re even by far my most picked (and most successful) deck in Smash Up. However, despite all that love, even I have to admit that most werewolf films are total garbage, with only a handful of true gems managing to stand out. That said, if you’re the sort of person like me who can gleefully appreciate a trash film, then there are plenty to pick from in the werewolf subgenre. Hell, I have (on more than one occasion) seen crappy looking werewolf DVDs on video shelves and decided that I needed to see just how bad it actually was for myself. One of the more memorable instances of this was when I saw a copy of Werewolf: The Beast Among Us on a Walmart video shelf and thought that it looked promising… well, promisingly dumb, at least. Fast-forward 5 years and I saw that the film was on Netflix. I didn’t have anything better to do with my Boxing Day evening, so I decided to check it out for a laugh…

Not trying to spoil what my feelings on this movie were, but the official cover art here is definitely hyping you up for a far cooler film than what we actually get.

Werewolf: The Beast Among Us actually has a bit of an interesting history. It was born out of the ashes of the 2010 remake of The Wolfman. That film was a critical and commercial failure and, while I actually really like it (especially the director’s cut), it did not do well with audiences either. At the time, Universal was in the very early stages of trying to get their classic monsters back onto the big screen (in fact, they originally offered Guillermo del Toro oversight for this initiative, which would have been incredible). However, with The Wolfman failing to resonate, Universal thought that their best option with the property was to remake it again. However, this project ended up morphing into a plan for a loose series of low-budget spin-off films of the 2010 remake, although The Beast Among Us was the only one which would actually see the light of day. This is because it would release in the same year as The Avengers, which would lead Universal to attempt to launch The Dark Universe with Dracula Untold and The Mummy (2017), both of which failed to garner any enthusiasm. Considering how difficult it was for me to even explain Universal’s thought process in the last 7 years, it’s little wonder that The Dark Universe has been such a colossal failure.

I’m getting ahead of myself a bit here though. Universal had much more modest aims with The Beast Among Us, aiming for the direct-to-DVD market… which, apparently, was still a thing in 2012. Huh, who knew? 2012 must have been that awkward period where the DVD/Blu-ray market was losing viability but the VOD-release market hadn’t risen to prominence yet either.

The Beast Among Us immediately opens on a bad note with the obligatory “badass monster hunter origin story” which you’ve seen a million times (and which I already covered on my last werewolf movie review, Red: Werewolf Hunter) – a family locks themselves up to protect themselves from the monster, but it breaks in, kills the family, the kid manages a lucky kill and then we get a time-skip. It’s basically the easiest way to establish a “badass” character and lets the audience infer basically everything they need to know about them, but good God has it turned into a lazy shorthanded trope.

From there, we skip ahead to some unspecified time in the mid-to-late 1800s where we get introduced to the kid from the opening sequence, Charles, who is now all grown up and is the grizzled leader of a werewolf hunting group. This group are all colourful and distinct characters… archetypical, but distinct at least (you’ve got your drunken badass, heavy gunner, the hot action girl, the shady guy, etc). As fun as seeing werewolf hunters in action could be, I was worried pretty much right off the bat that Charles would be a crappy protagonist because he tries so hard to be badass that it could have been cringy and campy instead. Luckily, the film seems to have anticipated this and wisely went for a “less is more” approach, making him more of the idealized side-character everyone looks up to. It also doesn’t help that the film really bungles fleshing out any of the characters, especially in the hunting group (again, they’re mainly just a single character trait each rather than characters). The only one with any real development is Stefan (the previously mentioned shady guy), but that is simply because the film wants to utilize him as an obligatory secondary antagonist.

Luckily, the film instead chooses to make its protagonist a doctor’s apprentice named Daniel, whose village is under attack by an unusually powerful werewolf. He isn’t an amazing character either, but he’s definitely the most interesting in the whole cast, makes a good audience surrogate and is someone who you can empathize with. Unfortunately, his love interest, Eva, does not share that same fate, being relegated to the most boring and generic of generic love interests imaginable. Other than that, there’s Daniel’s prostitute mother, a doctor whose name is literally Doc, a stressed out mayor and a con-man hunter named Jaeger (who is actually rather fun to watch).

