Ill-conceived retro fable deserves silver bullet
A metaphoric lupine love story with an unfortunately draggy "socially relevant" message, The Wolves of Kromer takes the liberal horror movie subtext — in which the monster is a sympathetic outsider scorned by a hostile community — and beats it to a bloody, allegorical pulp.
In this British-made fairy tale (cheekily narrated by the original lone wolf, Boy George), a pair of lithesome, post-Goth yummy gay youths, Gabriel (James Layton) and Seth (Lee Williams) cruise the countryside in ratty Whatever Happened to Baby Jane fur coats and indulge in disco bacchanalias in forest glades with their sexy bare-chested brethren.
Director Will Gould's vision of the wolves' lives looks like a cross between a suburban pothead's sylvan paradise and a bonfire wienie roast hosted by Ken Russell. Layton and Williams seem chosen for their ability to pout and smolder on cue (which they do exceedingly well), but the pretty boys can't quite distract from the vacuity of this production.
The villagers in The Wolves of Kromer are a far less sexy animal, a collection of withered old crones and bigots led by a demented Catholic priest (Kevin Moore) intent upon chasing the hounds back to hell. That the Catholic Church has "issues" with homosexuality is not exactly an original insight, and it gives the film a sense of agenda-driven predictability that saps a great deal of its creative spark.
Gould clearly puts no stock in understatement and thus makes his wolves the objects of blind prejudice, hate, scorn, etc. whose foes tend to deliver lines through narrowed eyelids, with spittle collecting about their mouths. "You're being really uncool about this," a precocious young lad, Kester (Matthew Dean), says to the priest in one scene, neatly conveying the depth of this film's clear-cut politics.
There is some steamy wolf kissing, a glimpse of wolf pubis and, for drama's sake, a lover's rift between Gabriel and Seth to recommend The Wolves of Kromer to the anthropologically minded interested in such novel physiognomy and mating habits.
A less compelling subplot centers on the mistress of a local estate being slowly poisoned by the nasty, withered old housekeeper Fanny (Rita Davies) and her cohort Doreen (Margaret Towner) with the intention of inheriting a pile from the deceased. The despicably rotten and broadly drawn old hags (who suggest wart-nosed Disney villains along the lines of Cruella De Vil) also are vying for the attention of the hunky middle-aged priest (well, hunky within the context of this aesthetically challenged village).
If you thrill to climactic scenes of villagers wielding flaming torches out to kick a little lupine ass, you won't be disappointed by the denouement of Wolves of Kromer. But it's unfortunate when a film that so wants to channel the alternative sexuality vibe settles for such pat story construction. Wolves is not the first film to treat the sexual aspects of folk legend. The bisexual vampires of The Hunger and the sexually blossoming teen of the Little Red Riding Hood tale In the Company of Wolves have plumbed this territory before and better. But Wolves does have the dubious distinction of being the first to make such potentially sultry material feel so flat and uninspired.