So far French director Christophe Gans’ cinematic career has been limited to one segment of a dodgy H.P. Lovecraft-inspired horror film and a live-action adaptation of a Japanese manga comic (he’s also worked as a video distributor for Asian action films in France). With Brotherhood of the Wolf, he’s taken a step upmarket with what is apparently the most expensive French film ever made.
Brotherhood of the Wolf is based upon an authentic French legend of an unidentified large animal which terrified the province of Gevaudan in the mid-1700s. The film isn’t really about that, however; it’s more like Gans runs with the idea of this monstrous beast and uses it as the basis of a story which encompasses gothic horror, period romance, political conspiracy thriller, and martial arts action. Believe it or not.
There’s probably quite a lot that can be said against this film, and most of it has been said by the punters at the Internet Movie Database. It’s a lot longer than it needs to be, at nearly 2½ hours in length. The two halves of the story aren’t equally balanced. The story may be missing something in the logic department. The CGI and/or animatronic effects work for the beast itself are kind of dodgy. There’s continuity errors that even I noticed. And let’s be honest, all that kung-fu fighting is pretty ahistorical.
And yet, having said all that, if you do let yourself get taken in by the film, you probably won’t find yourself worrying too much about those things. As I said, Brotherhood of the Wolf is supposedly the most expensive French film ever made, and you can see that budget reflected in the extremely high production values of the film, which are not a million miles removed from Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, which actually would make a not bad companion piece to this film. It’s one of those film that you really need to see on a big screen to get the full value of it.
Brotherhood of the Wolf isn’t a film that stands up to intellectualising or overly close scrutiny. What it is, is a big, expensive-looking entertainment, with elements of quite a few different genres as I’ve already indicated, and for all its faults I think it’s a fair bit of fun. If you like stylish gothic horror, then you’ll probably find a lot to enjoy in this film.