(IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT/RUTHLESS PICTURES (79 minutes; Unrated); 2014)
As werewolf movies go, WEREWOLF RISING is certainly… something. I’m not really sure what it is. It’s not horrible, it’s not totally unwatchable, it’s just… I don’t know… rather low on the werewolf quotient (almost to the point of being werewolf free) and kinda schizophrenic, as to the type of movie it’s meant to be. It would appear that one of two things are happening here: Writer/director BC Furtney accidentally mixed the scripts to three different movies together or, a lot of the holes in plot and story occurred because the script was pared down due to budget constraints (but, then, I’m just not sure if this kind of flick has an audience that would sit through the extra hour or so it woulda taken to untangle this beast. That seems highly unlikely). So, since it is what it is and that’s all we’ve got, let’s look at the good and the bad of this film, shall we?
The opening sequence is probably the best five minutes of the entire movie, though it is not glitch free. An evil looking guy (Bill Oberst, Junior as Rhett) is threatening bad things to a young woman. He has just escaped from prison, kidnapped her and forced her to drive him to the middle of nowhere (actually, the middle of the Arkansas hills), where he intends to rape and kill her. Evil looking Rhett is interrupted by a noise in the underbrush, goes to check it out and is attacked by a giant beast (a beast that looks like some type of hybrid wolf/bat thing). The shredded and bloodied Rhett comes to just in time to see his intended victim’s throat torn out by the creature. It plays well and sets a tone for the rest of the film that is never achieved again. There are some cool moments when we’re actually watching through the werewolf’s eyes, a kind of red ultraviolet lens thing. That’s particularly effective as the animal turns its attention to the girl (unfortunately, the effect isn’t used consistently in the rest of the flick). Speaking of the girl, she does have a name: Christina (played by Danielle Lozeau); we know this because at one point, she whimpers her name as though Rhett has asked her to tell him. Problem is, as convincing as her terrorized reply is, he didn’t ask. Considering some of the other problems that we’ll get into, that’s a small one, but one that bugs the crap outta me.
After that grand opening, a tool used, I assume, for the express purpose of introducing the two main villains of the piece, werewolf prime (more about that one later) and Rhett. The movie proper begins with the heroine of the story, Emma (the exceptionally not-too-awful Melissa Carnell), delivering a soliloquy in the form of a phone conversation (we only hear her end of what is obviously a double-ended communication) intended to act as exposition, as she explains where she is (the place she grew up) and why she’s there (to get away from the “city life” which, as it’s wont to do, has driven her to drink; she has driven to the place of her birth to… not drink) and who she plans to meet there (her father’s old drinking buddy, Wayne). Carnell fluctuates between a very believable delivery to one fraught with melodrama to a kinda somnambulist drone. Guess which one works best. As Emma wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city (Boston, in this case), she has definitely come to the right place. Her little home in the hills is (in the vernacular) “a fer piece” from any type of civilization and, as a bonus, surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods. What could possibly go wrong, right? Weeeeelllll…
It seems that when Rhett escaped from prison he took his cellmate, Johnny Lee (Matt Copko), with him. Johnny Lee, apparently a two time loser (once for the ridiculous name and twice for a wooden – oh, heck, let’s be honest… a leaden personality), shows up at Emma’s back door and, inconceivably, wheedles his way into her heart even though she protests from her porch, from across a pond, from the back of a four-wheeler… you get the idea. It’s mere coincidence that he is related to Wayne (Brian Berry in a bone-chillingly awful performance). Once Wayne hears that his nephew is in the neighborhood, he arms Emma with a gun big enough to dislocate both of her shoulders with the kickback.
Johnny Lee has taken up residence in an abandoned church, where he takes Emma on his… her… someone’s… four-wheeler, and where plans are made to meet later, after Emma hosts Uncle Wayne for a late dinner. Two things happen in the interim: Wayne, who hasn’t given up the drink, attempts to stick his tongue down Emma’s throat (dessert?) and Johnny Lee is sliced and diced by the beast. After Emma tosses Wayne out, she heads for the rendezvous with Johnny Lee, only to find him tattered and moaning on the floor. He refuses to go to the hospital (escaped felon, remember?). So, what’s a girl to do? Why, take him home to nurse him back to health, of course. By the next night, Wayne is doing his drunken troll drive-by and Johnny Lee is craving raw meat and the great outdoors. Johnny Lee takes off for the woods out back just as Wayne and Rhett show up out front. Emma, now at the front door and armed, recognizes Rhett as the evil guy that’s been chasing her through her dreams of late. After disarming Emma, Wayne turns the weapon on Rhett. Shots are fired, blood splatters, Wayne gets his comeuppance and Emma crawls to the safety of… a bottle of vodka she finds in the closet she’s using as a hiding place.
If that doesn’t seem weird enough, things start getting truly bizarre. As Emma hightails it through the woods, she runs into a lone woman who likes wolves… a lot! Well, not really wolves… wolf, singular. And, she does not want to share. You’ve gotta pay close attention here, as everything starts to make sense (or, at least as much sense as this flick ever will). The woman, Beatrix (Irena Murphy, who eventually shows just how talented she is by going full-frontal), knows Rhett and Emma’s father. The campfire party is for one (or both) of them and, as usually happens in such cases, bad things are afoot. That’s all I’m sayin’; I ain’t sayin’ no more. Except this: If it’s true that the camera adds ten pounds, then I’m guessing that Carnell and Copko must go about fifteen pounds… between them. I’m sure that I’ve seen skeletal remains that weigh more than these two. So, anyway, aside from the convoluted backstories, grade D acting skills by at least three of the five principals and a cheesy looking monster, at the end of the day, WEREWOLF RISING is more watchable than a lot of like-minded horror fare. It’s kind of an okay way to kill an hour and twenty minutes.