WerThe list of superior werewolf films is short, relative to other monsters in the horror genre. Among the better entries are The Wolf Man, An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, and Ginger Snaps.

You can add Wer to the list.

Unfortunately named, but effectively produced, Wer delivers what it promises: a smart, modern take on the lycanthropy myth with enough gore and gristle to satisfy hardcore fans.

Director William Brent Bell and his screenwriting partner Matthew Peterman have delivered an artistic success to follow up on their financial one, the 2012 film The Devil Inside. That movie, made on a budget of one million dollars, grossed over 53 million, but was panned by both mainstream and genre critics. Strangely, Wer, a far superior product, is not currently scheduled for wide theatrical release, but is instead making the festival rounds and is available on iTunes.

Some have wrongly identified Wer as a found footage movie. Mercifully, that is not the case. The killings that set us on our way at the beginning of the film are captured on video camera as an American family vacationing in the French countryside is viciously attacked. The father and son are killed immediately; the mother, who is mauled, barely survives. While that footage is replayed as well along with a recorded interview of the mother in hospital as a part of the investigation, the majority of the movie plays out in traditional narrative form. Surveillance cameras and newscasts are effectively blended in as well.

The investigation into the deaths of the Americans leads to the arrest of a local: a hairy, silent, monster of a man named Talan Gwynek (Brian Scott O’Connor). The casting of O’Connor is perfect. Huge and threatening, the actor conveys menace even while shackled and sitting sedately. His public defender, Kate Moore (A. J. Cook), is a French American attorney and an example of the unnecessary pains the script takes in explaining why English is being spoken by so many of the characters living in France. Moore is convinced that Gwynek is innocent and sets out to prove it with the help of her investigative team, researcher Eric (Vik Sahay) and animal expert Gavin (Simon Quarterman). Leading the charge for the other side is French detective Klaus Pistor (Sebastian Roché), whose motives are suspect given his role in the investigation into the death of Talan’s father.

Believing that Talan may suffer from porphyria, which would explain not only his appearance but also prove his inability to commit the crimes for which he is accused, Moore arranges for him to be tested for the disease. That is when things go terribly wrong for the defense, but wonderfully right for the viewer. Director Bell establishes a great pace, and the film moves crisply throughout the 93 minute running time. Special effects and make up are excellent, particularly in a disquieting scene in the morgue when the bodies of the father and son are examined.

The actors also turn in first-rate work. Cook is beautiful, but an acocomplished enough actress for that not to get in the way. Quarterman as Gavin, the animal expert, has to take on a load toward the end of the movie, but carries it well. Sahay and Roché are equally fine; O’Connor, as mentioned above, is a standout.

Once again, you’ll believe that, Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night may turn into a wolf when the wolf bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.

Where wolf? There wolf. Check it out.

Three and a half stars.

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