Aware of the Wolf (2023) Review
Aware of the Wolf opens with a prologue of some primal role playing gone very wrong, followed by footage of wolves tearing apart their prey, snarling at each other and generally acting like dangerous predators. That’s just in case the title didn’t make it clear enough that the film is going to be about werewolves.
It’s not long after that we meet Terry (Tony Murphy, The Things We Cannot Change, Speaking Easy) of “Terry’s Transformations.”. He’s one of those self improvement gurus that talk about being predator or prey and awakening the beast inside you. He also says fuck a lot and brings in some goon named Vinnie (Andy Main, Transfusion) to tell everyone he’s not prey and nobody fucks with him.
Writer/director Joshua Nelson (Menopause, Triaphilia) seems to be much more interested in making a drama than an actual horror film. Much of the film’s first half revolves around Terry and his current class. People like Veer (Vamshi Krishna Achutha, 50 Days: The Way of Love, Limbo Laugh Factory) whose boss blackmailed him into working instead of going to his brother’s wedding and Ella Mae (Katie Raulerson, Deaths Design, The Monologue Project) who seems to have been beaten and/or molested by every man she met.
While we don’t see that, we do frequently see things like the pregnant Diane (Noelle Cappuzzo, Michael Mossucco’s Mischief Night, The Chaperone) being told by her stepmother that she’s a slut and a whore who needs to get an abortion. Every once in a while, we’ll get short POV shots from the perspective of some unseen, snarling creature as it goes after seemingly random people. The attacks themselves are off-screen, but we do get some effects of the aftermath.
I know, Aware of the Wolf was shot on a low budget that would prevent a lot of creature or gore effects, but so little time is devoted to the creature and its attack it feels like an afterthought. Even the police investigation into the killings, which is almost all talk, gets maybe five minutes of screen time in the first hour. By the time it finally becomes important, I’d almost forgotten about it.
That leaves us with near constant scenes of the students being put down by those around them, or Terry telling them how weak they are. And that quickly gets depressing, which is not what I watch horror films for. Of course, Aware of the Wolf does occasionally get unintentionally funny when the antagonist is almost a caricature of a mean girl, like the woman who tells her roommate she plans to sleep with her boyfriend, and she should be grateful to her for doing it. Or when Ella, who’s from Alabama, pops out with phrases like “Madder than a snake married to a garden hose.”
Finally, with about half an hour to go, Terry stages an exercise for the class where they get to beat some criminal to death, which everyone seems to think is a perfectly normal thing to do. Things do pick up a bit here, and there’s actually a twist that surprised me. Unfortunately, when they were shooting the climactic werewolf attack, somebody decided they didn’t need any external lighting. The result is several minutes of a black screen accompanied by growls and screams. When we do see the lycanthrope it’s an actor in a stiff, but nicely designed mask.
If you look at Joshua Nelson’s IMDB page, he has over eighty directorial credits, almost all of them for shorts. And the shorts that made up Triaphilia were indeed quite good. The two features of his I’ve seen, not so much. Maybe he should look into finding a co-writer to work with, or stick to shorts that can be collected into anthology films. Because while both Menopause and Aware of the Wolf have good ideas, neither manage to successfully execute on them.
I really wanted to like this one, but like another recent fusion of psychological drama and horror, The Orchard, it spends way too much time on depressing mental health issues rather than suspense or scares. But, unlike that film, Aware of the Wolf does eventually bring out its beast, but it’s too little, too late.
BayView Entertainment will release Aware of the Wolf to VOD and Digital Platforms on February 27th.