A sleepwalking teen straps a camera to himself and discovers a sinister family secret.
Of all the horror subgenres, the most inconsistent one of them all is the werewolf film. There’s a handful of really great ones (THE HOWLING, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, and GINGER SNAPS to name a few) but the mediocre and the garbage far out way the great, by a landslide even. So naturally, I’m very reluctant when it comes to viewing them. For me personally, the transformation scene is what I look forward to the most. It’s what draws me in and makes me believe the story and helps my investment in the characters.
There have been some really good films that have bordered on great only to be destroyed by a rotten transformation or worse yet, rotten make-up. Even though rotten make-up still exists, cheap CGI is what we are mostly subjected to. BAD MOON (cool film, horrible transformation) and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS (really good film, cheap CGI) are two examples of films that could have been great but failed. So all this ranting has brought me to a recently released film called UNCAGED. It could have been a great film, it has a compelling story, interesting characters, and an original twist but the lack of a killer transformation or creature design sets it back on the timeline.
Jack (Ben Getz) is just turning eighteen and is celebrating with his pal Turner (Kyle Kirkpatrick) and his cousin Brandon (Zack Weiner). The night he turns eighteen is a blank and when he wakes up in the morning he has no recollection of what happened or why he’s naked. School break is coming up and Jack’s uncle wants him to watch his house while he’s out of town. The three of them pack up and head to the house where they think it’s going to be a non-stop party. Jack continues to wake up naked and not knowing where he is. He doesn’t want to bother his friends so he nabs a camera, straps it to his head, and begins to record whatever it is he has been doing at night. The next day when he reviews the footage he learns he turns into what he believes is a werewolf. He has no control over what he becomes and it appears he has killed someone. Desperate for help, he confides in Brandon. The two of them will do whatever it takes to figure out what is happening and why, hopefully before it’s too late.
I’m going to start this off with my one and only major gripe. Despite the fact there’s some really cool practical gore FX, the make-up and transformation are just way off. I don’t mind a Wolfman like werewolf but these just looked bad and showed the budgets’ limitations. It’s actually baffling to see since the death scenes (especially the ones near the finale) were so well done. They’re not shown very often so it does save the film from being a failure. For me it was a distraction while others may find it easy to overlook.
I was however really drawn into the story, the mystery. While it was easy to see where it was headed, how the characters would end up there was the fun part. The acting was solid all the way around and I particularly enjoyed Zack Weiner. His delivery and comedic timing were spot on and every word rolling out of his mouth had me chuckling.
The ending was very satisfying, it flowed out and never felt forced. Director Daniel Robbins did a fantastic job of ramping the tension, would break some moments with humor, and kept the pacing from ever allowing a dull moment. Even though the wolf make-up was lacking, at least we know the director is highly talented and can help draw attention away from the film’s shortcoming by delivering a solid picture. I will be keeping an eye out for what Robbins does next. He and co-writer Mark Rapaport should continue to collaborate, who knows what they may deliver next time. ***1/2 (out of 5)