We’re not five minutes into Charlie Steeds’ (Deadman Apocalypse, An English Haunting) new film, Werewolf Castle when he unleashes Wolfstan (Reece Connolly, A Werewolf in England) and his horde of lycanthropes on a Medieval town. They kill everyone they can find, including a young lass who they kill while her lover Thorfinn (Peter Lofsgard, The Mummy) hides.
Three knights Thomas (Greg Draven, Ravenswood), Osmond (Derek Nelson, Pandamonium, The Mutation) who is introduced as their fastest rider even though we never actually see them on horseback, Hamelin (Tim Cartwright, The Legend of Mordred, The Barge People) and the rogue Hal Skullsplitter (Jay O’Connell, The Legend of Jack and Jill) arrive to deal with the problem. But can they, and Thorfinn who is desperate to atone for his cowardice, find a way to stop these creatures?
Steeds’ previous film on the subject, A Werewolf in England, was very much a horror film heavy on the jump scares and gore. Werewolf Castle however is more of a fantasy film, oriented towards action rather than scares. It’s much more Beastmaster than The Beast Must Die, pitting swords against fangs amidst fights, chase scenes and some sword and sorcery tropes.
For a low-budget film Werewolf Castle puts a lot of lycanthropes on the screen. Practical, man in a suit ones, not CGI creatures either. It looks like there were two or three suits that did most of the up-close scenes and several others used in crowd scenes or in the background etc. That’s a nice change from films with lycanthropes that you barely see. This is a werewolf film, the audience wants werewolves, and they get them.
Unfortunately, some of the corners Steeds cut to afford this end up hurting the film in the long run. Most of the werewolf scenes are set during the day, probably to avoid the cost of night shooting. Apart from taking the scare factor out of the scenes it also makes it very noticeable that these aren’t the biggest or scariest werewolves you’ve ever seen.
As I’ve said in previous reviews, doing this kind of fantasy on a low budget isn’t easy to begin with. Steeds make good use of a recreated Medival village and some caves for settings to stretch Werewolf Castle’s resources. But there’s really no helping the actual werewolf castle we see in the final act. It’s obviously been in ruins for a few hundred years, not something that recently fell into disrepair. And there’s no attempt to hide modern handrails, etc put there for tourists.
It’s too bad because there are some nice details worked into the script. With his flute and its abilities, Wolfstan is hinted to be a cross between a lupine Pan and The Pied Piper which is certainly something different. And while not so different, the party’s encounter with Griff (Ricardo Freitas, Medusa, Hatched) and Emma Spurgin Hussey (The Curse of Hobbes House, Sacrilege) a strange couple meet in the woods, is nicely handled.
Werewolf Castle also ends on an unexpected, but totally fitting note. It shows that Steeds certainly put some effort and creativity into the script, something that can’t be said for a lot of the low-budget films coming out of the UK lately. It’s just too bad the film was maybe a bit too ambitious for its budget and the available locations. It’s certainly still watchable, especially if you grew up on films like Yor or the Ator franchise, but it’s certainly not the film it could have been.
High Fliers will release Werewolf Castle in the UK on Digital and Disc on January 31st, 2022. There’s no current information on release in the US or elsewhere. You can check the High Fliers website for information, though where they got that plot synopsis from I’m not sure. The Facebook page for Steeds company Dark Temple Films should have some information, and hopefully a more accurate plot description as well. as well.