A group of criminals gather together for aggression therapy in the forest and things soon deteriorate to arguments, fist fights, thievery, and stabbings. To make things even worse, a vicious space monster is running around slicing up the stray criminals with razor sharp claws
When I get assigned movies to watch and review, I always hope for the best. I know that I am likely going to get some sort of turd that most people would never take the time to watch. I am fine with that. I don’t mind watching bad movies on a regular basis. In fact, I kind of enjoy it. Most bad movies have their redeemable qualities that make me appreciate them even if I don’t fall in love with them. I can still find something that people could like about them, or something that has the potential to be better or be improved upon future efforts by the people involved in making the movie.
That does not mean that there aren’t times when I feel pain while watching something that I have been assigned. Space Wolf makes for a great example of the painful watches that I sometimes experience in my little niche section of movie watching. The 2003 horror film came from German director Timo Rose and followed a group of teenage delinquents taken on a camping trip by their counselor, Rainer Strauss (Thomas Kercmar). The teens encounter a bipedal wolf-like character from outer space that begins killing them one-by-one.
All of the problems with Space Wolf end up being related to the storytelling and overall writing of the movie. With a title like Space Wolf, you would expect the vast majority of the film to revolve around the wolf killing off the unsuspecting teens. That is not the case. Instead, Timo Rose decided to focus on the angst-filled teenagers and their problems in life. You learn about who each of the teens are and what their problems are. One of them is a drunk, another has anger issues. One of the girls is extremely sexually promiscuous, while the other is a kleptomaniac. Scenes of Rainer helping the teens to work through their issues take precedence over the violent deaths in such a way that the movie is barely a horror story at all.
The movie also does not need to be the length that it is. The runtime could have been cut in half with writing that was more concise and to the point. There are various times throughout Space Wolf in which characters argue with one another without bringing any substance to their arguments. They are five minute long scenes in which characters call each other names. These scenes do nothing to move the story forward. Instead, they extend the runtime and make the movie feel longer.
The other thing that makes Space Wolf feel much longer than the seventy minutes that it is would be the fact that the wolf does not show up until halfway through the movie. It takes a good thirty five minutes before the titular beast makes its first move upon the teens who are in its feeding ground. When the wolfman arrives, he comes in short bursts. Someone dies, and the movie immediately goes back to being about the teens and their struggles among themselves. The wolf is only there for about ten minutes of the movie’s length. Most of that is the final seven minutes or so of the movie. So a movie called Space Wolf has next to no wolf in it.
That is not to say that everything about the movie is bad. The wolf, as little as there is of it to see throughout the movie, actually looks good. It might not look like a wolf but the design of the creature looks creepy enough to be effective. From the matted fur to the giant claws, the wolf was a chilling sight. The size was as menacing as the rest of the physical attributes. If it had been used more in the movie, it would have been more frightening than only showing up for quick five second kills, and a five minute attack at the end. There could have been tension built up. But there wasn’t.
Another good part of Space Wolf was the gore, but yet again there was not enough of it. Each time that the wolf attacked one of the teens, the blood and guts that were shown made for a great visual. The effects were created by Olaf Ittenbach who is apparently a prolific German effects artist that I have never heard of. His work was the best aspect of the movie and made my watching of it worth the time I put in, as painful as watching Space Wolf was. I appreciate having been introduced to his work.
I didn’t appreciate Space Wolf though. The movie did nothing for me in terms of being an actual movie. It felt like an afterschool special without any lessons, and with too much adult content to be aimed at youth. It was overlong, missing any substance, and lacking in scares because there was very little focus on scaring the audience. It was a missed opportunity that was a chore to watch. Luckily, I have already seen it and will never have to be subjected to watching it again. I will never wonder whether or not it is good because I already know that it is not. It is not good.