Wolf Manor

Directed by Dominic Brunt

Written by Joel Ferrari and Pete Wild

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The continuing grasp of British horror-comedy already claims zombies, a smattering of vampires, ghoulies, and even a few too many killer sheep. Well, now it is the turn of a beast of old, a lycanthropic laugh infusion in the form of Emmerdale actor and horror enthusiast Dominic Brunt, who directs Joel Ferrari and Pete Wild’s Wolf Manor. 

In recent years the actor-director has turned their head away from the Yorkshire Dales in bloodthirst for their passion projects in the realms of horror with Before Dawn and Attack of the Adult Babies. So, what better to add to their growing arsenal of supernatural spectacles than a blood-thirsty werewolf escapade which attempts to pay homage to iconic Werewolf films which came before whilst taking a stab at the filmmaking process and farce surrounding low-budget B horror sequels.

Wolf Manor opens not with a snarling Werewolf but with their eternal enemy – a Vampire. Specifically, the re-emergence of Oliver Laurence’s famed fang-toothed monster has found a resurgence with new audiences, and of course, that means one thing: sequels. More specifically, Crimson Manor (the film within the film) is a quick and final outing for Laurence’s vampiric alter-ego, and enough cash to secure any house extensions and a redemption of sorts for the washed-up actor. 

As the cast and crew assemble at this old-manor house: the visage of which is a dream for filmmakers. Rented from a wary innholder, played wonderfully by John Henshaw, despite his warnings, this already abandoned manor oozes with gothic charm, a full moon providing the perfect shooting conditions for the team. But as the nightmares and stresses of filmmaking ensue, a different kind of terror emerges from the woods – and as the bodies pile high, something begins to howl and grunt in the night.

Played by Vicar of Dibley icon James Fleet, Oliver Laurence as the thespian turned horror icon is the centre-point for the film, with Fleet taking an evident glee in his Wolf Manor role – and enjoys revelling in the comedic aspects of the film. Hamming up Laurence’s egocentric attitude and sneering glances to the runners, props workers and camera crew – all played with relevant and keen irritations by Sade Malone and Nicky Evans. Shot in just a few weeks in Shropshire, Ferarri and Wild’s low-budget comedy-horror takes full advantage of the natural setting surrounding the titular manor – providing plenty of forest cover to hide the titular Werewolf and enabling night shoots to hide any seams.

A staple within the horror-comedy cannon – Wolf Manor does not take itself too seriously but fails to infuse any substance outside of the jokes and occasional fright. Wolf Manor struggles to move beyond its schlock aesthetic, though boasts tremendously gory and visceral practical effects – which elevate the threat level of the beast, but calls into question the intelligence of our cast who mistake these severed limbs and organs from the offerings of a bemused prop-master.

The werewolf, crafted by renowned make-up and special effects artist Shaune Harrison works with make-up designer Katie Wrigley and costume designer Lance Milligan to conjure an aesthetically intimidating, though stilted creature. In static and wide shots where it prowls its prey – the design works well, but any sense of momentum or movement detracts from the overall intimidation – it’s rigid build forces performer Morgan Rees-Davies to move a touch too familiarly, rather than that of an otherworldly menace. Praise is still heaped onto the creature performer however who manages to channel both a threatening aura and even comedic elements in his final showdown with Fleet’s Laurence.

Aiding in the flashes of dread is Andy Low’s sound mixing presents a guttural growl to ripple through the night shots early in the film. Wolf Manor rejects the usual soundtrack, utilising these sound effects to creative use – enhancing Vince Knight’s cinematography in a cannier light than the limited space of the inside of the manor, the natural lighting mingled with a heavy-set fog all working to push against Wolf Manor’s shortcomings. It makes for an experience which, while not entirely enrapturing, has enough to hold audiences throughout, embracing its kitschy, even camp storytelling to provide an enjoyable experience as it blends a sharp laugh with a less-than-vicious bite.

Sharp Laugh, Less-Than Vicious Bite

Wolf Manor will be available on DVD & Digital Download from January 9th.

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