Guest Review: Wolf (1994) Starring Jack Nicholson & Michelle Pfiefer

This review is part of The Werewolf Run to help promote the release of my own werewolf novel, A Werewolf in Time (Mrs. McGillicuddy #2). Please visit Amazon and Barnes & Noble online for information on ordering a copy of the book for your Kindle or Nook. To see where I’ll be in the next month, visit:

WOLF (1994)

Wolf was one of those films that managed to suffer from its own hype. Cast changes, great expectations, a delayed release, and a reshot and poorly received ending all contributed to Wolf’s demise long before it ever hit the big screen. It was one of those movies that was set up to fail before it even began. Nearly everyone I’ve ever talked to has had multiple gripes and complaints about it. It’s not a good movie. It’ll never be a good movie. And yet, despite its failings, and it has many, I like the film. I’ve always liked the film.

I guess I have a special place in my heart for wounded movies dragging their figurative broken legs behind them. There’s something very ambiguous about Wolf. It’s a werewolf movie that doesn’t want to be a werewolf movie, much like its protagonist, Will Randall, played by the eponymous (and rather naturally wolf-like, I think) Jack Nicholson, doesn’t want to be a werewolf. I’m not sure what Wolf is. I know that at the time it was touted as a kind of pseudo-remake of the Wolfman, what the studio and a scattering of critics seemed to think—or hope—was going to be an instant horror classic. It wasn’t. Instead, it was bounced off critics’ unnaturally high standards and it failed, as it was doomed to do.

Much like Larry Talbot, Will Randall is bitten by a wolf while being in a place he shouldn’t be—a familiar starter to a familiar trope. That starts a complex chain of events that leads him through a labyrinth of people, conflicts and horrors that a New York editor should never have to face outside reading slush for a living. But there’s a certain subtle twist to Will’s predicament: his life is already falling apart as a human. He gets no respect in his job. His wife is having an affair. Unlike the Larry Talbots of the movie world, their lives taken and twisted by a cruel turn of fate, his life was a pile of wolf shit long before he was ever bitten. It really can’t get any worse. The curse of the werewolf comes as more of an escape than a damning orgy of death and blood. That escape leads to a kind of empowerment that I don’t think we see often enough in male protagonists anymore. One of my favorite scenes in Wolf is the newly empowered Will scalping clients away from his nefarious, ball-breaking boss. The fact that as a New York editor he has no power to actually take those clients away wasn’t lost on me. But it’s still fun to watch. Almost as much fun as watching Will take a piss on his boss’s shoes (literally and figuratively). In effect, he’s taking a piss on his human life, stating that, maybe as an animal, he’ll do a better job of it.

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