DreadWorld Review: Wolf House (2015/16)

From Director Matt D. Lord, and co-writer, star, producer, seamstress, caterer, and bus driver (probably) Ken Cosentino comes the found footage werewolf (kind of) film Wolf House. Now, it's been well documented around these parts the issues that I have with the latest glut of "found footage" films that seem to flood our inbox on a weekly basis. However, that doesn't mean that, given the right circumstances, the sub-genre can't bring something new to the horror table. Does Wolf House serve up something new and fresh, or is it simply another Dramamine inducing schlock-fest? Like most thing's in life, the answer isn't simply black or white, but rests firmly in the "shades of grey" territory.

Wolf House begins with your typical group of friends getting together to go camping. Joey (Cosentino) is our main photographer and Donna (Houlihan) may or may not be his girlfriend (those waters are a little muddy). They are joined by 4 others who fit various points on the horror victim stereotype spectrum. Which may sound like a huge negative - but as we have covered before, stereotypes exist for a reason - because they work. But they only work with sufficient character development, and character development is something Wolf House has in spades. We are given enough time to get to know, understand, and feel what we need to feel for the characters before unleashing the horror....or rather interrupting the character development with bits and pieces of horror.

This is where Wolf House kind of falls apart and the films (reported) $5000 budget starts to rear its ugly head. Our heros (?) mistakenly kill a werewolf and haul it back to society. Before long it awakens and the killing starts - kind of. We get only partial looks at the wolves - clearly humans in costumes, which is fine. It worked in Late Phases, it certainly can work even in a post CGI world. But for Wolf House it doesn't really work, something the film makers seem to recognize as they switch bad guys halfway through the third act. The werewolves are jettisoned with little or no fanfare/explanation and are replaced with a more humanoid, and frankly scarier, threat.

I mentioned before that one of the strengths of the films first act is creating likable, identifiable, characters. Unfortunately, the film doesn't know when to turn off the "character" parts of the film and just focus on the scares. There are a number of call backs to the first act sprinkled throughout the final act. The problem is that the constant jumps back in time interrupt any sort of momentum that the film has in regards to building tension. Call backs used once or twice to reinforce the simpler, purer, parts of a characters journey are effective ways to tug at an audiences heart strings. But Wolf House makes the cardinal sin of trying to go to the well far too many times.

Don't let the obvious negatives, which are present mostly due to budget constraints, dissuade you from checking out Wolf House. Cosentino and Lord are definitely gifted storytellers. They are able to instill Wolf House with a level of heart and intelligence that is often missing from independent horror films. Of course the words on the page could be Shakespeare level, if the actors saying them are terrible, they don't mean crap. Unlike most micro-budget horror films, Wolf House is blessed with a troupe of pretty good actors. Don't expect Daniel Day Lewis performances here, but the actors certainly have the chops to do justice to the source material.

Wolf House, like many found footage, budgetarily challenged horror films, certainly has its fair share of warts. But unlike many of it's counterparts, it has well written characters, some effective scares, and film makers who exhibit flashes of real talent. Wolf House recently premiered at Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival and will be touring the festival circuit for the remainder of 2015. Check it out and support indie horror.

*** stars out of *****

That's it for me. As always, thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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