FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Wolves at the Door (2016)
SHUT THE DOOR.
I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is the contentious Wolves at the Door…
In 1969, four young people gathering for a farewell party are stalked and tormented by a group of mysterious, murderous intruders…
The vicious murder of up-and-coming actress Sharon Tate, her unborn son, and her friends at the hands of sociopath Charles Manson’s “family” is one of the most notorious and disturbing crimes to occur in Hollywood. Because of this, it is ingrained in popular culture as much as it is in American criminal history. And herein lies the problem with John R. Leonetti’s home invasion chiller.
There is no denying that Wolves at the Door is a well-produced film; Michael St. Hilaire’s cinematography and Ken Blackwell’s taut editing are the picture’s strongest points. Also, Leonetti cleverly keeps the villains in shadows, heightening their menace. Having spent most of his career as a cinematographer, he is quite competent as a horror director (his previous effort was 2014’s Annabelle). But some of Leonetti’s choices are cringeworthy—A spilt red drink on a pregnant belly comes across more like a distasteful gag rather than foreshadowing and do we really need yet another obvious “lamb to the slaughter” symbol in a horror movie?
The performances, at least, are pretty good, with Elizabeth Henstridge, Adam Campbell, and Miles Fisher particularly solid. Katie Cassidy is less consistent as Ms. Tate, though she does the best with what she has to work with. Where the film suffers most, though, is Gary Dauberman’s script, which is more concerned with (albeit effective) jump scares than fleshed-out characters we actually care about.
Because of this, the film feels nothing short of exploitative. Whether you know the story and its real-life principal players well or not, minimal time is given for the young inevitable victims to develop. And while a strong focus on characters is not often the priority for slasher filmmakers, there is an inherent and unavoidable duty of care when presenting a true story. However, the team not only disregards this but are so content to blatantly remove themselves from presenting an accurate recreation of events, that Wolves at the Door not only feels disrespectful but, at times, down-right disgusting.
The folks at New Line Cinema, whose success is very much owed to the horror genre, should have known better. 1 / 5
Starring: Katie Cassidy, Elizabeth Henstridge, Adam Campbell, Miles Fisher, Spencer Daniels, Lucas Adams, Chris Mulkey, Jane Kaczmarek, Eric Ladin, Arlen Escarpeta.
Director: John R. Leonetti | Writer: Gary Dauberman | Producer: Peter Safran | Music: Toby Chu | Cinematographer: Michael St. Hilaire | Editor: Ken Blackwell
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