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Wilderness (1996)
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by Charles Tatum

"Alice in Werewolfland"
4 stars

Dumping both the comedy of "An American Werewolf in London" and the surrealism of "The Company of Wolves," this sexy made for television film starts at the basics: Alice thinks she is a werewolf.

Set in London, Alice (Amanda Ooms) has a nice safe job at the university library and nice safe one night stands with strangers. Once a month, she locks herself in her basement and turns into a trapped wolf, or maybe not.

Alice is seeing psychoanalyst Luther (Michael Kitchen), who is trying to help her without knowing her real concern about turning into a bloodthirsty predator. Soon, Alice begins opening her life up to others, and regretting it. Dan (Owen Teale), a penguin researcher, asks her on a date, and the two hit it off. Alice confesses her monthly nocturnal habits to Luther, who immediately dismisses them. Alice takes a chance on a night with a full moon and sleeps with Dan, but wakes up naked in her front yard and hears later that a security guard was killed and a large dog spotted near the scene.

Alice tells Luther that she has been turning into a wolf since she was thirteen and almost raped by a local farmhand. He was the wolf's first victim. At this point, the viewer might just agree with Luther- it's all in her head, so what's the point? Luther hypnotizes Alice, and sees something happen to her that changes his beliefs. From there, the film juggles a number of plotlines, all successfully. Wolf researcher Jane (Gemma Jones) worries Alice has a wolf pet, not a wolf personality. Dan does not believe Alice's wild stories, and she breaks up with him. He beds his estranged wife Deborah (Catherine Russell). Luther slowly becomes obsessed with Alice, wanting the certain fame a case like hers would bring. He ignores his bed hopping wife, and decides that a sexual relationship with Alice should become part of the treatment.

And what about poor Alice? With all these problem relationships happening in human life, life as a wolf looks better and better. You know, Jane does run that wolf sanctuary up in Scotland...

For a television miniseries, the video version was trimmed of almost an hour, but the cuts are not noticeable. Ooms is a sexy actress, constantly undressing for the wolf change. It also helps that she is a good actress, never playing Alice as a victim or idiot. Owen Teale's Dan is one of the most normal guys you will ever see in the movies. The film makers wisely did not make him an expert on werewolves (penguins?!), and Teale plays all the confusion you would feel, if your girlfriend came out as a werewolf, to the hilt. While Kitchen goes a little bonkers too quickly, he also does very well with a very interesting character. His final scenes are the only light moments in the film, his shrub trimming in the garden is a riot. Even the smaller role of Jane is done well by Gemma Jones, who is more concerned for the wolf than anyone but Alice. An attraction to Alice hastens the friendship between the two.

While these characters are wonderful, the special effects are lacking. They consist of the mid 1990's morph technique, and never work well. Also, the climax is sad but protracted, a cut here or there may have tightened it up.

While the United States still releases swill like "Wrong Turn," it seems foreign film makers are doing better with stuff like "28 Days Later" and "Dog Soldiers." Add "Wilderness" to this already growing list, maybe someone in Hollywood will take note and make that one intelligent horror film.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=7900&reviewer=325
originally posted: 06/28/03 17:38:36
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11/20/03 Charles Tatum A howl 4 stars
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  02-Feb-1996 (R)

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