Wolf Manor, 2022.
Directed by Dominic Brunt.
Starring James Fleet, Jay Taylor, Nicky Evans, and Rupert Proctor.
Shooting a vampire movie in an old abandoned house should have worked like a dream. However, with the full moon, the nightmare begins. The body count rises as the cast and crew encounter the mansion’s resident werewolf.
Emmerdale star-turned-horror filmmaker Dominic Brunt (Bait, Attack of the Adult Babies) returns with his latest genre joint – a low-fi satire of low-budget horror filmmaking itself, albeit one that lacks sufficiently toothy comedy or horror.
Wolf Manor revolves around the shooting of a low-budget vampire film called Crimson Manor. The cast, crew, and a select number of journalists descend upon a remote manor house in Shropshire, yet with the full moon shining bright, they’re set to become meals for a lycanthrope lurking in their midst and keen to turn their production into an horrific reality.
Now, Brunt’s film has no qualms about announcing its scant budget in its opening moments, the filmmaker seemingly hoping that the sheer charm of the production – which sensibly doesn’t take itself remotely seriously – will carry it through. Still, this ultimately feels like a half-formed, undercooked idea that might’ve been better served as a short-form project, whereby its intermittent amusement wouldn’t wear itself quite so thin.
That’s not to say that Brunt’s film is entirely unamusing as a broad filmmaking satire; “Trust me, I’m a producer,” Crimson Manor’s producer says early on, and the bulk of the script relishes making fun of precious, self-important actors and foppish journalists. That said, the gags are almost always low-hanging fruit, leaning back on tired inside baseball Hollywood jokes we’ve seen and heard countless times before.
Screenwriters Joel Ferrari and Pete Wild do however strike intermittent gold with their periodic focus on just how underappreciated “below-the-line” crew members are on film shoots. This is best embodied through the resourceful, courageous first assistant director Fiona (Thaila Zucchi), whose experience corralling film productions makes her a natural born leader during the crew’s fight for survival.
Satire generally benefits from compelling characters to power its comedy, though, and Wolf Manor is largely lacking on this front outside of Fiona and James Fleet’s show-stealing boozy, pervy, pretentious Professional Actor, hilariously if unsubtly named Oliver Lawrence.
As a horror movie, there’s some not-bad gore if certainly not enough of it to keep the bloodhounds sated, and the reliance on digital red stuff is unfortunate. As for the wolf, industry veteran Shaune Harrison does a respectable job with the prosthetic effects. We don’t see all that much of the werewolf, typically concealed in low light as it is, but given the production’s evidently limited resources, it does the job just fine. Brunt certainly deserves credit for his canny use of directional lighting and fog while shooting exterior sequences, because as we all know, a backlit werewolf will almost always look cool, no matter what budget you’re working with.
At just 85 minutes, this could never be called long, especially as the credits actually roll at the 70-minute mark, after which the pic’s runtime is padded out by a post-credits sequence one imagines few are going to stick around for (or feel bad about missing). Even running so short, though, this farce begins to outstay its welcome by the time act three arrives, and again, one suspects it might’ve worked better as a short or episode of… something.
Wolf Manor isn’t going to annoy anyone with its unassuming presence, yet it lacks the conceptual cleverness and charm to succeed as a low-fi filmmaking satire.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.