That cover photo on the left is kind of a “bait and switch,” then again every independent genre flick I come across with really great cover art could be construed as a “bait and switch.” The unofficial rule of thumb is the more awesome the cover art the worse the actual movie is. There are “odd exceptions,” however, like the werewolf western, Blood Moon (2014). The cover art looks primo, but the werewolf in the movie doesn’t match what’s on the cover. In fact I gave the movie an initial thumb’s down when I first reviewed it, despite everything around the werewolf being top-notch. It has grown on me in the interim and I know acknowledge it as a “worthy” werewolf movie despite the rather “stiff” FX.
Uncaged might turn out to be another “odd exception,” (I won’t know for several weeks, perhaps a month) but at the moment I was underwhelmed by the movie, mostly, again, due to the lackluster werewolf present. There are several homages in the film (i.e. Creepshow, An American Werewolf In London and Wolf), and I’m curious if the wolf man-style lycan was another homage or it being a low-budget movie was that all the cash they had for the werewolf FX? My gut wants to say the latter. What they had designed wasn’t all that bad, it just wasn’t in the movie until the final moments of the flick. Just to reiterate everything around the werewolf, the acting, the location, the general plot (to a degree) was competent, it just needed more werewolf.
Speaking of plot what we have here is basically a black comedy, at least it gets serious when the killings occur but I got the feeling it was trying to emulate the comedic aspects of An American Werewolf In London. I may be wrong; I haven’t listened to the commentary yet, which I plan to do tonight. But that’s the first thing I thought of whenever the flick deviated out of the serious, which I thought was done fairly well, thanks mostly to Zack Weiner who plays Brandon, and to a lesser extent but no less effective Kyle Kirkpatric who plays Turner.
Both are cousin (Brandon) and friend (Turner) respectively to our lead soon-to-be teen wolf, Jack Luskey (Ben Getz). Jack’s had a fucked up childhood because his mother was a werewolf, though he never knew it. As Brandon tells Turner later in the movie about Jack’s “psycho” family, his mother wolfed out one night and killed his father, she then upped and disappeared. Brandon’s father (the untainted by lycanthrope side of the family) took him in and raised him. He’s now eighteen and a freshman in college. Out of the blue Jack’s uncle Mike (Alex Emanuel) sends him a letter telling him his house is all his for winter break, if he wants to come up. Jack agrees and Brandon and Turner come along. This is all a ruse by Mike though. You see Mike’s a werewolf too and he routinely leaves on camping/hunting trips when the moon is cycling, so he can chain himself up, turn and not end up killing anyone. Jack’s mother is alive and she does the same thing and is deeply curious if Jack has the gene. She sneaks into the house one night with a syringe (not sure what she was planning here), sticks him and—WHA-BAM!— it’s morning and he’s in town naked (cue American Werewolf homage). Using a trash bag to cover himself he makes it back to the house, on foot, with no shoes, in the middle of winter?! Yup, this whole movie was filmed in winter and seeing anyone naked in a winter setting makes me shiver. I hate the cold, but enough about me.
This happens several more times, so to find out why he’s “sleepwalking,” he straps a GoPro to his head (Turner’s a sex addict who likes to film is sexual conquests hence the presence of the GoPro) and records something terrible. Cue another American Werewolf homage; replaying the footage we see a first person stalk and kill of some random guy at the local train station.
Coming to the impossible conclusion he’s a werewolf, he confides in Brandon and both go in search of ways to keep Jack from thinning the local herd. This is when he gets a call from some guy at a pawnshop that a pickup with a huge iron animal cage in the back is waiting for him in the lot. Perfect timing. Now he can lock his ass up at night, which he does in the freezing cold, naked again, and Brandon checks in on him in the morning.
Amidst all this there’s a subplot concerning the guy he ate at the train station who was having an affair with Rose (Paulina Singer), the wife of local gangster, Gonzo (Garrett Hendricks). Jack makes the mistake of puking up a necklace, or some kind of keepsake, the man had on him and returning it to the wife. Gonzo is one of the more interesting characters in the movie and another source of some choice black comedy interludes.
Turner finally sees Jack become a werewolf and fucks up his opportunity to cage himself, now Jack’s loose and eager to turn anyone in sight into roadkill. Unfortunately Brandon make it. Turner is next but survives. We find out later he was bitten or scratched and now we have two werewolves who predictably have a head on collision in the final act that reminded me of the final encounter between Jack Nicholson and James Spader in Wolf (1991), but the fight here is between two humans in early transformation. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have money for two fully transformed wolf men.
I do like the fact that the ending is as bleak as you can imagine. The only survivor being Rose who was present for that final wolf-on-wolf violence and who managed to kill both Turner and Jack before she herself was afflicted. Uncle Mike finally comes home and finds a godawful mess in his garage with dead Jack in the cage and bitten Rose next to him. “Welcome to the family,” Mike tells her before the credits roll. At least I think Jack was dead . . .
Oh, right, and the Creepshow (1982) homage is in the opening credits, scene transitions and flashbacks to Jack’s family’s past Brandon is telling Turner where it’s all done in comic book style. I actually liked that.
On February 2nd Image Entertainment releases Uncaged on DVD only!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1.85:1 widescreen—5.1 English Dolby Digital—No subtitles
Video & audio were good.
Extras included . . .
- Commentary With Cast & Crew (Writer Mark Rapaport. Director Daniel Robbins, Actors Ben Getz, Kyle Kirkpatrick, Zachery Weiner)
- Howlingly Funny Film Outtakes (6:47)
What I gleaned from the commentary was the design and execution of the werewolf was at the mercy of the budget, which was loooow, as I had first thought, but no word on whether my assumptions to the homages I was seeing were accurate or not. If you’re a werewolf fan I cannot recommend this movie. On the other hand if you want to see a black comedy with three kids in a house in the middle of winter who bump into a gangster and have some laughs along the way before they all die, then, yes, I can recommend this movie.