The Wolfen is a 1981 American horror movie starring Albert Finney, loosely based on the Whitley Strieber novel of the same name. First things first: this is not a werewolf movie. If you watch this flick expecting werewolves, you are going to be disappointed. I couldn’t find The Wolfen online, so I took it out for free at my library. Support your local library, kids!
The plot: a bigwig developer and his wife drive out to NYC in the middle of the night and are murdered by mysterious creatures we don’t see. New York City cops Dewey Wilson and Rebecca Neff are given the case. Playing hardboiled cop Dewey, Albert Finney gives his New York accent his all. I’ve lived in this area my entire life and can say that he doesn’t sound anything like a Native New Yorker, but I do appreciate him trying.
The murders are a political hot potato. The bigwig developer had plenty of enemies worldwide, so terrorism is suspected. Suspicion falls on a group of Native Americans working on a bridge, giving rise to some cringe-worthy dialogue. Edward James Olmos runs around naked on the beach. The mysterious creatures kill homeless people in the South Bronx, and then follow Dewey and Rebecca to Manhattan. The novel explains why; the movie doesn’t. Will our heroes survive?
The Woofen – I mean The Wolfen – is a long movie. The screenplay is unfocused. I wasn’t sure if I was watching a murder mystery, an eco-thriller or a horror movie. In the end it’s none of these things, which might be one of the reasons the movie’s not remembered, fondly or otherwise. Long periods go by when nothing happens and it takes too long to see the Wolfen. The action scenes – especially the climax – are laughable. As monsters, the Wolfen aren’t very frightening – in fact they’re downright fluffy.
I enjoyed The Wolfen, but that might be because I read the book and understood what was going on. The writers don’t do a good job of conveying basic information. I will say this movie was way ahead of its time in predicting the rise of scavengers, as witnessed by the spread of the coyote and the coywolf. Slow, confusing in parts, The Wolfen isn’t a classic and I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. This movie is a product of its time, for better or for worse.