Anyway, The Beast Among Us starts out really poorly, introducing us to the hunters and to Daniel and Eva, without really giving us a sense of who is who, and jumping between these two perspectives in a confusing manner. In fact, the first 10-15 minutes of the movie are quite difficult to follow, mainly serving to establish the nature of this world that we’re exploring – there is a blight of werewolves on the countryside, people are being slaughtered by them, the citizens will slay those who become infected without mercy, and there are groups of hunters tracking the wolves down to keep people safe. The film also establishes that there’s a new breed of werewolf that is breaking the usual rules of lycanthropy in this universe (namely, that it can transform without the full moon) that has been attacking Daniel’s village, which prompts the hunters to lend their services (in a scene which toes the line between a Jaws rip-off and “homage”). Wanting to see the deaths end, Daniel offers his services to the hunters, who accept with much reluctance.

The Beast Among Us very much looks and feels like a TV movie – a fairly professional and high-quality one, to be fair, but a TV movie none-the-less. That said, it is surprisingly gory. The opening segment of the film establishes how brutal the werewolf attacks are by having mutilated corpses strewn across the streets, forest and falling out of ravaged carriages. Hell, there’s also a scene where Doc and Daniel realize a man they are trying to treat has been infected by lycanthropy, so Doc pulls out a pistol and blows his head off. If you’re looking for buckets of blood, then this film will deliver in that regard.

One unfortunate aspect of the film is that its werewolf is largely realized through CGI. Again, it’s certainly better looking than Red: Werewolf Hunter, likely due to Universal’s involvement in this film’s production, but it still is a far cry from Dog Soldiers or An American Werewolf in London… or, hell, The Wolfman remake. The filmmakers do show some restraint though, as the CGI is mostly used in shots where the werewolf is moving and attacking. There is also a practical costume which is used at times when we’re actually supposed to empathize with the werewolf, which definitely shows some wisdom on the part of the filmmakers and suggests to me that they knew that the CGI was going to be inadequate. The costume actually looks pretty good too, it’s just a shame that they couldn’t find a way to use it more throughout the film.

Anyway, I don’t want to totally spoil the film because for all its problems The Beast Among Us is a reasonably entertaining film with a couple good twists, but it also fails to really leave an impression on you when it’s over. It’s literally forgettable… and I’m not exaggerating about that either. I set up the start of this review to imply that this was the first time I had seen this film, because I honestly thought that it was. However, when I went to go rate it on IMDb afterwards, I saw that I had already seen this movie 5 years ago. Like I said, this film had a couple good twists and isn’t even all that bad, but I had completely forgotten that I had ever seen it – The Beast Among Us is that generic and that mediocre that I never even had a feeling like I might have seen this before. I couldn’t even remember who the main character was going to be or who the werewolf was all along. That’s actually what prompted me to write this review, because it’s interesting how forgettable movies work – I’ll never forget any of The Howling films (even the fourth one, in which literally nothing happens until the last 10 minutes), Project X or Troll 2, because they at least manage to stick with you afterwards. However, a film that doesn’t fail hard enough, or which fails to do anything but stick to bland tropes is harder to recall and may just be the worst fate that can befall a movie.

Like I said, The Beast Among Us is a reasonably entertaining film, but it will not stick with you afterwards. It never really rises above mediocre, but it’s worth the watch if you’re into werewolf films and have a lazy weeknight with nothing better to do.

4.5/10

Please follow and like us:

Holy shit, this blog is now 5 years old

Wow, I might have optimistically expected to be writing blog posts 5 years after I started this blog, but considering that I have gone on 2 very long hiatuses (…hiati? Hiateses?) in that time frame, the fact that it has lasted 5 years and has over 200 blog posts is fairly impressive to me. So, as a celebration of 5 years of IC2S, I’m going to use this post to highlight 5 posts which I think you should check out, representing some of the most interesting, funny or enjoyable content on this blog.

1) Extraterrestrial Jesus
How would religion respond to the discovery of alien life? Does alien life instantly refute the narratives of the major religions? This is one of those weird theological posts that I really enjoy writing, where I take something totally theoretical and then try to apply it to the real world. I hope you find it thought-provoking.

