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  Never Cry Werewolf Any resemblance to Fright Night is purely coincidental
Year: 2008
Director: Brenton Spencer
Stars: Nina Dobrev, Kevin Sorbo, Peter Stebbings, Spencer Van Wyck, Melanie Leishman, Kim Bourne, Sean O’Neill, Nahanni Johnstone, Von Flores, Rothaford Gray, Billy Otis, Rebekah Boisvert, Julie Sype, Greg Calderone, Kelly Fiddick
Genre: Horror, Comedy, TV MovieBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Everyone seems smitten with the new neighbour, but teenager Loren (Nina Dobrev) can’t help feeling uneasy about brooding stranger Jared Martin (Peter Stebbings). Sure he’s handsome, has a hot motorcycle and a winning way with the ladies, but there is something strange about his hairy palms, extreme fear of fire and the big scary dog that follows wherever he goes. When local women start to disappear under mysterious circumstances, Loren recalls spying the latest victim in her neighbour’s house after dark. In her eyes it all adds up: Jared is a werewolf. Her mother (Kim Bourne) and bratty kid brother, Kyle (Spencer Van Wyck) think Loren is crazy. Then her best friend, Angie (Melanie Leishman), is found mauled to death and the police find no evidence linking Jared to the crime. So Loren turns to the one person she thinks might believe her: big game hunter-turned-reality TV star Redd Tucker (Kevin Sorbo).

Horror fans up in arms over the recent remake of Fright Night (1985) failed to note that Never Cry Wolf had already lifted its plot wholesale, almost scene for scene, character for character, only with a female lead and a shift in focus from vampires to werewolves. Former Hercules star Kevin Sorbo essays the Roddy McDowall role, sending his screen persona up rather amusingly in Bruce Campbell fashion, while the script concocts a less annoying alternative to Evil Ed in Steve (Sean O-Neill) the punk rock pizza boy whose hopeless crush on Loren makes him a target for the lycanthrope. This made-for-TV movie from the Sci-Fi Channel, or SyFy as they are now known (seriously, what’s up with that?) might well have languished in obscurity had not lovely Bulgarian-Canadian lead actress Nina Dobrev become the much-admired star of The Vampire Diaries.

Whether you consider Fright Night a horror classic or an ideologically muddled, effects-laden mess overrated by Eighties nostalgists, on close inspection Never Cry Werewolf does interesting things with its admittedly derivative plot. Although not on par with The Company of Wolves (1984), there is a pronounced sexual subtext with the vulnerable teenage heroine menaced by a smooth-talking stranger whilst ineffectual male bystanders mistake her genuine fear for erotic fascination. Jared does not see Loren as his next victim but as a potential mate, the reincarnation of his long-lost love, no less although there is some ambiguity as to whether his paramour was a consenting lover or another stalking victim. He claims Loren by right of conquest and biological imperative. But as a young woman suitably armed with feminism and sexual emancipation, Loren rightly scoffs at his primitive attitude and refuses to surrender herself just because “it’s in her blood.” The film does not belabour its empowerment message but it is there and winningly conveyed by Nina Dobrev as the plucky, resourceful Loren, although the film is uniformly well acted.

Rather sweetly, each of the flawed male characters overcome their deficiencies to come through for Loren by the end, although fittingly it is she who faces off against the beast, armed with a crossbow and some improvised silver ammo. The screenplay by John Sheppard is rife with snappy dialogue while the direction by Brenton Spencer is tight. Despite some goofy comedy, the tone is commendably serious, comparible with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, surprisingly gory with effective werewolf transformations and well sustained suspense sequences. What is more, this modest effort arguably achieves a far better balance between horror and comedy than its flighty Eighties progenitor.

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Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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