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Universal Studios has always been a happy home for monster movies. As honored in the deluxe-package release of Universal classics Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera, and Creature from the Black Lagoon, the studio's franchise legacy remains one of American cinema's historic achievements. The direct-to-home-video feature Werewolf: The Beast Among Us is a direct descendent that is as proud of its B movie values as it is of the gruesomely explicit tale of a mythic monster and the formulaic way it binds character and story into salable entertainment. The eastern European village of some indeterminate 19th-century setting has been terrorized for years by wolf creatures that savagely tear apart or devour their prey under the daylight glow of the full moon. A brief prologue introduces us to a little boy who survives an attack that leaves him an orphan and the bearer of his father's wolf-hunter amulet. Thirty years later we again meet the hardhearted Charles (Ed Quinn), leader of a marauding band of werewolf bounty hunters who trek the countryside ridding small towns of the evil man-beast creatures. The archetypal device of a virus that turns survivors of a werewolf attack into werewolves themselves remains at the heart of the story, and the disease is in full bloom across Transylvania. That address becomes significant in the grand finale as kin to another of Universal's famous creatures reveals itself. It also lends much needed authenticity to the production, which was shot on location and makes excellent use of gothic town squares, especially when they are strewn with mutilated corpses after a night of full-moon terror. The motley assortment of hunters makes a colorful cast, who each have their own specialties in the ways of killing werewolves. An eye-patched Steven Bauer is representative of the rollicking posse of characters, doing as much scenery chewing as the part-CGI, part-furry costumed beast. The other name actor in Werewolf is Stephen Rea as a grizzled doctor whose lifelong study of the creature is bent on finding a cure, if not a means of controlling the ghastly disease. But his motives may not be as altruistic as they seem, especially to his young protégé Daniel (Guy Wilson), who comes to understand his own destiny and his mentor's underlying motives a little too late. There's lots of swashbuckling action, bawdy subterfuge (Nia Peeples, who plays Daniel's mother, runs the local bordello), and pleasantly groan-inducing humor along the way. But mostly it's the graphic carnage of this orgy of severed body parts, rivers of blood, and headless bodies that will charm its horror film-buff audience. As indicated, this is strictly B movie material with a by-the-numbers script, unremarkable direction, and a giddy over-the-topness that works within its limitations by assuming an appropriate sense of irony. There are a handful of interesting extras that cover the production from several angles, including its effectively seat-of-the-pants special effects and Werewolf's provenance as an heir to the Universal horror legacy.

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BRMC19832 Werewolf the Beast Among Us Blu Ray DVD (2012/Stephen Rea) $34.98 $29.99