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‘Werewolf’ Review: Dir. Adrian Panek (2019)

Werewolf review: A group of young Holocaust survivors find themselves desperately trying to survive an army of Cujo-level aggressive dogs in this rather unique take on the war-time thriller. 

Eureka Entertainment

The year is 1945, and after being liberated from a concentration camp, a group of children finds themselves placed in a temporary orphanage in the middle of the woods. Once there, they find that their desired sanctuary to be only marginally safer. There’s a lack of food, water, and power, and bloodthirsty dogs haunt the world outside having been released by SS officers before their retreat. The group, whom after their ordeals are wary of everyone, friend or foe, must work together if they are to survive in their cruel new situation.

Written and directed by Adrian Panek, Werewolf is a dark and haunting tale that highlights the bitter truth of all those Holocaust survivors whose childhoods (and much more) were stolen from them. As much as the film focuses in on the very real threat of hungry hounds at their door, the true horror is from that stark reality that situations such as this were all too real during World War II. Rather than hone in on their trauma, Panek instead demonstrates how different personalities handle their suffering in different ways, whilst at the same time he showcases the hardy resolve of the children to just survive somehow. From eating dog food, sharing a potato between the eight of them, drinking rainwater and vodka, and taking on monstrous beasts, these kids have guts of steely determination and resilience.

This is a tale of Holocaust survivors where the actual Holocaust itself plays second fiddle; Werewolf is more bothered about unsettling the viewer with the children’s new nightmarish home. It’s an interesting angle to take, and one that becomes even more interesting when even the children themselves are at odds with each other. It would be so much easier to have the group instantly rally with one another, bonds of friendship forged through their mutual trauma, but Panek chooses the lesser trodden path. These children no longer trust even each other. Everyone and everything has become the enemy and when it comes to either they or their comrade eat, most chose themselves. It’s interesting to see that several of the younger members of the group have reverted back to an almost feral state. This slowly changes as the film progresses and they rediscover their hidden humanity, but it’s inclusion is of great importance as you never know when one of them might snap. The real point of intrigue though comes in the form of Wladek (Kamil Polnisiak). He hardly utters a word and his silence, coupled with his actions, keeps the audience on edge, not knowing whether you can trust him or not. This unease about his allegiances adds a nice veil of Lord of the Flies to the film that elevates it.

Eureka Entertainment

On top of all of the layers of mistrust, aggression, hunger and fear is a permeable sense of dread. The children have no place to go, and once the dogs are literally baying at the doors, the claustrophobic tension becomes almost unbearable. The pacing is nicely thought-out and the run-time has been trimmed to very svelte eighty-odd minutes.

A well written and superbly acted tale, Werewolf deals with the aftermath of World War II survivors in a new and intriguing way. Settle in for a darkly haunting tale of survival made all the more brutal by its nuggets of truth buried within.

Werewolf will be released in cinemas and On Demand from 4 October 2019.

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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