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Toronto After Dark Review: ‘Werewolf’

October 16, 2019Nick Armstrong

With a premise as simple and effective as that of Polish director Adrian Panek's Werewolf — in which a group of young concentration camp survivors find themselves trapped by blood-thirsty wolves in an abandoned orphanage — you may expect something quite bottled and ferocious in the vein of, say, Call of Duty's Zombies mode. Yet, Panek takes a far more somber, arguably more sensitive, approach to the film's allegory.

While describing Werewolf as "survival horror" is not untrue, the movie certainly places a more joyless emphasis on the word "survival," because for much of the film's runtime, the group of kids that we follow appear to be trying their absolute hardest to escape their torment and carve out some semblance of a regular life for themselves. Perhaps it would be even more accurate to describe the result as a ghost story of sorts, as the way the remnants of the characters' pasts show up — haunting the space that they've chosen as a home — is borderline spectral.

Though not quite as tight in its allegory as it sets itself up to be, Werewolf isn't shy about its intent to circumvent the obvious approach that a story of this nature calls for. It would be easy to accept that the horrors that these children have been subjected to will follow them forever, but Panek proves more interested in helping these characters cope with their suffering rather than subjecting them to more of it.

Werewolf makes its Canadian premiere at the 2019 Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 28 min.

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