WolfCop (2014)

Review first published by Grolsch FilmWorks

In the new Millennium, most genre filmmakers were busy remaking the 1970s, to see how that Vietnam-, Nixon- and Manson-tinged Golden Age of horror might map onto our own post-9/11 experience of global terror, local insanity, Bush-brand torture and economic meltdown. Yet several younger, (slightly) more forward-thinking directors were looking instead to the decade in which they popped their own horror cherry. As early as 2006, James Gunn was celebrating Reagan-era excess with his icky alien invasion flick Slither (2006), and since then films like House of the Devil (2009), Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010), Hobo With A Shotgun (2011) and Almost Human (2013) have all declared their undying love for the 80s.

The latest, but certainly not the last, in this run of nostalgic tributes is Lowell Dean’s WolfCop, which wears its Eighties skin with pride, whether in its synth-driven score, its defiantly practical monster effects, or its hilariously elongated and cheesy candle-lit sex scene (between woman and beast, in a police cell!) set to the 1987 soft rock of Gowan’s Moonlight, Desires. WolfCop is not a period piece as such, but the town of Woodhaven in which the film’s events take place is as much backwards as backwoods, stuck in a strange timewarp where the spirit of the Eighties has never really died, even if the cellphones, camcorders and jukeboxes on display are caught somewhere between that era and our own. It is a place where the past is always present.

Leo Fafard is Lou Garou (named punningly after the French for ‘werewolf’), a feckless, womanising alcoholic who also happens to be an incompetent police officer, trying to fill the shoes that his cop father left empty after disappearing during the last lunar eclipse 32 years earlier. After a mysterious encounter in the woods with some Satanists, something in Lou starts to change, and with the moon full, and another lunar eclipse on the way, our lycanthropic protagonist starts to clean up his act as much as the community, even as he must confront the supernatural smalltown conspiracy that was his father’s downfall.

After decades of stasis and stupor, “village idiot” Lou needs to get his mojo back, and to become a man he must first become a wolf. Still, it says something about the kind of irreverent tone for which Dean is going here that the first part of Lou to be seen transforming into a hairy enlargement is his penis (“I’m glad I waited to sleep with this improved version of you,” he will later be told by his zoophilic lover). A more obvious, oversalutary narrative would see Lou giving up the alcohol that has been ruining him for decades – but here heavy drinking continues to fuel the reformed Lou’s nocturnal crimefighting, in a town where the ‘Drink n Shoot’ event is the highlight of the year, and even the donut, so beloved of cops, comes filled with liquor.

WolfCop is a gloriously lowbrow shaggy dog tale that puts its own spin on the werewolf mythos, makes a hero of a conventional monster, and has enough genre-savvy gags and goofs to get any well lubricated audience howling with laughter. It will probably all be forgotten with the following morning’s hair of the dog – but then, only a fool would accuse this unpretentious film of shooting for the moon.

Anton Bitel