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Lycanthropy (2007)
Director: Kevin McDonagh

review by Paul Higson

Royal Mail industrial action kept the screener of Kevin McDonagh's Lycanthropy from my door for a week. Watching the film, it felt like the passage of another week. Every scene is twice the length it should be. The makers have clearly decided that having gone to great trouble sourcing out numerous locations and corralling crowds that are going to get their money's worth and include all of the resulting footage. The film holds you hostage for 108 minutes but there is no Stockholm syndrome at the end of it. It's not that the film is badly made. In fact, the polished appearance adds to viewer irritability as it conveys that there is the resident talent and that it is being wasted on a flaccid premise and dull script. The actors too are professional and it is an absolute wonder that they are able to deliver the bland lines so earnestly.

The story is basic. A detective (George Calil) investigates the vicious murder of a young woman and is drawn into an underground what scene. What scene? Not exactly sure... Wouldn't call it a sex club, or a Goth venue. It is implied that it is a lurid and dangerous underground playground but its naughtiness is negligible. McDonagh's version of a fetish club lacks courage. Despite an attractive cast there is nothing sexy in this pit of a movie. The vixens circle our protagonist, not necessarily to sniff him up and down, more to rip some additional holes into his investigative arse. Snarling totty galore there may be but while digging it is club regular Wolfgang (Al Convy) that he connects with, promising no nonsense information that other customers are shy to share. Wolfgang spikes his drink to draw him deeper into the drug and sex inequity. It is the drugs that are the key to mystery that is by now barely registering anymore in the soporific trudge. Eventually, as in a long time later, the villains will rear and attack, but apathy has been instilled in the viewer long before then.

Yes, I am infuriated with the film. Real equipment, real cast and real crew have been wasted on an idle script. Judicious editing is cried for. The tale does have an angle but that is all it has. In the past I have bemoaned films that are all whiz bang with no content and delighted at the rare film that honours us with classic film technique, often to the film's advantage. A calm camera collecting the fascinating story for us. Here, we have the old school film technique (hurrah!) but no story (boo!). It weighs into itself. The dialogue is of dishwater unimportance, as characterless as the film is visually devoid of style. It reminds us of the independent American teen horror film production that has littered the discount bins since the late 1980s. You know the kind, beautiful young people with monkey fart lines in a scrimp of a story. Designed to glut the market and make its money back only in the large number of ditto rubbish films that it can resell in bulk purchases to territories and media. A handful of attempts at wit in Lycanthropy are pathetic. In fact, you only realise it is humour because the characters laugh among themselves upon utterance, and you cringe. True, people laugh at nothing in real life too, but this is not the film for that level of ironic observation.

Having also denied us an actual werewolf, an omission for which few will forgive it, neither applying itself strictly to the medical condition, the story also overlooks the simplest of horror film demands; that is to provide periodic shocks. It is nearly half way through the film before a second murder takes place. Everyone talks in the same voice, marked most commonly by a bit of psychoanalytical bluff and bluster. Several characters are quick to assess the dead girl for who she might have been and add another pointless piece to the jigsaw. The film is burdened by down time, the director remembering something in each shot that may personally touch him but means nothing to us. Advice was required, but I get the impression that McDonagh is not some asshole auteur who thinks is every shot is a mark of his genius but is simply a guy precious over the material and unwilling to let go of any of it, for the memories or to prevent insult to those who put their all into it. There might be a decent movie in McDonagh, but he must first invite someone else to write the script and allow someone in to tell him what it would be wise to ditch.

If I can compare it to Cold And Dark, the Andrew Goth vampire horror, Lycanthropy is better because it is not crassly horrible. What it does have in common with that film though is that there is nothing ultimately of interest in its content, which is pretty amazing considering the number of areas in which it is an improvement on Cold And Dark. I know one of the gaffers on the film and understand there was a good atmosphere on the set, and that it was exciting and professional. Perhaps, it needed a more fraught, Friedkin like production history. David Bradley (Left Luggage) is called in to take star billing for a few minutes of screen time, in two scenes, in the same location, playing the club owner (he should have hit them all with it!).

There is otherwise no need to single out performances, as they are generally fine. The film fails me when it comes to identifying them though as without further research the characters names are rarely caught in the film or repeated. The names do not register, though the final credits reveal most have names bowing embarrassingly on the pretentious and mythic side. These names should catch like a fishing fly in the throat. The cast does include a couple of familiar faces in Freya Archard and Emily Chugg. Lycanthropy might only appeal to the population of Birmingham who will no doubt get all excited at the recognition of locations from around the city not often caught on film, their clubs and sex shops. Beyond the latter day Mitchell and Kenyon crowd disappointment will surely reign.
Lycanthropy

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