The Roman occupation of Britain has been the subject of several films, most notably Neil Marshall’s Centurion. But while the battles between Roman and Pict warriors make good fare for action films, I’m pressed to think of a horror film set in this era. So, imagine my surprise when I stumbled across Wolf. Directed by Stuart Brennan (The Necromancer, Plan Z) and co-written with his co-star George McCluskey, it’s basically Dog Soldiers with swords and shields.
Four Roman messengers are sent to a plague-stricken Caledonia, with an offering of aid for its King. When they go missing a small group of Roman soldiers under the command of Captain, Domitius, (George McCluskey, The Zombie King) are sent to find them. His command includes seasoned fighters Grackus, (Stuart Brennan, Risen) and Nerva, (Mark Paul Wake, Mr. Self Destruct) and Germanic scout Ima (Victoria Morrison, Atomic Apocalypse).
Thinking themselves lucky after fighting off an attack by Picts they soon find themselves in a much worse situation. Stalked by an enemy that’s faster and stronger than they are and capable of ripping a man apart. It also leaves footprints that resemble that of a wolf but belong to a two-legged creature.
Wolf is a film long on suspense and atmosphere. The abundance of night shots and day scenes filmed in grey wintery woods gives the film a grim tone right from the start. The odd shot reflecting the beauty of the Highlands stand in stark contrast to them, like a moment of false hope.
The film is also long on talk and drama. IMDB actually lists it as a drama. There is enough infighting and bickering among the party that it feels at least partially accurate. Unfortunately, Wolf was filmed on a rather lean budget so more than once there is dialogue where there needed to be action. The action scenes we get are well shot, but too much happens off-screen.
For the same reason, we go through most of Wolf seeing only quick glimpses of the creatures. And when they’re finally revealed they’re certainly not what you would expect a werewolf to look like. Though since these creatures are also active during the day maybe they’re not meant to be traditional lycanthropes.
Speaking of non-traditional, Brennan seems to have taken some shit for including female warriors among the Roman contingent. While I’m sure they’re probably right, Wolf is a film about Roman soldiers fighting wolfmen in ancient Britannia. If you can accept that the rest is just details.
In the end, Wolf is an ambitious and interesting film that didn’t have the budget to get it’s vision across. It’s still worth a watch, but keep your expectations in check to avoid disappointment.
Wolf is currently available on DVD and VOD in the UK. You can check its Facebook page for further release plans.