2) So… What’s the Point?
Considering that a lot of my longer, better thought-out pieces revolve around sexism, I figure we should have at least one major representative for those posts. This is one of the more recent ones and is largely a culmination of the ideas I have stated previously, and also focuses on social justice in general on a larger scale, and why standing up for it matters. Plus, it links to a lot of other related posts of mine on the subject, so it’s a great starting ground if you want to dive into this rabbit-hole.

3) Video Game Review: Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 – Venus
And speaking of sexism, considering that I went out and imported an embarrassing, Japanese-only video game just for this review, I think that more people need to see it. Those trophies are never leaving my PSN account, after all. And, in retrospect, I definitely feel like I was being too soft on it in this review. I still feel like there’s a relaxing level of enjoyment to be had in DOAX3, but good God this game is awfully designed. Team Ninja needs to stop putting their considerable talents towards this kind of tripe and more towards a Ninja Gaiden reboot or Nioh 2.

4) Gun Control, and Why Partisan Politics Need to Die
I was tempted to put up “Voter Ignorance” here, but this larger article covers the same sorts of issues and has more practical application. Plus, this line still rings true nearly every day in Trump’s America: “It would seem to me that the main reason [Ted Cruz] is [lying about reasonable gun control measures] is because it will rile up potential voters and get them to support him. It doesn’t matter whether what he says is true or not, as long as he gets the votes.”

5) Retrospective: The Howling – New Moon Rising
I have written a lot of reviews on this website since I started it and, while the All the Boys Love Mandy Lane review and the Metal Gear Solid retrospectives are probably my best, I’ll never get over just how much I tore apart The Howling: New Moon Rising… and good God did it ever deserve it. When the only good thing you can say about a movie is that you can usually see the things that they’re filming (and yes, the film is so bad that I had to qualify “usually” about something that basic), you know you have a stinker for the ages. Birdemic seriously did more right than this film, and that movie is practically a home video production.

Thanks for reading. I can’t guarantee that I’ll be posting regularly, but I at least have a few more posts in mind, so look forward to content for the foreseeable future.

Please follow and like us:

My Favourite Albums of 2017

Hey… it’s been a super long time since I made a post. Considering that I left shortly before all the bullshit with Trump started, that might have been for the best, but I’ll make an update on what has gone on in my life sometime soon… because damn it has been quite a year.

But anyway, I was thinking back on the music I’ve been listening to this year and it caused me to realize just how many albums I’ve checked out since January. Then, before I knew it, I suddenly had half an IC2S list hashed out and knew that I had to finally get back into the blogging game. So, here I present to you, the albums I listened to in 2017, ranked from worst to best. Naturally, I’ll note that music is super subjective, my list is nowhere near comprehensive, and I’d be shocked if you had listened to more than a couple of the albums on it. Just consider this some random loser on the Internet’s list of albums he listened to this year, if nothing else.

13) Tear the Roots, Kaleida
After the very promising Think EP and its mesmerizing title track, I was very intrigued to see what Kaleida would come up with in their debut album. The results are, unfortunately, very mediocre. “Think” reappears completely unchanged and is the one shot of adrenaline in the whole album, which doesn’t speak well to the new material. Tear the Roots is a competent release, but very mediocre and forgettable. I can’t ever see myself listening to it in full again, which should be about all you need to know about it really.

12) Pretzel Champions, Countless Thousands
As the album’s Bandcamp description states, Pretzel Champions was “written and recorded in the eye of a storm in only 24 hours. We like to tempt fate.” That more-or-less should give you an idea of what you’re in for, featuring 4 lean songs with questionable recording quality. It doesn’t hold a candle to the rest of Countless Thousands’ catalogue, although the obviously experimental nature and time-crunch that birthed it makes it certainly intriguing. “An Umbrella for the Golden Shower” and “Sunday Best” are really solid songs which I would love to hear in a bit more refined form sometime in the future. It’s not exactly a bad album, but the poor audio quality definitely holds it back.

