Moonstruck #1: War Wolves (2009) - Reviewed

A SYFY original that was lost in the sea of “monster of the week” films the network produces, Michael Worth's War Wolves features an endearing duo of performances by horror veterans that elevates it above mediocrity.  Featuring Tim Thomerson (Trancers) and John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street), an unusual (but wonderfully cheesy) spin on lycanthropy, and a smattering of memorable one liners, this is an unconventional choice for a Halloween popcorn experience. 

Jake Gabriel and his elite unit of soldiers are ambushed in the Middle East an infected with an unusual disease that forever alters them.  Jake splits from the unit, attempting to control the beast within while his compatriots embrace it, causing an aging pair of military assassins to begin hunting them.  Worth's script is unusual for a genre film, attempting to simulate the perils of post traumatic stress disorder that plagues many soldiers via a supernatural curse.  Going a step further, there is an undercurrent of politics, particularly towards the military machine.  Haunted soldiers roam an American wasteland filled with aliens, monsters, and Elvis while they are pursued by the government that essentially created them.  This is an extreme interpretation, but it only enhances the unusually strong (in patches) screenplay. 

John Saxon and Tim Thomerson are the entire film. While the "wolves" are interesting, everything pales in comparison to the aging friends at the center of the storm.  Saxon is wounded, vulnerable, and wears his guilt like a badge.  Conversely Thomerson is the court jester, making light of everything while desperately trying to save his friend's soul.  It's a delightful, nostalgia filled trip that that will have cult cinema fans begging for more.  Beyond this, Neil Lisk's cinematography, when given a chance to breath, is one of the film's brighter notes.  Looming aerial tacking shots and well-lit action sequences keeps everything flowing.   

The final piece is a supporting turn by screen legend Adrienne Barbeau, whose conspiracy laden spinstress provides ample amounts of humor throughout.  The ultimate result is a fun, but forgettable affair, save for the performances.  With respect to the werewolf genre, perhaps the most interesting flourish is in how the disease slowly overtakes its victims, rather than simply outright dominating them during the full moon.  In War Wolves, it is presented as something that can be controlled and manipulated.

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, War Wolves doesn't bring anything new to the genre, outside cosmetic changes, but its outstanding performances by veteran performers keeps it relevant.  

--Kyle Jonathan