It has been quite a while since we were delivered a truly frightening Werwolf film. For years, indie efforts like Wer and Late Phases showed great potential while huge budget titles like The Wolfman arrived on the silver screen DOA. With the sudden resurgence of classic monsters appearing in indie projects, I felt as if Uncaged was in a great position to capitalize on an underlying trend of the genre. The trailer showcased a very modernized take on the Werwolf that featured young men, a great use of relevant technology, and a plethora of gritty attacks and transformations. If it could deliver on half of what was teased, it would be a bona fide indie hit… but it didn’t. In fact, Uncaged is almost a completely different movie than what was advertised. And while that may be disheartening to some horror fanatics out there, let me assure you, it absolutely excels at something else.
At its best, Uncaged is a side-splittingly funny comedy about friendship, mischief, and betrayal. At its worst, it’s an often aimless and below average Werwolf film. The film follows a trio of friends that decide to spend their Winter Break at a relative’s cabin. With no one else there but them, they ready themselves for what is sure to be an exciting time. Unfortunately, one of the friends begins to suffer from fits of sleepwalking – often finding himself waking up in mysterious locations. After a local man is found ripped apart at a train station, the troubled teen (Jack) straps a GoPro to his head to discover what he’s been up to at night. What he finds is shocking… and not really all that important to the plot. I know, how could a guy finding out he’s a Werwolf not be important to the plot of a Werwolf film?! Well, that’s because it’s by far the least interesting thing going on.
While Jack is busy struggling with his new-found condition, his two friends are back at the cabin being hilarious. Brandon and Turner are the stars of the show here, not the wolf. Their characters are flushed out to perfection in the film’s opening scenes, and they both deliver time and time again. I’m unsure as to how much of their dialogue was written and how much was off-the-cuff, but it all feels natural and genuine. If you’re a fan of Judd Apatow films like Superbad and The 40 Year Old Virgin, you’ll yearn for the werwolf stuff to get off of the screen so you can get back to what Brandon and Turner are doing. You know, picking up chicks on dating applications, learning how to roll joints, shooting shit in the backyard, and eating dinner with local drug lords. It’s not that Uncaged is a bad movie, it’s far from it – it just isn’t a very good horror movie. Literally everything else going on (and there’s quite a lot) is far more interesting than the horror elements. So let’s talk about those horror elements.
While the Werwolf portion of the film is overshadowed by the (awesome) comedy, it does have some things going for it. There are even a few things that I would have liked to have seen more of. As is important in a creature feature such as this, the full reveal of the wolf transformation is saved for the final act. And when that transformation happens, it’s pretty good. The filmmakers and FX team were skilled at leaving a good bit to the imagination. I’m assuming that’s because the budget wouldn’t allow for much more. Regardless, it’s done well. Then there’s the GoPro – I feel as if it was a massive misstep not to take further advantage of this POV format. The one glimpse we get of the wolf wearing the camera is pretty awesome and unlike anything we have seen in this particular sub genre. A little more of that, and perhaps the narrative could’ve shifted back into the realm of horror with exceptional comedic undertones.
So what does that mean for you? If I’m being blunt, do not watch Uncaged if you’re hoping for the next great modernization of the Werwolf. You simply won’t find it here. But if you’re in the mood for a genuinely funny comedy masquerading around in the shell of a horror movie, I couldn’t possibly recommend it more. Uncaged is the type of movie that people will either love or hate. I suspect there won’t be much ground in the middle. Hats off to the writing team for trying something different, and here’s to hoping the same amount of charm makes its way into their next project…. You know, with a bit more horror.
UNCAGED is available on Digital Video and on DVD on Feb. 2, 2016
Don’t watch Uncaged if you’re hoping for the next great modernization of the Werwolf. You simply won’t find it here. But if you’re in the mood for a genuinely funny comedy masquerading around in the shell of a horror movie, I couldn’t possibly recommend it more.