11) Gone, Red
Red and I have a bit of a troubled history. End of Silence was a great debut and Innocence & Instinct was a great follow-up. However, cracks began to show with the forgettable Until We Have Faces, but it wasn’t until the bland, chart-seeking Release the Panic that I decided that I was sick of Red. However, the band seemed to realize that they had screwed up and made amends in fantastic fashion with, in my opinion their best album, of Beauty and Rage. So, going into Gone I was left wondering which direction Red was going to head – were they going to try to recapture that quality again? Or were they going to try to aim for that blander rock sound again? The answer is… well, a little bit of everything. In terms of sound, Gone feels like something of an amalgamation of all of Red’s albums thus far, for better or worse. The album’s at its best when it’s hewing towards those first 2 albums (“Step Inside, The Violence” “Still Alive”, “Chasing Your Echo”) or of Beauty and Rage (“A.I.”). However, it’s also gets questionable when it hews towards Release the Panic‘s electronic synthesizers and radio-rock sound. The title track is a good example of this – it’s a serviceable radio rock track, but then at the height of the chorus, it will suddenly switch into this electronic music which literally sounds like a generic top 40 backing track, and I don’t like how this gels together. On the other hand, “Unstoppable” is just awkward – it feels like Red want an anthemic crowd-pleasing rock track, but the chorus in particular feels half-baked and I’d feel really silly screaming that at a concert with any sort of sincerity. The closing track, “Singularity”, is the one track that feels quite different from what they’ve done and maybe points towards the future, with some eerie sampling and slow build-up towards its heavy ending. I have a feeling that Red has a diverse fanbase at this point, and in trying to give everyone something to enjoy, they can’t help but alienate others in the process. Gone isn’t bad, but it didn’t really reignite my passion for this band like I was hoping it would.

10) Humanz, Gorillaz
I would maintain that Demon Days is one of the best soundtracks to the post-9/11 and early War on Terror era, so I was really hoping that Humanz would be the Trump-era equivalent. While Humanz seems to have the aspirations to hit that lofty goal (further suggested by the various album covers which are reminiscent of the iconic Demon Days art), the results are unlikely to stand the test of time. Humanz is, simply put, a bit of a mess. There are some standout tracks, such as “Saturnz Barz”, “Busted and Blue” and “Halleujah Money”, but there are so many strange and sometimes forgettable tracks which just feels like they took absolutely everything from the studio and then threw it at the wall to see what would stick. Damon Albarn also takes a backseat on most of the tracks, which just further makes this feel like a mixtape rather than a cohesive album. It gets more enjoyable the more you listen to it, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that this might be less “self titled debut” and more “The Fall“.

9) Cold Dark Place EP, Mastodon
The surprise second release by Mastodon in 2017, Cold Dark Place attempts to harken back to the band’s sludgier roots which they have left behind since 2009’s Crack the Skye, at which point the band moved more towards progressive metal. That’s not to say that Cold Dark Place is particularly heavy – it’s reminiscent of the slower parts of Blood Mountain (think “Pendulous Skin”) or The Hunter perhaps. The 4 songs here have a melodic and melancholic feed to them, making the album’s title and art actually quite effective for describing the feel you get listening to it. There are only 4 tracks, but they’re all solid and reasonably lengthy, so it lasts longer than you might otherwise expect. At this point, I’m just curious to see if this is just an experiment from Mastodon, or a sign of things to come going forward. I guess we’ll see in a couple years time.

8) No Grave But the Sea, Alestorm
Alestorm jokingly declared that they were scraping the barrel with their pirate metal antics 2 albums ago, but No Grave But the Sea further goes to demonstrate that they can continue to spin gold out of a seemingly finite concept. Part of the reason for this is because Alestorm does not take themselves seriously in the slightest, so every album is a reminiscent of a rowdy and rousing bar concert (like something out of Tangled). Tracks like “Mexico”, “Fucked With an Anchor” and “Man the Pumps” leave me simultaneously laughing and wanting to sing along at the same time, and that’s before you even factor in the bonus CD which replaces all the lyrics with dogs barking (…no seriously, that is not a joke, that actually exists). That’s not to say that there are no more serious tracks here – the title track and “To The End of the World” are quite badass and help to keep the album from going too far and becoming a total farce.

