October 25, 2011

Brotherhood of the Wolf: a guest post by Ryan from Wordsmithsonia

 Ryan has a great blog called Wordsmithsonia, which features reviews on books, movies, and one of my favorite features: Favorite Fiction Characters (anybody with an appreciation for Paddington Bear is alright in my book). When I asked Ryan to contribute a guest post this year, he chose a often-overlooked werewolf movie. If you can handle the subtitles--I say skip the dubbed version--it's an engaging film. Here's Ryan's take ...

Brotherhood of the Wolf
a guest post by Ryan Groff 

Is it bad of me to say I normally like foreign movies over American made films?  Does that make me some sort of snob with pretentious aspirations?  I guess it would make me sound even worse if I think most modern day "horror" movies just don't cut it for me.   They tend to go in more for the gore and less for the storyline, at least a storyline that makes sense.  Because of all this, when Gef asked me to participate in his Monster Movie Marathon, I found myself panicking a little bit.  At first I thought I would go for one of the classic monsters; Godzilla, Rodan, Dracula, well you get the point.  For whatever reason, I found myself straying from that idea though.  I found myself thinking of something a little more human, the monster that resides within the human body.  I didn't think that was what Gef was looking for though, so I set my sites on one of my favorite movies that looks at both the literal and metaphoric monsters.  The reality of it being a French movie that looks back at a small piece of real history makes it that much cooler, at least for me.

Brotherhood of the Wolf, is a 2001 French film directed by Christophe Gans.  When I saw it in the theater for the first time, I fell in love.  I'm not going to go into too much detail about the plot points or characters.  I won't bore you with who starred in the movie, though the gorgeous Monica Bellucci does costar as a prostitute on a mission from the Pope.  What I want to talk about instead in the literal monster that slaughtered hundreds of victims and the human monsters that created and controlled him.

The movie takes inspiration form the Beast of Gevaudan, an unidentified creature(s) that ravaged the French countryside from 1764 to 1767, claiming 113 fatalities.  Other than the creature being vaguely lupine, nobody really knows what it was, or why it stopped.  The monster in the movie though is a little different.  He isn't seen for quite a while, though his handiwork is.  He tears his victims apart with the jaw belonging to an animal that weighs at least 500lbs.  He kills with no distinction between man, woman, or child.  The countryside is in constant fear of where he might strike next.  Once we do get a look at him, he's like nothing I've ever seen.  He's vaguely wolf or lion in shape but is covered in some sort of strange armor.  Not really metallic, though his outer teeth and claws are made from steel.  He has metal spikes rising from his back and the armor seems to move with him like a second skin. Bullets don't seem to harm him and he disappears as if he's a ghost.  He's truly a magnificent creature with a grace all his own.  He is a true monster though, he is savage and seems to enjoy his kills.  Even though it's all do to training through pain and cruelty, the Beast of Gevaudan is a truly frightening creature.

Now we come to the truly monstrous aspect of this movie.  Much like Dr. Frankenstein or the scientists who create The Other in Dean Koontz's The Watchers, I feel the real monsters are the humans that have created and controlled him to further their own ends.  He is a pawn in their misguided quest for power, a quest that has brought them down a treasonous path.  It's a path led by a truly depraved priest who wants to bring the country and king back to the church, he's willing to kill as many "peasants" as it takes to achieve his end.  He isn't the only human monster in this, most of other aren't as bad, but one is even worse.  He's the creature that brought a strange creature back from Africa.  He's the depraved human being that killed all the creatures cubs but one, the most powerful one.  He's the monster that raised it with an iron hand to be the savage Beast of Gevaudan.  He's the inhuman thing that kills his own sister when she refuses his sexual advances.  He's the one that is brought down like the savage he is by the end of the movie.

For those of you who have seen the movie, you know there is so much more to this movie than what I've seen. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, know that if you ever watch it, you will be treated to some of the coolest fight scenes ever filmed, camera work that is out of this world, and a group of characters that will have you enraptured from the beginning.


  1. This is one of my favorite movies! I absolutely loved it.

  2. Same here; I really liked this film. Great post, and thanks for calling the film to peoples' attention. The Beast of Gevaudan is a kick-ass story to begin with, but they really do cool things with it in this film.


  3. One of my colleagues is so into foreign language horror films at the moment, I have a list of receommendations already but I'll ask him if he's seen this one.

  4. I do not remember if I have seen the movie or not...I could have given up ;)

  5. I too saw this film at the theater when it was first released in the U.S. There was some Oscar buzz around it, if I recall correctly. In my opinion, it deserved the notice. I agree with Gef, it's a must-see with subtitles. Something about hearing the French language adds to the atmosphere of the film. Ever since watching this film, I have been fascinated with the Beast of Gevaudan. I think the film makes an intriguing and somewhat plausible explanation for the Beast. One of my favorite French actors is Vincent Cassel. He portrays a villain excellently. I thought the entire cast was amazing, actually! Side note: did you know that he is married to Monica Bellucci in real life?

    Great post, Ryan, as usual! Every day, I learn of more and more we have in common. ;O)

  6. I haven't seen this, probably because I was too chicken. But all this praise is making me re-evaluate. I am a fan of French films. Not so much horror films. But I'm thinking about this one.

    Great review, Ryan.

  7. Midnyte - What I love so much about blogging is that it helps me realize I'm not alone in my tastes, so thank you.

    Darkeva - Thank you. I didn't know anything about the Best of Gevaudan, but I read everything I could after I saw this movie for the first time. It's just a great story.

    Elle - If he hasn't watched it yet, I'm sure he will love it.

    Blodeudd - If you haven't, you should. One of my favorites.

    Michelle - I saw it in the theater too. I loved it fromt he get go. I did not know they were married, for some reason it surprises me, not sure why though.

    Yvette - It's so much more than a horror movie. It has elements of both action and martial arts (ala Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.) But it looks into history, class struggle, religion, and so much more. I actually think you would enjoy this one.