Back in 2010, Universal Pictures released, The Wolfman. It was a big budget remake of their 1941 monster classic, The Wolf Man (I don’t know why the remake is one word, I just go with it). As directed by Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Jumanji, Captain America: The First Avenger), it was a fun, classy, souped up, atmospheric, European-flavored spectacle with a killer score.
It was also a huge flop at the box office. Ronald Meyer, who was the president of the studio at the time of the film’s release, considered it one of the worst movies Universal had ever made. Keep in mind this is the studio that made Ed and the Jaws sequels.
The Wolfman is not without its flaws, but it’s not that bad. It’s certainly not the worst film Universal has thrust upon the world. I like it, I think it’s good. But, I do confess, Jonathan Maberry’s novelization of the movie is better. In fact, the book is great.
The Wolfman is set the late 19th Century in Blackmoor, England. When Ben Talbot is discovered to be missing, his fiancee, Gwen, writes to Ben’s estranged brother, Lawrence Talbot. Lawrence is an actor who happens to be in London when the letter reaches him and he is persuaded to return home. Once home, his dad, Sir John, informs him that Ben has been found dead. Brutally massacred, actually. Just horrendously mauled.
In Blackmoor, the blame for Ben’s death is divided between a wild animal attack or the Gypsies having done it. Some think the Gypsies’ dancing bear is responsible. While visiting the Gypsy camp with locals to investigate the bear theory, Lawrence is attacked by…something. He survives, and recovers rather quickly.
The Gypsy woman who helped tend to Lawrence after the attack, knows the man was bitten by a werewolf. She also knows the future does not bode well for Lawrence and that only a loved one can set him free.
Lawrence, also, knows something isn’t right. He begins to go through another stage of life where his body begins to do some weird stuff and, after a quite strange encounter with his dad, he wolfs out and goes on a killing spree. The next morning his dad finds him in a bloodied, disheveled state and hands him over to Inspector Aberline, a Scotland Yard detective sent to sleepy, little Blackmoor to solve Ben’s murder. Lawrence is carted off to an insane asylum and everyone thinks life will go back to normal.
The case, though, is far from closed. A confined space like a lunatic hospital is not really where you want to house a man who turns into a ferocious, bipedal werewolf. Especially one with revenge on his mind.
Movie novelizations tend to be hit or miss. This is one of the best, if not the gold standard. It feels like the movie was adapted from it and the book was better. I’ll recommend The Wolfman any day for anyone looking for a stellar werewolf novel, or just a good horror story. It stands on its own from the movie, and it’s different enough to escape the shadow of the 1941 classic.