7) Outlive, Demon Hunter
Outlive has my favourite opening of the year with the badass “Trying Times” hyping you for what’s to come, and then leading into the blistering “Jesus Wept”. It’s then a bit of a minor tragedy that Outlive peaks immediately and doesn’t come close to matching that intensity again. All of the tracks are solid, but there are some forgettable stretches and only a few tracks really stand out from the pack, particularly the aforementioned opening duo and “Raining Down” (which has gone on to become a bit of an anthem for me this past year). The relative softening of Demon Hunter’s signature intense metalcore sound is also slightly disappointing, but the music is good enough that this isn’t too serious an issue. Outlive is a good release by Demon Hunter, maybe not as strong as their last album, Extremist, but certainly a worthy addition to their catalogue.

6) Alba, Sleeping Romance
Sleeping Romance’s previous release, Enlighten, was a rather standard symphonic metal release which was buoyed by the unexpectedly heavy and intense closing track, “Devil’s Cave”. My worry going into Alba was that Sleeping Romance wouldn’t be able to match that high point, but the album quickly put those fears to rest. The opening overture is appropriately gothic, operatic and theatrical, showing the band’s greater ambition and matured musicianship before transitioning into the familiar Sleeping Romance sound (strings, piano, heavy guitars and Federica Lanna’s dreamlike voice and particular Italian accent). There are also two tracks which very much rival “Devil’s Cave”, the first being “Forgiveness” with a very heavy opening and some fantastic solos in the latter half, and the second being the title track, which is clearly intended to harken back to “Devil’s Cave” before spinning off into its own thing. The album isn’t just trying to match previous beats though, as tracks like “Touch the Sun” and “Everything Behind” also stand out in ways that previous efforts never really did. In many ways, Alba could be said to be like a much more refined version of Enlighten, in that it treads similar ground, but in a much stronger package. I really wasn’t sure what I was going to think of this album, but I was left pleasantly surprised by how good it ended up being.

5) The Lost City, The Wise Man’s Fear
A friend of mine got me into Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle a little over a year ago. Shortly after finishing the second book in the series, The Wise Man’s Fear, I accidentally stumbled onto a fantasty-based metalcore outfit with the same name which was clearly drawing inspiration from Rothfuss. Suffice to say, I was intrigued and very quickly discovered an exciting new band that I have been listening to regularly ever since. While their previous release, Castle in the Clouds, hewed closer to Rothfuss, The Lost City sees The Wise Man’s Fear branching out more into their own fantasy creations. The fantastical elements lend the band a rather unique space in the metalcore genre, where the angst and intensity is not just the band getting out their own issues, but rather they’re telling the stories of a character and a world. The band’s vocal and sonic diversity are also impressive and help to distinguish the tone of each song – one minute they might be singing melodically before switching over to shouts, screams and death growls… and dammit it sounds so freaking good (hell, “Bloodlust” even has doom metal-style “bree bree” vocals at certain points). Particular standouts for me include “Grey King”, “What Time Brings”, “Codex” and the title track, but nearly the entire damn album is fantastic.

4) Sheep Among Wolves, Project 86
For a very long time, I considered Project 86 to be my second favourite band, so hopefully that helps to illustrate how disappointed I was in their last release, Knives to the Future, that I was quite hesitant about how their newest album was going to turn out. Thankfully, Sheep Among Wolves is Project 86 back in true form. While Knives suffered from being far too light, Sheep goes in the other direction (overcompensating even) and dials the band’s hardcore sound back up to 11. This album is relentlessly intense, moreso than any other Project 86 album before, and barely easing up until the final track (although it doesn’t reach the level of heaviness and darkness that their first few albums did either). Andrew Schwab’s songwriting has always helped Project 86 to stand out from the pack, and the lyrics here are as fantastic as ever, bringing a poetic side to seemingly straightforward headbanging hardcore rock. The album art is also really cool, probably my favourite cover of the year. If there’s one hesitation I have about Sheep Among Wolves, it would be a bit of unease about the closing track “Metempsychosis”. It’s as good a song as any on the album, but it tackles the idea of changing one’s self through surgery to try to solve deeper issues. Obviously, this is attempting to enter into to the conversation about transgender individuals, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I’m not sure that I agree with Schwab’s assertion that there’s a spiritual issue at the core of these people seeking surgery, but at the very least he comes across to me as stating his position in a respectful way. If you’re dead-set on any sort of questioning of gender reassignment surgery then you’re probably going to be disappointed with this song, but it’s conveyed in a respectful enough manner that I at least think it deserves its place.

