Wolf (1994)

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If you follow Movies Unchained regularly, you’ll know I consider Jack Nicholson to be one of the finest actors of all time, and perhaps the greatest living actor, and it breaks my heart when I remember that he hasn’t made a film since 2010. Of course, we all know Jack for his masterful performances in films like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Chinatown, The Shining and About Schmidt – all considerable hits and iconic parts of film history. Yet Jack did try his hand at smaller films that remain slightly obscure to this day, and undeservedly so, because I truly believe that Jack Nicholson has never given a bad performance, he’s just starred in some bad movies. One film that really took my breath away in regards to Jack’s acting was Wolf, a strangely addictive werewolf horror, that is a very underrated film.

In the film, Jack plays Will Randall, a book editor who is bitten by a wolf, and soon sees himself turning into a werewolf. It isn’t a groundbreaking concept this, but it certainly is an entertaining one, and if you’re like me, and your favorite type of horror films are these kind of monster stories (werewolves, vampires, zombies), then you’ll love this, because it not only is a very compelling werewolf story, it is also a great satire on them. It isn’t particularly terrifying – there is a nostalgic sense of horror throughout, but it is quite sedate for a horror, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the best horror films, in my opinion, don’t have to scare outright, but instead set a mood. Wolf does that wonderfully.

The film is directed by Mike Nichols, one of the greatest directors of all time. Nichols was a man who could bring out a great performance in a sandwich. In Wolf, he defies the convention of horror films, which is to gloss over character development for the scares. He makes all of the characters in Wolf radically interesting, and perhaps he sacrifices some of the moments for potential horror for that, but it is still a refreshing aspect to a great horror film. This was Mike’s fourth (and final) collaboration with Nicholson, and while it may not be their best, it was sure a great moment for both of them.

Now perhaps I am biased. My two favorite horror films of all time are The Shining and An American Werewolf in London – one a terrifyingly atmospheric masterpiece starring Jack Nicholson in an absolutely insane performance, and the other a hilarious werewolf comedy. So it makes sense that Wolf would be right up my alley. It is a wonderfully twisted dark comedy that might have a horrendously disappointing third act, but still manages to be entertaining. I urge everyone who wants a scary, but not terrifying, horror to check his film out, because it is a great little film and one that proves that Jack Nicholson is the master.

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