Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Wolf [1994]

US movie (1994). Columbia. Pr Douglas Wick. Exec pr Robert Greenhut, Neil Machlis. Dir Mike Nichols. Spfx Stan Parks, Daniel A Sudick. Vfx Eric Brevig, Scott Farrar, John Nelson. Mufx Rick Baker. Screenplay Harrison, Wesley Strick. Starring Jack Nicholson (Will Randall), Michelle Pfeiffer (Laura Alden), Christopher Plummer (Raymond Alden), Om Puri (Dr Vijay Alezais). 122 mins. Colour.

Driving back from Vermont to New York in a storm, publishing editor Randall knocks over a wolf in the road; it proves not to be dead, and bites him before fleeing. Back at the office, amid corporate backstabbing, he finds he has enhanced senses. His hyperacute sense of scent reveals that his wife is conducting an affair, and he ditches her, soon finding himself drawn in by Laura, the spoilt, rebellious daughter of the plutocrat who has taken over Randall's publishing company. Yet at nights, as the Moon grows full, Randall finds himself taking half-remembered nocturnal excursions, during which he is capable of lupine athletic feats – and lupine savagery.

This is an elegant attempt to graft the European Werewolf legend onto US Urban Fantasy – an attempt that, despite W's cool reception, succeeds well. Nicholson shows occasional signs of trying to lurch into the hammishness that came close to destroying The Shining (1980), but generally the transformation scenes are extremely effective, drawing on body language, slow-motion photography and only a modicum of mufx. Pfeiffer for once acts the part of a woman rather than an overgrown girl. The gory ending steers clear of splatter-movie corniness because of the comparative restraint of what has gone before. Even Randall's de rigueur consultation with a scholarly werewolf expert (Alezais), a risible element of most such movies, attains a certain dignity through skilled handling of the characters' motivations.

The sf/horror/fantasy genre publishers Tor Books are specially credited for assistance: it is hard to believe that the office cauldron of Randall's company is based on Tor. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.