3) Ritual, In This Moment
I was a bit hesitant going into Ritual. Similarly to Project 86, In This Moment’s last album, Black Widow, was a major departure from their usual sound, taking on more pop vibes and losing some of its edge, and it could have easily represented a complete shift in how the band would operate going forward. However, In This Moment proved me wrong in spectacular fashion. I still feel like Blood is their best album, but Ritual is solid from start to finish. It also experiments with their sound in some interesting ways. Blood and Black Widow had both played up a level of gothic, transgressive sexuality which I had quite enjoyed. Ritual quite intentionally jettisons that tone, but is none the weaker for it, proving that, contrary to some opinions on the matter, sex may sell but talent speaks for itself. Instead, Ritual plays more towards In This Moment’s stage theatrics, weaving occultic tapestries which will also make for a fantastic live show (and I sure as hell hope so, I’m planning on catching them in Detroit with P.O.D. in the new year). However, unlike say, The Wall, the tracks here are all just as listenable without a live stage show to go along with them. “Black Wedding” in particular is a hell of a song, riffing on a classic while spinning it in its own direction. I’ve listened to it multiple times in a row on more than one occasion. “Twin Flames”, “Half God Half Devil” and “Roots” are also real standouts. Ritual is, all-in-all, a great album and thankfully puts In This Moment back on track and makes me excited to see where they go in the future.

2) Emperor of Sand, Mastodon
Maybe you’re starting to notice a trend, but I was initially concerned going into Emperor of Sand, because Once More ‘Round the Sun was unquestionably Mastodon’s weakest album to date. Hell, the title even referenced the workman-like nature of it, meaning that another year will pass and therefore another album and touring cycle for the band. Ever since their initial elemental quadrilogy ended, Mastodon have been spinning their wheels a bit, trying to figure out where they will go next. However, when it became clear that Mastodon were going to be going back to a style reminiscent of Crack the Skye (my personal favourite album of theirs), I got excited. Thankfully, Emperor of Sand does not disappoint. In fact, I’d put it on par with Blood Mountain, near the upper-half of their catalogue (which, to contextualize, are popularly considered some of the best metal albums since the 2000s). The album also focuses very strongly on the inevitability of death, and this brings an appropriately sombre tone to the proceedings. There isn’t a weak track on the album, but particular highlights include “Sultan’s Curse”, “Ancient Kingdom”, “Jaguar God” and especially “Steambreather”, which is most reminiscent of their sludgier roots. Between Emperor of Sand and the Cold Dark Place EP, Mastodon has had quite the year, and I’m very curious to see how they progress going forward. Perhaps we’re looking at the start of another thematic quadrilogy? One can only hope that Mastodon continues to challenge themselves and don’t ease back into a comfortable cycle.

1) Through Glass Eyes, At Dawn’s Edge
Two years ago I saw Sovereign Council in concert for the album debut celebration for Laniakea. The opening act that night was a band called At Dawn’s Edge, whose symphonic/power metal style instantly had me intrigued. I purchased their EP, First Contact, but was disappointed that most of their setlist wasn’t actually on the EP… and so began the long wait for their debut album to drop. However, nothing prepared me for just how impressive Through Glass Eyes was going to be, and HOLY SHIT is it ever good. For a small outfit, the production values are impeccable, the songs are ambitious and diverse and the band members all display a level of talent and maturity which are frankly insane for a debut album.

My only complaint is really just a nitpick – I vastly prefer the recording of “Utter” on First Contact over the version on Through Glass Eyes. This is a sore point for me, because “Utter” was by far my favourite track on First Contact. The contrast between the vocals of Tamara Filipovic and the male vocalist really made that song work fantastically, but in Through Glass Eyes, this contrast has been replaced with Tamara Filipovic’s singing only. It doesn’t sound nearly as good in comparison to me, and kind of ruins an otherwise good song. Like, I’m honestly at a point where I’m considering swapping in the First Contact version whenever I listen to “Utter” going forward, which would only make Through Glass Eyes that much better of an album to me. Really, this is a nitpick as I said, because Through Glass Eyes is a staggeringly good debut and makes me hope that At Dawn’s Edge have a long and successful career ahead of them. I know that I’ll be there to support them in it.

Please follow and like us: