"Wer really delivers on both action and scares."

Werewolf films are a difficult beast. There are a lot of bad ones, a fair number of okay ones, and very few good ones. Eight months after The Samurai got its UK première, we have the pleasure of getting another good one - and like that film, it largely avoids using the W word.

Wer (Old English for 'person') is set in France, where we open with fragments of recovered evidence showing the brutal murder of a family of American tourists. Only one has survived, and she's lapsing in and out of consciousness, unable to reveal very much about what happened to her. She does use the word 'he', however, turning what was at first an investigation into a supposed animal attack into a murder hunt. Cue the arrest of Talan Gwynek (Brian Scott O'Connor), a local man who lives alone with his mother and happens to fit the witness' fragmented description: he's very tall, powerfully built, and covered in thick hair. He's also, as it turns out, quite severely disabled, and it's this that prompts American human rights lawyer Katherine (AJ Cook) to suspect that he's been framed.

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The investigation that follows involves a number of different leads and is complicated by the presence of Katherine's ex, Gavin (Simon Quarterman), who is jealous of her closeness to her other assistant, Eric (Vik Sahay). Local police chief Klaus (Sebastian Roché), meanwhile, is hostile toward the defence team and sometimes obstructive; is he just understandably frustrated at them getting in his way, convinced he's already caught the culprit, or has he got a darker reason for acting as he does? There are interesting revelations from Talan's mother (Camelia Maxim, who took on similar material in 2010's Strigoi), but she might not be entirely trustworthy either. As Katherine gradually wins the trust of the accused man, she finds herself unravelling a complex mystery.

Plots like this rely on being very tight, and Wer does make a few slips. Its medical theory runs into problems with a missing symptom universally present in the real disease, and the characterisation of Katherine is occasionally off, as she uses weighted language any real lawyer would be more careful about, as well as jumping to conclusions. Cook's performance is solid, however, and dedicated work by all the actors gives the film a sense of conviction too often missing from the genre. In fact, despite its increasingly fantastic content (the scientific explanation isn't altogether convincing), the film has more of the atmosphere of a police thriller.

With no annoyingly stupid werewolf costumes to distract the viewer, Wer really delivers on both action and scares. There's some great stunt work and visceral violence, but director Bell also knows when to go slow. The film is well balanced in terms of where it directs our sympathies and every character has flaws. Though not quite as innovative as Bell seems to think, this is a great piece of work and a film that general viewers as well as werewolf enthusiasts will enjoy.

Reviewed on: 16 Oct 2015
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A lawyer is called upon to defend a man accused of a bizarre mass murder.

Director: William Brent Bell

Writer: William Brent Bell, Matthew Peterman

Starring: A.J. Cook, Brian Scott O'Connor, Sebastian Roché, Vik Sahay, Simon Quarterman, Camelia Maxim

Year: 2013

Runtime: 89 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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