Brotherhood of the Wolf is a bizarre yet wonderfully different entry into film. It tries to mesh horror elements with the French Revolution, then somehow manages to pack Hong Kong-inspired action on top of that, along with a weird bit of sexual energy and even some puppetry from Jim Henson Productions. It’s odd, to say the least, but a welcome kind of odd, as it pushes a level of creativity that washes over you in ways you can’t possibly imagine. Sure, it goes on a bit long, but this is one Brotherhood that’s surprisingly welcome.
The year is 1764, and a monster is roaming the countryside, devouring people, and leaving everyone in a state of worry. Tasked to investigate and possibly stop it is Gregoire (Samuel Le Bihan), who works alongside his ally Mani (Mark Dacascos – yes, that Mark Dacascos). As they proceed, they come across some oddball characters, including Marianne (Emilie Dequenne), who’s the daughter of a count, alongside her angry brother Jean-Francois (Vincent Cassel) and a prostitute named Sylvia (Monica Bellucci), who has her own special abilities.
To break down the plot even further, we’d need a road map of some kind, mainly due to the film’s length and twisting storyline. But, honestly, Brotherhood of the Wolf still comes off quite elegantly. Credit director Christophe Gans for not taking the easy way out, and instead having his own sense of fun with the material. It’s not for everyone, but fans of, well, any given genre that he’s touching upon here are sure to have some sort of field day.
Shout Factory’s treatment of the film on Blu-Ray is commendable, especially considering the limited material (i.e. the DVD version) it had to work with. Despite some muted colors here and there, the film still looks great; and the action scenes really light up the place, especially with Dacascos doing his thing so well. Even in the 1700s, he proves to be fun to watch on-screen. The audio quality is top-notch as well. Even the English dub, which can border on ridiculous at times, is fun to listen to, though there are occasionally missing or misread subtitles that could throw off those that turn them on.
The special features are really cool as well, diving deep into the making of the film. The real treat here is Guts of the Beast, a mini-documentary in French (mostly) that takes a closer look at certain aspects of the film, including the puppetry, the fight scenes, and the story. It’s remarkable to watch and really shows you what Gans had in mind for his strange but loving vision. The Making of Brotherhood of the Wolf is also worth watching, along with the Legend documentary, which dives deeper into the lore of the mysterious Beast.
There are also some deleted scenes – about 40 minutes’ worth – that introduce some secondary characters and other bits. It does make me pine for the director’s cut, which is sadly missing here, but they’re great to view, too.
We know many fans that have been waiting for Brotherhood of the Wolf to get a release, and it’s finally arrived with mostly flying colors. The director’s cut would’ve been a huge plus, but Shout has loaded this Blu-Ray with some remarkable stuff, along with a film that’s still highly watchable after two decades. Here’s hoping it finally gets its due and steps into the light after being a cult classic for so long. As we’ve noted, it’s a weird, weird ride – but an ultimately satisfying one.
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