Stars: 3.6 of 5.
Running Time: 95 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Sarah Patterson (Cannon's SNOW WHITE), Angela Lansbury, David Warner (TWIN PEAKS Season 2, TIME AFTER TIME, TRON), Stephen Rea (STUCK, INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE), Terence Stamp (THE LIMEY, THE HIT). Co-written by Angela Carter. Production design by Anton Furst.
Tag-line: "Where fairy stories meet horror stories!"
Best one-liner: "Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle."
Neil Jordan's THE COMPANY OF WOLVES was designed as a 'Chinese Box' of a film, with flashbacks, fables, and folklore interwoven within a larger, dream/fantasy framework. The end result is kind of a meandering, avant-garde pseudo-narrative that never quite congeals, but I still liked it quite a bit. Cannon Films (who did not produce, but distributed stateside) marketed it as a horror/thriller, a label that is bound to disappoint. In fact, it's more like "Mario Bava's classy English brother does fairy tales on 'ludes"- which is a good thing. The film possesses a sumptuous, Gothic atmosphere, sort of Lewis Carroll by-way-of Edgar Allen Poe, and it owes much of its success to Anton Furst's (BATMAN, FULL METAL JACKET) production design. A grandfather clock sits in the midst of a fog-enshrouded forest, spinning its hands ceaselessly. Giant, hideous teddy bears and sinister dolls come to life, bounding about the underbrush with uncanny mobility:
Satan (Terence Stamp!), dressed to the nines, clutches a real-life pygmy skull and beckons to you from the comfort of his Rolls-Royce:
A long-lost husband (Stephen Rea) rips the fleshy mask from his face, revealing the sinewy, lupine monstrosity beneath. A pack of wolves- hypnotically photographed in slow motion- burst forth from a shorn oil painting, dashing down the furnished hallway to your bedroom...
Yes, this film certainly makes an impression. It's also injected with a dose of mythological protofeminism, channeled by Angela Carter, co-screenwriter and author of the texts on which the film is based. The cast is a talented ensemble: as our substitute Riding Hood, the actual pre-teen Sarah Patterson exhibits a maturity far beyond her years;
Angela Lansbury is exactly as ideal a fit as you'd imagine for 'Grandmother'; and the always-serviceable David Warner gives a stoic, weighty turn as 'Father.'
David Warner unloads the groceries.
In all, it's a solid phantasmagorical mood piece, but it will rankle those looking for a traditional narrative. Nearly four stars.